Lakewood ruled this draft with three players from the school selected within the first five rounds, including the feel-good story with Shaquem Griffin being reunited with his twin brother Shaquill in Seattle. There were plenty of other area stars who have not only stayed in the NFL but also made an impact. Here is a look back at the local picks in 2018.
OL Isaiah Wynn, New England Patriots
High school: Lakewood
Pick: Round 1 (23rd overall)
As a first round selection, Wynn not only added to Lakewood’s NFL legacy but also became the highest draft pick ever among area offensive linemen. Former Armwood and Florida standout Mike Pearson, who was selected 40th overall by Jacksonville in the 2002 draft, currently holds that distinction. Wynn battled through injuries his first two seasons, including a torn Achilles that sidelined him his rookie season in 2018 when the Patriots won the Super Bowl. He came back from a toe injury and started the final six games of the season, including his first postseason appearance in the AFC wild card loss to the Tennessee Titans.
OL Mason Cole, Arizona Cardinals
High school: East Lake
Pick: Third round (97th overall)
An Army All-American selection, Cole graduated early and quickly became a fixture for Michigan in the trenches. In 2014, he became the first true freshman offensive lineman to ever start a season opener for the Wolverines. Cole showed his versatility throughout his college career, playing just about every position on the line. He was a second-team all-Big Ten selection in each of his final two seasons at Michigan. By going in the third round, Cole became the highest-selection ever from East Lake. In 2018, he started all 16 games at center for the Cardinals. Cole was used mostly as a backup interior lineman this past season, starting two games at left guard.
LB Shaquem Griffin, Seattle Seahawks
High school: Lakewood
Pick: Round 5 (141st overall)
Griffin has always defied odds. At Lakewood, he excelled in track and football, despite having just one hand. He joined his twin brother, Shaquill, at UCF. After being stuck on the bench for two seasons, Shaquem wanted to leave. He stayed. So did his brother. It was the right move. Shaquem thrived as a linebacker in his final two seasons with the Knights. Still, he was a longshot to make an NFL roster. Shaquem was a late invitee to the combine. No matter. He used his track skills to make headlines by running the 40-yard dash in a jaw-dropping 4.38 seconds.The Seattle Seahawks saw enough. They took him in the fifth round, a move that reunited him with Shaquill.
In two seasons, Shaquem has recorded a combined 16 tackles.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers
High school: Lakewood
Pick: Round 5 (174th overall)
The two-sport star showed off his track speed in college, first at North Carolina State (2013-14), then at USF (2016-17). Valdes-Scantling’s breakout season came as a senior with the Bulls when he set career highs for receptions (53), yards (879) and touchdowns (6). That got the attention of NFL teams. In Valdes-Scantling’s first two seasons with the Packers, he became a dependable target with a combined 64 catches for 1,033 yards and 4 touchdowns.
WR Deon Cain, Pittsburgh Steelers
High school: Tampa Bay Tech
Pick: Round 6 (185th overall by the Indianapolis Colts)
After helping Clemson win the national title in 2016, Cain played one more season before declaring for the NFL Draft. Selected by the Colts in the sixth round, Cain tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the 2018 preseason ending his rookie campaign. He had four catches for 52 yards with the Colts last season before being released in November. After getting picked up by the Steelers, Cain had five catches for 72 yards.
WR Ray-Ray McCloud, Buffalo Bills
High school: Sickles
Pick: Round 6 (187th overall)
At Sickles, McCloud became Hillsborough County’s all-time leading rusher, a record that was eventually passed by Malik Davis (Jesuit/Florida). In three years at Clemson. McCloud became a multidimensional force. He left after his junior season to declare for the draft. Picked by the Bills in the sixth round. McCloud bounced around his first two seasons and is now back in Buffalo for his second stint with the team.
QB Alex McGough, Seattle Seahawks
High school: Gaither
Pick: Round 7 (220th overall)
After a stellar career at FIU, McGough was taken by the Seahawks. He spent just one season with the team before spending the 2019 offseason and preseason with Jaguars. Waived in August of that year, McGough signed with the Texans and is still with the team under a reserve/futures contract.
WR Auden Tate, Cincinnati Bengals
High school: Wharton
Pick: Round 7 (253rd overall)
The former Wharton and FSU star was one of the final picks of the 2018 draft. Still, Tate did more than survive being cut. Last season, he became one of the Bengals’ best offensive weapons. Before being put on injured reserve in December of last year, Tate was the team’s second-leading receiver with 40 catches for 575 yards and a touchdown.