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Looking back at the NFL locals from the 2018 draft

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Griffin twins

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. 

Isaiah Wynn
Isaiah Wynn/Photo credit: Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

OL Isaiah Wynn, New England Patriots

High school: Lakewood 

College: Georgia

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. 

Mason Cole
Mason Cole/Photo credit: Arizona Cardinals

OL Mason Cole, Arizona Cardinals

High school: East Lake

College: Michigan

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. 

Shaquem Griffin
Shaquem Griffin/Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks

LB Shaquem Griffin, Seattle Seahawks

High school: Lakewood

College: UCF

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

College: USF

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

College: Clemson

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

College: Clemson

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

College: FIU

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

College: FSU

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. 

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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College Football

Tre McKitty goes to Chargers in the third round

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Georgia tight end Tre McKitty, who spent time at Wesley Chapel and Tampa Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy, was selected at the end of the third with the Los Angeles Chargers’ compensatory pick (97th overall). 

He becomes the first player with area ties taken in this year’s draft. 

A three-star recruit at IMG, McKitty started his college career at Florida State, where he played in 35 games and caught 50 passes for 520 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

McKitty (photo above courtesy of UGA Athletic Association) went to Georgia as a graduate assistant this past season. He finished with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. 

The Chargers have a knack for bringing in local talent. Former Admiral Farragut standout Rayshawn Jenkins was selected in the fourth by the Chargers in 2017. Sean Culkin (Indian Rocks Christian/Missouri) and Artavis Scott (East Lake/Clemson) spent time with team as undrafted free agents.  

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