With 10 players selected in the first three rounds of the 2021 National Football League Draft, it was hard to imagine that south Florida could do any better on the final day. Well, they did – and the nation saw it all.
Six more players were selected on Saturday to bring the total to 16 south Florida football players taken by NFL programs.
Leading that way was head coach Pat Surtain and his Plantation American Heritage Patriots, which had six players drafted and set the tone for programs such as St. Thomas Aquinas, Deerfield Beach, Miramar, Cooper City, Miami Northwestern and South Dade.
THE FINAL DAY
Waiting to near the bottom of the fourth round, south Florida – and Broward County got back in the mix with the 135th overall selection when the Tennessee Titans selected the second public school product when University of Pittsburgh defensive end Rashad Weaver (Cooper City) took this quality athlete. The very next pick, University of Florida and Plantation American Heritage cornerback Marco Wilson was taken by the Arizona Cardinals.
After logging 47 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks in 2018, he missed the entire 2019 season with a knee injury. Picking up where he left off, Weaver collected 34 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks in nine games in 2020. He is a long and powerful defensive end that has upside in the NFL as both a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense or as a base end in a 4-3 defense.
The younger brother of former Gator corner Quincy Wilson, Marco is a long and rangy prospect that has many tools in his toolshed. Wilson has experience time at both outside corner and in the slot as a nickel defender against multiple receiver sets. Wilson brings tremendous value as a blitzer. He is proven to be one of the most athletic prospects in this draft, showcasing his many skills.
Things began to heat up once again – when Miami-Dade County standout safety Shawn Davis (Florida Gators and Miami Southridge) was taken by the Indianapolis Colts.
A rangy, scheme-versatile safety that’s shown to have value as both a single- and two-high safety, Davis has shown the capability of being a true single-high type of safety. A quick-twitched option that covers a lot of ground during ball pursuit, he can flat-out run when given free paths to the ball.
Yet another one of Coach Surtain’s players, defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, a one-time basketball standout, was taken out of the University of Florida with the 173rd pick by the Green Bay Packers.
An impressively built interior defensive line prospect, this former offensive lineman is an.extremely powerful player at the point of attack, he makes it difficult for double teams to move him off of his spots. He’s a true head-up 0-technique that thrives with maintaining both A-gaps.
The big surprise leading up to draft day was former Miramar High standout cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles, who really made an impact at Appalachian State.
Jean-Charles is an aggressive but undersized cornerback, but with the 178th pick by the Packers, who truly believe he can do some special things.
The sixth round kept the south Florida draftees in the spotlight – when the Buffalo Bills took Miami Northwestern cornerback Rachad Wildgoose from Wisconsin with the 213th pick.
While he was a surprise to come out, and his resume of game tape at Wisconsin was fairly lean and he only played in two games this season before a shoulder injury brought the end of his season, he is coming out of Jim Leonhard’s defensive system, which should offer an NFL team a smart, savvy defensive presence.
A few picks later, American Heritage was back in the news – as Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert was taken by the Chicago Bears at 217.
Herbert had a flashy run at the University of Kansas before bursting onto the scene in a breakout campaign at Virginia Tech in 2020. In 11 games in 2020, Herbert logged 165 touches from scrimmage, tallying 1,362 yards with nine touchdowns.
The final round saw Homestead South Dade standout safety James Wiggins (University of Cincinnati) picked by the Arizona Cardinals with the 243rd pick.
Starring for the Bearcats in 2018, hauling in four interceptions en route to second-team All-AAC honors in his first season as a full-time starter. Three of those picks were of the walk-off variety, securing victories for Cincinnati. NFL teams covet defensive backs that can take away the football and Wiggins made a habit of doing just that in the most clutch moments as a redshirt sophomore.
SOME QUALITY PLAYERS DRAFTED IN THE FIRST TWO DAYS
When Plantation American Heritage and Alabama standout defensive back Pat Surtain Jr., was selected with the 9th pick in the opening round by the Denver Broncos, it set the tone.
South Florida once again grabbed a piece of the spotlight when Hialeah Champagnat Catholic/University of Miami standout defensive end Gregory Rousseau was selected 30th in the opening round by Buffalo.
To open up Day 2, Coach Pat Surtain’s team was at it again – when the Jacksonville Jaguars added Tyson Campbell with the very first pick in the second round.
Campbell received five-star recruiting rankings out of American Heritage. At Georgia, he came on strong as a true freshman in 2018, starting 11 games (45 tackles, one pass breakup in 14 appearances) for the Bulldogs. In 2019, he started nine contests (15 tackles, four pass breakups) but missed five games due to a turf toe injury. Campbell led Georgia with five pass breakups in 10 starts in 2020 (also made 29 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and intercepted one pass).
As soon as many got back in their seats after the pick of Campbell, the New York Jets got a lot better – with the pick of Elijah Moore from Mississippi, a gifted receiver from St. Thomas Aquinas. After starting his high school career at Western (Davie), this impressive talent began to blow up – and after a tremendous Under Armour All-Star appearance, his career began to take off. Finished with the second-most receiving yards in all of college football in 2020 despite matching up against SEC defenses every week. This young man is a difference maker!
After things settled down, the Los Angeles Chargers dipped into Broward County and FSU, when Asante Samuel Jr. (St. Thomas Aquinas) was taken with the 47th pick.
This is a very talented prospect, who has some elite traits that will go a long way toward making up for his lack of size. He has some of the slickest change-of-direction skills you will see at the position, and he can come out of his backpedal and drive on the football in an absolute instant. Could be one of the best cover corners in this draft.
The second round continued – when former Miami Northwestern and Louisville speedster Tutu Atwell was chosen by the Los Angeles Rams with the 57th pick.
One of the fastest players in the draft, and while some deem him small, he is a lot like Roscoe Parrish – and that alone should help him grab a roster spot with the Rams. Game-breaking skill player with home-run-hitting speed as a receiver and return specialist. Has a burst of speed that he turns on in a single step and beats opponents downfield in a foot race. Sells routes, uses his frame to shield away defenders, and extends his hands to pull the ball from the air.
THIRD ROUND SOUTH FLORIDA BONANZA
South Florida was not finished with Day 2 – as the New York Giants, selecting 71st, took former Deerfield Beach (UCF) standout cornerback Aaron Robinson. The Alabama transfer, who was the starting nickel back for Central Florida, is a productive cornerback. A physical player who engages receivers at the line of scrimmage. Strong for his size, defeats blocks, and works to make plays on the ball handler.
St. Thomas Aquinas got back into the draft action – when the Los Angeles Chargers took Josh Palmer – a Syracuse receiver with the 77th selection. This young man hasn’t followed a conventional path to the 2021 NFL Draft. The Canadian-born son of Jamaican parents appeared destined to succeed on the basketball court rather than the gridiron. Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, he was a promising basketball player who also played soccer and a little football. Nice-sized wideout with reliable hands. Sells routes, knows where he is on the field, and uses the sidelines well.
The third-round magic continued for south Florida and Coach Surtain’s Patriots – when Auburn world-class sprinter Anthony Schwartz brought the locals to their feet as the Cleveland Browns selected the 6-0, 180-pounder.
Can this impressive and fastest player get by “he’s a track guy” stigma? Has tremendous body control, and balance. In the passing game, he is a threat due to his is a home-run threat and defenders must account for his dynamic ability in the slot. He displays some physical toughness for being a “track guy” and would be a matchup problem in the slot.
FREE AGENT SIGNEES
In addition, in the coming days more and more prospects from this area will sign as Undrafted Free Agents.
On Saturday night, Plantation American Heritage and University of Michigan tight end Nick Eubanks signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
University of Florida and St. Thomas Aquinas product Trevon Grimes, a top-flight receiver, signed as a UDFA with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lou Groza Award winner Jose Borregales, easily the best kicker in college, did not get drafted, but he signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs.