Thursday, April 27, 2017

If MIAA Stars Entered the NFL Draft…

Where does Duxbury quarterback Bobby Maimaron project in our fictional draft?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Ok, let's get something out of the way: This is silly.

Obviously, these are high school kids, and they're not going to the NFL next year, and only a few of them are even playing Division I college football, blah, blah blah.

The entire concept of this post is silly. I don't care.

With the ESPN layoffs yesterday, the outlook for sports journalism has never been so bleak, so I'm gonna have some fun.

So, without further ado, here is what tonight's NFL Draft First Round would look like, if NFL teams were drafting Massachusetts high school football players.

Also note that, unlike in the NFL, only MIAA seniors were made eligible for our draft. That includes seniors who have reclassified and will play at prep schools next year, since this was their final season in the MIAA.

1. Cleveland Browns: Bobby Maimaron, QB, Duxbury

The Browns have plenty of needs, but can't pass up a franchise quarterback staring them right in the face. Maimaron set MIAA records for passing yardage and touchdowns during his storied career with Duxbury, and led the Dragons to a Division 2 state championship at Gillette Stadium last December. That experience should come in handy, given that the Browns haven't won in Foxboro since re-forming in 1999, and no Browns team has won there since 1992.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Ifeatu Melifonwu, ATH, Grafton

The Niners also have a plethora of needs and, luckily, Melifonwu can fill a few of them. A long, athletic defensive back, Melifonwu was also a beast carrying the ball on offense, and has even tried his hand at quarterback. But, given that the Niners have been interested in safeties these past few weeks, Melifonwu's coverage range and toughness make him very appealing here.

On a side note, Ifeatu's brother Obi Melifonwu will actually get drafted as a safety sometime in the next few days, possibly by the Niners if he lasts until the second round.

3. Chicago Bears: Cal Flanders, DE, Xaverian

Strong enough to hold up against double teams and quick enough to get around the edge, Flanders is an end for all schemes, and the Bears could definitely use a player like him to rebuild their once-vaunted defense. Like all other teams picking early, Chicago has a bunch of needs, but Flanders is another versatile player who could solve multiple problems in a hurry.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cole McCubrey, RB, West Boylston

Jacksonville decides to give Blake Bortles help instead of replacing him with this pick. Since the Jags addressed defense in free agency, and have a nice young receiving corps, it makes sense that they'd go after a stud running back who can move the chains. Rumors around the league have Jacksonville drooling over Leonard Fournette, and if there's one running back in the MIAA that can truck opposing defenders like the LSU star, it's McCubrey, who enjoyed a record-setting career as a physical terror at West Boylston, rushing for 2,270 yards and 34 touchdowns last season, on an absurd 10 yards per carry.

5. Tennessee Titans: Mekhi Henderson, CB, Xaverian

A star two-way player, Henderson is perhaps best known as a shutdown corner for Xaverian's recent run of defensive dominance. A gifted athlete and willing tackler, Henderson is at his best playing the ball down the field, but has shown the ability to stick his nose is against the run as well. While Henderson's interception totals don't jump off the page, his hands as a receiver and coverage skills give the indication that he could develop into a pick artist for Tennessee.

6. New York Jets: E.J. Perry IV, QB, Andover

The Jets are a train wreck right now, but as we've seen, a great quarterback can mask plenty of issues. The Jets good a good one in Perry, who has the big arm to stretch the field, and the athleticism to extend plays behind New York's leaky line. Some might argue defense is a bigger need here, but Perry is too good to pass up at this point.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Ryan Reagan, WR, Duxbury

Phillip Rivers is getting up there in age, so the Chargers opt to give him a big and explosive new weapon in Reagan. The Dragon great is coming off an injury-riddled football season, but showed he was back to full strength with a fantastic basketball season. That should ease some concerns in the Charger front office, given that Keenan Allen has also struggled to stay healthy in recent years.

8. Carolina Panthers: Mark Mulvaney, OT, Holliston

One of the most versatile tackles in his class, Mulvaney is a multi-year starter who has played both sides for Holliston during a remarkable offensive run. Equally capable as a drive blocker, pass protector or pulling tackle, Mulvaney will instantly make Carolina's line more athletic and versatile.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Patrick Flynn, OG, Hanover

The Bengals need to replace both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler along the offensive line, and Flynn is maybe the best lineman in the draft. A big, physical guard who constantly plays downhill, Flynn will instantly upgrade Cincinnati's run blocking, and his deceptively quick feet, combined with strong hands will help him hold up as a pass protector on the interior.

10. Buffalo Bills: Brian Espanet, WR, Millis-Hopedale

The Bills need an explosive compliment to Sammy Watkins, and they decide to go with the tall deep-threat from Millis-Hopedale. Espanet was a huge part of the Mohawks' recent run of dominance, and brings underrated hands, along with a basketball rebounding mentality to the receiver position.

11. New Orleans Saints: A.J. Ryan, LB, Xaverian

New Orleans may have bigger needs in its secondary, but Ryan is too good to pass on at No. 11. A sideline-to-sideline linebacker with great coverage instincts, Ryan instantly makes New Orleans better against the short-to-intermediate pass, and zone stretch runs.

12. Cleveland Browns: Scott Murphy, DE, Billerica

The Browns grabbed their franchise quarterback at No. 1, and can now focus on rebuilding their defense. Murphy is relatively new to the game, but proved to be a natural pushing the pile and getting around the edge as a defensive end. With a rare combination of size and speed, Murphy has as much potential as anybody in this class.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Jack McGowan, LB, Catholic Memorial

Inside linebacker is an urgent need for the Cardinals, and luckily for Arizona, the talented McGowan is still on the board. Quick enough to star at receiver and tight end on offense, McGowan is one of the fastest linebackers around. Combine that speed with a relentless motor, and you have an LB built to defend modern high-flying offenses.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Carlins Platel, CB, Everett

Who couldn't use a shutdown cover corner? Well, that's just what Platel blossomed into for the Crimson Tide last season, and his six interceptions were proof that you probably didn't want to risk throwing to his side. A solid all-around football player who has better size and speed than many think, Platel was a huge part of Everett's run to a Division 1 state championship last year.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Duval Paul, DL, Everett

The Colts need help in both trenches, and Paul's versatility makes him the perfect fix for Indy up front. A physical defensive tackle with enough speed to play end in the 3-4, Paul is just scratching the surface of his potential.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Ethan Amorello, DE/OLB, St. Peter-Marian

Baltimore needs another star pass rusher, and nobody was better at getting to the quarterback in the MIAA last year than Amorello. The St. Peter-Marian defensive end has a relentless motor, and would fit in well as an apprentice to, then replacement for, the aging Terrell Suggs.

17. Washington Redskins: Keshaun Brown, S, Brockton

In today's pass-heavy NFL, everybody is looking for rangy safeties who can play centerfield against the deep ball. Brown fits that bill, as one of the fastest defensive backs in the state, and a guy with play-making ability after he intercepts the ball. Brown could also help Washington early on in his career as a kick and punt returner.

18. Tennessee Titans: Noah Gray, ATH, Leominster

Tennessee addressed its secondary at No. 5, and now it's time to find some offensive weapons. Gray pretty much did it all for the Blue Devils last year, starring at quarterback, tight end and wide receiver, but it is his ability to haul in the deep ball that makes him so appealing to the vertically challenged Titans and young quarterback Marcus Mariota.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kevin Mensah, RB, Shepherd Hill

The Bucs gave Jameis Winston a deep threat in DeSean Jackson, and handed Gerald McCoy a running mate when they signed Chris Baker, so they now look to solidify their backfield with Mensah. A back who runs with great pad level and unusual power, Mensah gives Tampa Bay a younger, more versatile version of the injury-plagued Doug Martin. Another set of fresh legs should make this re-vamped offense even more dangerous.

20. Denver Broncos: Max Beati, OT, Andover

At 6-foot-8 and over 320 lbs, Beati definitely looks the part of a stud left tackle. Though he's spent most of his career on the right side, a move to the left seems to be in Beati's future, and he's got the feet for it, as evidence by his skills on the basketball court. Guys this big that can move don't grow on trees, and the Broncos grab him to protect… Whoever their quarterback will be.

21. Detroit Lions: Hunter Brown, DT,  St. John's Prep

The Lions would like a pure edge rusher at this spot, but can't pass up the Brown's disruptive abilities on the inside. One of the strongest defensive linemen in the state, Brown can push the pile, but also has the speed to slip double-teams and get after the quarterback up the middle.

22. Miami Dolphins: Cory Ryder, OL, Nantucket

Miami has a recent history of drafting interior linemen who can play multiple spots, so Ryder should fit right in. Initially, he would project as a guard, but the versatile Ryder has the feet and football IQ to play center as well. Either way, he's a pancake machine that should make Miami's budding ground game even more efficient.

23. New York Giants: Colin Robinson, TE, Algonquin

New York's receiving corps is stacked, but the Giants decide to give Eli a dynamic pass catcher at the tight end position. Robinson might turn some heads at this spot, but he combines great quickness and leaping ability with a 6-foot-4 frame to form one of the toughest covers in the state.

24. Oakland (Las Vegas?) Raiders: Kingsley Ejiogu-Dike, LB, Brockton

The Raiders have improved throughout pretty much their entire offense, but that back seven on defense remains a bit shaky. Oakland (Las Vegas?) addresses that deficiency with a speedy, hard-hitting linebacker in Ejiogu-Dike. The multi-year Boxer starter could be not just an instant starter, but a young leader for a franchise in transition.

25. Houston Texans: Jordan McAfee, QB, Everett

Franchise quarterbacks are hard to find, but McAfee has all the tools, and the Crimson Tide signal caller went out playing his best football while winning a D1 state championship. A tall, athletic quarterback with a rocket arm, McAfee is just beginning to realize his potential, but his steady improvement from year to year is a great sign.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Alec Lindstrom, OL, Shepherd Hill

Seattle's offensive line is, like, real bad. So bad that help anywhere along the front would greatly improve the Seahawks' chances of getting back to Super Sunday. Lindstrom has played center and guard throughout his career, and has gotten bigger and stronger at an almost alarming rate the past four years. He's a versatile hard worker that Seattle could really use.

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Kiley, LB, Maynard

KC loves tackling-machine inside linebackers. That's exactly what they're getting in Kiley, who wracked up an astounding 151 tackles last season, leading the Tigers to the Division 4A state title game. Also a prolific pass-catching tight end, Kiley has speed to burn and the instincts to be an instant-impact player for the Chiefs.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Nick Couhig, ATH, Falmouth

Call it an outside-the-box pick, but Couhig, a BC baseball commit, was every bit as good of a defensive back as he was a quarterback during Falmouth's championship run last fall. With the ability to play both corner and safety, and the athleticism/arm combination to provide Dallas with an emergency backup quarterback, Couhig should fit in perfectly in Big D.

29. Green Bay Packers: Mike Pedrini, RB, Melrose

After intense debate in the Green Bay war room, Pedrini gets the nod over Xaverian stud Devon Piccinin. The two-time Middlesex League MVP has just been so productive for so long, and his explosiveness gives Green Bay a great ground compliment to Aaron Rodgers and company through the air.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Rothmann, LB, BC High

With Lawrence Timmons gone to Miami, the Steelers now have a need at both outside and inside linebacker. Rothmann is the best player available, and projects as a solid starter next to Ryan Shazier on the inside. One of the smartest 'backers in the state, Rothman should be able to fill that spot quickly, and help Pittsburgh get back to its defensive roots.

31. Atlanta Falcons: Carl Sanuth, C/OG, King Phillip

Interior linemen are never a sexy pick, but the Falcons probably remember the Patriots getting quick interior pressure on Matt Ryan at a few inopportune times… That, and they just generally really need some help at guard. Sanuth could fill two needs, as an immediate starter at guard, and backup at center should Alex Mack get banged up again.

32. New Orleans Saints: Coreese Everett, WR, Springfield Central

The trade of Brandin Cooks to the Patriots opens up a spot at wide receiver, and Everett could quickly replace some of Cooks' play-making ability. A true speedster who can take the top off a defense, or do damage after the catch, Everett would give quarterback Drew Brees a much-needed explosive weapon.