To say the 2017 NFL Draft First Round was chaotic might be the sports understatement of the year so far. Three trades in the top 12 picks, all so teams could make a quarterback selection. A wild scene in Philadelphia, one of the countries best football cities. Plenty of story lines throughout the first round, but one hits home here in New Jersey.
Three former New Jersey high school football players were selected in last night’s first round.
The highest was Haason Reddick, a defensive end from Temple. Being a local kid born in Camden and attended Haddon Heights High, he continued his career at Temple right there in Philadelphia. Reddick was easily the fan favorite of the night. The Arizona Cardinals selected the pass rusher with the No. 13 overall pick.
He has quite a story. Reddick played sparingly in high school due to injuries. He walked-on at Temple before making the team and eventually earning a scholarship. After registering 10.5 sacks in 2016, Reddick was awarded a First Team All-American Athletic Conference honor.
Reddick entered college as a defensive back before being moved to a hybrid defensive end. At the pro level, expect the Cardinals to use him as a pass-rushing linebacker. Reddick is 6-foot-1, 237 pounds and ran a 4.52 40-yard dash. Reddick was one of the biggest risers entering the draft. After his performance at the Senior Bowl, Reddick went from a potential third or fourth round pick, to a Top-15 prospect.
There was never a question if Paramus Catholic and Michigan star Jabrill Peppers had the talent. In fact, on talent alone, the Heisman Trophy finalist is a Top-5 prospect. The question, however, leading up to the draft was, where can he play in the NFL? In high school, and then at Michigan, Peppers was a do-it-all highlight reel. The Wolverines lined him up on offense, defense, and special teams. He was a star anywhere on the field, most times, the best athletes on the field.
Due to uncertainty about his position, Peppers was expected to fall, many believed out of the first round. However, Peppers had his name called by the Cleveland Browns with the 25th pick in last night’s NFL Draft. With the Browns needing help in just about every area of the roster, maybe it’s the perfect spot for the East Orange native.
Peppers played linebacker, cornerback, safety, wide receiver, running back, wildcat quarterback and kick returner at Michigan. The consensus seems to be that Peppers will play safety in the NFL with the ability to contribute as a returner and on offense.
His draft stock also took a hit after it was reported that he had a diluted urine sample for his drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine in March. Peppers’ agency released a statement that said the diluted sample was the result of him drinking an excessive amount of water to prevent dehydration during Combine testing. A diluted sample is viewed as a failed test and Peppers will be entered into the NFL’s drug program.
Peppers finished fifth in this years’ Heisman voting.
When the clock turned to the New York Giants at No. 23, many thought it possible they would select Cedar Grove native, Miami TE David Njoku. However, Giants GM Jerry Reese selected a TE out of Ole Miss, Evan Engram instead. A few picks later, the Cleveland Browns selected Njoku, 29th overall. It was the second NJ player selected by the Browns, after Jabrill Peppers.
Njoku graduated from Cedar Grove in 2014 and finished his high school career with 76 receptions, 1,794 yards and 19 touchdowns. He entered this year’s NFL Draft at just 20 years old and will not turn 21 until July 10.
The Browns are getting an explosive, athletic tight end. In 2016, Njoku accumulating 43 receptions for 698 yards and 8 TDs for the Hurricanes.