After one of the best years for ex-California high school football players in the NFL Draft in 2018, this year’s pickings held last week in Nashville were scarce.
In fact, the state with five of the first 15 selections in the first round of last year’s draft only had one in the first round this year and just seven in the first three rounds. Compare that to what California usually does in the first rounds of the annual Major League Baseball draft and it’s just more proof that football actually lags behind baseball as the state’s best sport.
This year’s lone first-rounder was Folsom High grad and University of Alabama All-American Jonah Williams. He went with the 11th pick overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Williams was an all-state junior on Folsom’s legendary 16-0 team of 2014 that set national scoring records and won the CIF Division I state title. The Bulldogs, who weren’t in the CIF Open Division that year in favor of their nemesis from De La Salle of Concord (which beat them in 2012 and 2013), were led at quarterback that season by all-time state career TD pass and yards record holder Jake Browning. He wasn’t drafted after completing four years at the University of Washington but signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.
The last time the state had just one first-round pick was 2001 with defensive end Andre Carter (Oak Grove, San Jose) going at No. 7 that year to the Detroit Lions. Carter played in college at Cal.
Before that, you have to go back to 1989 for just one in the first round. In that year, receiver Shawn Collins (San Diego Kearny) went at No. 27 to the Atlanta Falcons.
After Williams, the next Californian to go in this year’s NFL Draft was at No. 43 overall in the second round when University of Hawaii linebacker and Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach grad Jahlani Tavai was chosen by the Lions. Tavai is part of a great athletic family in recent years at Costa, including older brother J.R., who played at USC and for a time with the Tennessee Titans.
Here are the other five players from California who were chosen between No. 44 overall and No. 102 overall, which was the last pick of the third round:
Josh Oliver (Paso Robles)
Picked in the third round at No. 69 overall, Oliver is headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Oliver was a top all-around athlete at Paso Robles who developed into a tight end at San Jose State.
Sione Takitaki (Heritage, Menifee)
After playing at Heritage, Sione went to BYU and was a top-notch linebacker for the Cougars. He was chosen at No. 80 in the third round by the Cleveland Browns.
Kahale Warring (Sonora)
We remember seeing Kahale play as a 6-4 to 6-5 tight end with a frame that was well-suited to pack on a lot of muscle. After his senior year at Sonora, which was his first year playing football since he as a 19 ppg, 12 rpg basketball player, Warring played in the Central California Lions All-Star Football Classic. He then went to San Diego State as a walk-on, built up his body and by his sophomore year was given a scholarship. He then became a top tight end target in the passing game and has now become a third-round NFL draft pick. Warring went at No. 86 overall to the Houston Texans.
Bobby Okereke (Foothill, Tustin)
Just three spots after Kahale Warring was selected, Okereke got the call at No. 89 overall in the third round. The former Foothill star, who also stood out in college at Stanford, will be playing next for the Indianapolis Colts.
Alexander Mattison (San Bernardino)
He rushed for more than 2,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons for the Cardinals and then went to college on a scholarship to Boise State. The NFL tends to like Boise State RBs. Mattison became the latest Broncos to get picked high as the final choice in the third round (No. 102 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings.