NFL Draft Highlights (2021)

Najee Harris (left) was the Mr. Football State POY as a junior in 2015. Wyatt Davis (right) was Mr. Football for the state in 2016. Photos: Twitter.com & Mark Tennis.

California ends two-year streak with just one selection in the first round of the NFL Draft as three former prep players are taken for 2021. The highest to go was Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland grad Alijah Vera-Tucker at No. 14 by the New York Jets. Two former Mr. Football State Players of the Year went at No. 24 (first round) and No. 86 (second round) while another from Bishop O’Dowd was selected with the fourth pick of the second round. We have writeups of all 19 from the state chosen in the seven rounds.

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FIRST ROUND SELECTIONS

Alijah Vera-Tucker was listed as a 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive tackle as a senior at O’Dowd. Photo: Twitter.com.


14. Alijah Vera-Tucker (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) Jets
After taking BYU QB Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall, the Jets were looking to add an elite offensive lineman in the first round as well. They saw their chance and traded up with the Minnesota Vikings to grab Vera-Tucker, a former all-state lineman for the Dragons. Vera-Tucker, the 2020 Morris Trophy winner as the top lineman in the Pac-12 Conference playing the tackle position at USC, is projected to be an elite guard in the NFL. He’ll join O’Dowd alums Kevin King (Green Bay Packers) and Hardy Nickerson (Houston Texans) in the NFL and he’s the highest ever draft pick from the school. The previous best for that was offensive lineman Tarik Glenn at No. 19 in he first round in 1997 by the Indianapolis Colts. Glenn was a longtime starter in the league and was part of a Super Bowl championship at Indy.

18. Jaelan Phillips (Redlands East Valley) Dolphins
It won’t be much of a relocation for Phillips as he’s moving from the University of Miami to the local NFL team. Most who follow SoCal and state football were introduced to Jaelan in the 2014 CIF Division II state championship team when he impressed as a sophomore defensive end for an REV squad that defeated Clayton Valley of Concord. He went on to be an all-state player and major college recruit, signing with UCLA. He was derailed by injuries at UCLA and eventually wound up at Miami. Phillips is the first-ever first round NFL draft pick from his high school.

24. Najee Harris (Antioch) Steelers
It wasn’t lost on anyone from Antioch that Najee will be playing in the NFL for Pittsburgh since Pittsburg High (no h) has been Antioch High’s major rival for more than 100 years. With the Steelers, though, he will be wearing the same black-and-gold colors that he did playing for the Panthers. The University of Alabama running back, of course, was electrifying in high school. He was the Mr. Football State Player of the Year as a junior in 2015 and arguably could have repeated in 2016 but there was another back in the same league (Freedom of Oakley’s Ronnie Rivers) that had to get strong consideration as well so for that year the nod went to dominating St. John Bosco lineman Wyatt Davis. Harris was more impressive in high school than other recent NFL running backs from the Bay Area, including one who may end up in the Hall of Fame (Oakland Tech’s Marshawn Lynch) and another who led the league in rushing (De La Salle’s Maurice Jones-Drew).

SECOND ROUND SELECTIONS

36. Jevon Holland (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) Dolphins
That big whoop heard around the Bay Area on Friday night was from Dragons’ fans when Holland’s name was called and much earlier than expected. He was a prep teammate of No. 14 overall selection Alijah Vera-Tucker and went to college at Oregon. Holland did it all for head coach Napoleon Kaufman at O’Dowd (who stepped down from the job last year) as he played wide receiver and returned kicks in addition to playing in the secondary. In the NFL, Jevon is projected to play free safety.

El Cerrito’s Aaron Banks played as a freshman on the El Cerrito varsity in both football and basketball. Photo: Willie Eashman.


48. Aaron Banks (El Cerrito) 49ers
Another East Bay product, the Notre Dame offensive linemen also seemed to be drafted higher than expected. Banks is a player we saw at a Nike event as a sophomore and he stood out because he was just so huge. He was an all-state sophomore, but some of the weights listed for him were as high as 380 pounds. He came on strong in his last two seasons at Notre Dame and at the draft was reported at 340 pounds.

THIRD ROUND SELECTIONS

86. Wyatt Davis (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) Vikings
Antioch’s Najee Harris wasn’t the only former Mr. Football State Player of the Year picked in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Davis, the 2016 Mr. Football for the absolute dominance he displayed as an interior linemen for a Braves’ squad that won the CIF Open Division state title, was grabbed late in this round by Minnesota. Harris was Mr. Football the year before (2015) when he was a junior. Davis went to Ohio State for college and played offensive guard. He was slowed by injuries during his years in Columbus, but at the end of the day he still had a solid college career and if he stays healthy and gets a little quicker off the snap he has a chance to be a solid pro.

99. Nahshon Wright (James Logan, Union City) Cowboys
Fans of the Netflix series “Last Chance U” will really like this pick. Wright was one of featured players on the season that was shot at Laney College of Oakland in 2018. He grew up in East Palo Alto and lost his father to gun violence there before playing at Logan. He wasn’t a big recruit or anything there, but started getting notice at Laney under head coach John Beam. At some point, Wright’s mother had moved to a house in Stockton (we assumed it was in the Weston Ranch neighborhood but don’t know for sure) and he was shown in one scene leaving his house in the dead of the morning (roughly 4 am) to make the drive to Oakland. Nahshon did well enough at Laney to get a scholarship at Oregon State and now he’s turned heads enough there to become a higher level NFL Draft pick. Cowboys’ fans also should know that Wright is from the same California high school as one of their team’s best DBs ever — Roy Williams.

FOURTH ROUND SELECTIONS

108. Darren Hall (Rancho Cucamonga) Falcons
The first of two DBs from the Cougars’ 12-1 squad from 2016 chosen in this year’s draft, Hall saw action at San Diego State as a true freshman. He ended his career on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list and improved his draft stock by running a 4.41 in the 40.

This is how Amon-Ra looked after his sophomore season at Mater Dei. Photo: StudentSports.com.


112. Amon-Ra St. Brown (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Lions
Games when the Lions play the Packers will be extra-special for St. Brown since his older brother, Equanimeous, plays for the Packers. Amon-Ra went to USC after starring at Mater Dei. He was the most explosive player on its 15-0 team that was CIF Open Division state champion and No. 1 in the nation. He caught 112 passes for the Monarchs for more than 2,500 yards and 41 TDs.

114. Drew Dalman (Palma, Salinas) Falcons
One of the highest drafted centers in the offensive line, Dalman continues to follow the path of his father, Chris. Pops also went to Palma and is in fact now that school’s president. The older Dalman also played in the NFL (mainly for the San Francisco 49ers) and went to Stanford. Drew is coming into the NFL from Stanford as well. He once lived in Atlanta when Chris was an assistant coach there.

125. Camryn Bynum (Centennial, Corona) Vikings
Late bloomers don’t just come from some small town. They can come from a place with a great tradition like Centennial. Bynum can be called a late bloomer because he didn’t even play football until his junior year at Centennial, but did enough to get a few offers, including one from Cal. He developed there into more of a top cornerback.

133. Ian Book (Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) Saints
After the first five QBs in the first round of the draft, Ian could have gone anywhere and at just 6-foot tall it’s possible he might not have been drafted at all. Going to New Orleans where he will essentially be replacing the retired future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in the quarterback room seems so right for him. The other QBs, Jamies Winston and Taysom Hill, aren’t going anywhere but Book can only get better working with head coach Sean Payton. At Oak Ridge, Book was the first team QB on our all-state team even though there were other QBs that year who were ranked higher as recruits.

FIFTH ROUND SELECTIONS

166. Keith Taylor (Servite, Anaheim) Panthers
Not everyone who became a great player transferred to St. John Bosco. Taylor went from Bosco to Servite, then got hurt in his junior season there. He did show his speed on the track team, had a strong senior season and earned a scholarship to Washington.

172. Deommodore Lenoir (Salesian, Los Angeles) 49ers
He’s coming to the 49ers from the University of Oregon. At Salesian, Lenoir was one of those players who did everything. In his senior year there, he rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 17 TDs, caught seven TD passes and obviously starred on defense.

183. Avery Williams (JSerra, SJ Capistrano) Falcons
Three years ago, JSerra had its first NFL draft pick in WR Dante Pettis. Then last year it was OL Nick Harris. The trend continues with Williams, a DB/LB from Boise State. Avery also is similar to Pettis in that he was a kick return fiend. In fact, Williams tied Pettis’ FBS career record with nine kick return TDs last December on a punt during game vs. San Jose State.

Ian Book has been throwing darts since his sophomore season at Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills. Photo: Mark Tennis.


SIXTH ROUND SELECTIONS

211. Demetric Felton (Great Oak, Temecula) Browns
He emerged as a running back at UCLA who ranked as one of the best in the nation for all-purpose yards. He said coming into UCLA that his biggest thrill in sports was helping Great Oak get its first-ever CIF Southern Section playoff appearance.

228. Thomas Graham Jr. (Rancho Cucamonga) Bears
This is the second DB from Rancho Cucamonga’s 12-1 team from 2016 who was picked in this year’s draft. Graham was more highly regarded coming out of high school than teammate Darren Hall and went to Oregon. With the Bears, he’ll be joining a secondary that already includes another former all-state DB in Jaylon Johnson (Central, Fresno).

SEVENTH ROUND SELECTIONS

251. Chris Wilcox (Roosevelt, Eastvale) Bucs
It’s been since 1991 when a cornerback from BYU has been taken in the draft, but Wilcox broke that streak this weekend. He hopes to join Roosevelt alum Marcus Williams (New Orleans Saints) soon as an NFL starter. Wilcox benefitted from impressive testing numbers at BYU’s Pro Day.

257. Jermar Jefferson (Narbonne, Harbor City) Lions
He was the leading rushed for Narbonne’s team in 2017 that defeated Pittsburg to win the 2017 CIF Division 1-A state title. Jefferson, who earlier played at Redondo (Redondo Beach) before transferring to Narbonne, was a college standout at Oregon State.

Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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