California leads the nation with five high school football alums taken in this year’s first round. The first two both hail from the Ventura/L.A. County region with Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oaks Christian going at No. 5 and then Drake London of Moorpark not far behind at No. 8. We have writeups of all 22 players from the state chosen in the seven rounds. It was a great year for the CIF San Diego Section with six alums selected, but not good for Northern California with just one.
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FIRST ROUND SELECTIONS
5. Kayvon Thibodeaux (Westlake Village Oaks Christian) N.Y. Giants
There was quite a debate about which defensive linemen and especially edge rushers would be the first few picks of this year’s draft. Thibodeaux had been in that discussion for more than a year. That distinction of being first went to a similar player, Georgia’s Travon Walker, but Kayvon seemed happy to be headed to New York at No. 5. He’s been on the radar screens of scouts since his freshman season at Hawkins of Los Angeles, which was following by a sophomore year at Dorsey. He headed to Oaks Christian for his final two prep seasons and was especially destructive on a very good Lions’ team in 2018. Thibodeaux is the highest player ever drafted from a Ventura County/L.A. region school and he’s the highest ever from Oaks Christian. The school had a second round selection in 2010 when QB Jimmy Clausen was chosen by the Carolina Panthers.
8. Drake London (Moorpark) Atlanta Falcons
Regarded as one of the best grid-hoop athletes in state history, London became the first receiver selected in this year’s draft and there was a run for many of them right after he went to the Falcons. He’s the highest-selected player ever from Moorpark. Both he and Thibodeaux also are the first first-rounders from the Ventura/L.A. area since Clay Matthews Jr. of Agoura was chosen that high in 2009. London caught 62 passes for 1,089 yards and 12 TDs as a senior at Moorpark and then followed that up by averaging 29.2 points and 11.9 rebounds on the hardwood.
11. Chris Olave (San Marcos Mission Hills) New Orleans Saints
The Ohio State wideout was selected immediately after his Buckeyes’ teammate, Garrett Wilson, was picked at No. 10 overall by the New York Giants. Olave became known as one of the elite route runners in college football and he’s the first-ever first-rounder from Mission Hills. The school also is the home of All-Pro LB Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers, but he was drafted in the third round in 2018. Olave had a great senior season at Mission Hills after he was ineligible for the Grizzlies after he first transferred in from his previous school — Eastlake of Chula Vista.
21. Trent McDuffie (Bellflower St. John Bosco) Kansas City Chiefs
One of the best moments of the first round came when Trent related the story of playing in memory of older brother Taylor, who died when he was in the eighth grade. McDuffie went on to star at Servite, then at St. John Bosco and then up at the University of Washington where he developed into what most analysts said was the best tackling cornerback in the draft. McDuffie is the second first round pick from Bosco in just three years after QB Josh Rosen was picked in 2018. The Braves also had the No. 53 overall selection last year in the second round with Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis.
27. Devin Lloyd (Chula Vista Otay Ranch) Jaguars
After making a trade to move up into the 27th pick, Jacksonville used it to grab Lloyd, who had been projected to go higher in many of the mock drafts leading into the night. He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the Utes after he successfully made the transition as a safety and wide receiver coming out of high school. He was one of those 6-foot-2, 190-pound types who became a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker in college. In 2016, playing for Otay Ranch in its first-ever victory against Eastlake, Lloyd had a monster game with four interceptions and he returned two of those for touchdowns. It looks like Olave had already left Eastlake prior to that season.
SECOND ROUND SELECTIONS
61. Drake Jackson (Corona Centennial) 49ers
Former first team all-state defensive lineman became the highest drafted player ever out of the great program at Centennial with this second-round selection. He also was the first player that San Francisco drafted this season after trades from last year kept the team from any first round picks. Jackson was one of the top freshman defensive college players in the nation once he first arrived at USC and was a standout for the Trojans for three seasons before announcing for the draft after his junior season.
THIRD ROUND SELECTIONS
80. Greg Dulcich (La Canada St. Francis) Broncos
We didn’t know the connection on the night of the second round, but found out later that the person who chose Dulcich for Denver, general manager George Paton, was a college roommate at UCLA of Dulcich’s high school coach at St. Francis, the late Jim Bonds. He was a hybrid type receiver-tight end for the Golden Knights in 2017 when they reached the CIF Southern Section D3 title game and lost in a shootout, 44-42, to Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley. Coach Bonds died in 2020 from cancer. Dulcich has since become more of a traditional tight end and has certainly developed into a terrific NFL prospect.
87. Cameron Thomas (Carlsbad) Cardinals
Both Cameron and his older brother, Zach, were selected in this year’s draft and both also are from San Diego State. Cameron came out after his junior season as one of the leading defensive ends on the West Coast. Zach took advantage of an extra year of eligibility due to COVID and kept developing as an offensive tackle. Cameron was the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 with 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
92. Sean Rhyan (San Juan Capistrano San Juan Hills) Packers
A former first team all-state lineman at San Juan Hills, Rhyan will join a Packers’ offensive line that already includes Serra of San Mateo’s David Bakhtiari. At San Juan Hills, Sean also was one of the top shot putters and discus throwers in the state in track. He’s known for being a versatile lineman at UCLA who can play all tackle and guard positions.
94. Matt Corral (Long Beach Poly) Panthers
Almost all of the QBs projected to be taken in this year’s draft — other than perhaps Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett (the only one in the first round) — fell down many spots from where many thought they’d go, including Corral, who was one of the top college QBs in the nation last fall at Ole Miss. Corral only played his senior season at Long Beach Poly after transferring in from Oaks Christian, where he left just before Kayvon Thibodeaux transferred in from Dorsey of Los Angeles. At Carolina, Corral will have the opportunity to compete for playing time where the projected starter is still San Clemente grad Sam Darnold.
FOURTH ROUND SELECTIONS
121. Jack Jones (Long Beach Poly) Patriots
After Corral was the final player from the state to be selected in the third round on Friday, Jones was the first player in the fourth round picked on Saturday. The Arizona State cornerback will be headed to New England. The only other school in the state this year besides Poly to get two or more in this year’s draft was Carlsbad and its two are brothers.
132. Romeo Doubs (Los Angeles High) Packers
This wide receiver will get a chance in Green Bay to help the team off-set the free agent signing loss of Davante Adams (Palo Alto). After playing as a QB in high school for an option offense, Doubs went to Nevada and it wasn’t a surprise to see him develop into a top NFL prospect as a receiver. His length and ability to make tough catches in traffic could make him very effective in red zone situations.
FIFTH ROUND SELECTIONS
148. Khalil Shakur (Murrieta Vista Murrieta) Bills
The former WR/DB/KR for Vista Murrieta went lower than expected, but will be joining a team that will be among the favorites for the Super Bowl. He led Boise State in receptions as early as his sophomore season in 2019 and was among the finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the top receiver in college football.
151. Tyler Allgeier (Fontana Kaiser) Falcons
Here’s a great story of a guy who was a walk-on at BYU, but eventually became the school’s all-time leader for single season rushing yards (with more than 1,600) and now he’s a fifth-round NFL Draft pick. Allgeier had a record-breaking season at Kaiser in 2017 with more than 2,400 yards rushing.
163. Kyle Philips (San Marcos) Titans
He was a standout receiver at San Marcos who also was a four-star recruit signed by UCLA. Philips has always had track sprinter speed to go with elite pass catching and route running skills. He had more than 1,300 yards receiving as a senior at San Marcos. He finished his UCLA career with 163 receptions.
167. DaRon Bland (Modesto Central Catholic) Cowboys
We first remember DaRon playing as a junior and coming up with five interceptions for the Raiders in 2015 when they won the CIF small schools open division state title. He followed up by being all-state medium schools in 2016. Bland first went to Sac State for college and later transferred to Fresno State. He had several eye-opening performances this last season and did enough in pro days to gain the attention of NFL scouts.
171. Luke Wattenberg (San Juan Capistrano JSerra) Broncos
Not to be confused with Sean Rhyan from a different, public school in San Juan Capistrano, Wattenberg was all-state juniors first team at JSerra for the 2014 season and was first team overall after 2015. He went on to the University of Washington and developed into one of the top centers in college football.
SIXTH ROUND SELECTIONS
180. Matt Araiza (San Diego Rancho Bernardo) Bills
The versatile kicker-punter for the Aztecs and one of the best combo kickers-punters we’ve had coming out of California high schools in the last 10 years will be punting in the much different weather of Buffalo. He won the Ray Guy Award for punting last season, which symbolizes being the best punter in college football. At Rancho Bernardo, Araiza also made 37 career field goals to go with a 41.7 yard career punting average.
186. Zach Thomas (Carlsbad) Bears
The older brother of 2nd round pick Cameron Thomas hopes to catch on with the Bears as an offensive line protector for developing QB Justin Fields. Zach has successfully come back from a torn ACL injury from 2018 and was All-Mountain West Conference in 2021. He only committed three penalties in his last 1,144 snaps with the Aztecs.
198. Grant Calcaterra (Rancho SM Santa Margarita) Eagles
Another of the great stories in this year’s draft, Calcaterra had left football after the 2019 season when he was injured and missed almost all of that season at Oklahoma. The year before he was an All-Big 12 Conference choice at tight end for the Sooners. Grant spent part of 2020 looking to become a firefighter. He came in 2021 to play at SMU and showed the same promise that he had earlier in his career.
211. Quentin Lake (Santa Ana Mater Dei) Rams
The DB from UCLA will now get a shot to make it onto the roster of the Super Bowl champs in his hometown. Quentin is the son of former Bruins’ great and longtime NFL DB Carnell Lake and was a senior leader for Mater Dei’s young team in 2016 that had then sophomore QB JT Daniels that was unbeaten and No. 1 in the state until it lost in a rematch game with eventual CIF Open Division state champ St. John Bosco in the CIF Southern Section final.
SEVENTH ROUND SELECTIONS
254. Elijah Hicks (La Mirada) Bears
We recall watching Elijah closely in the 2016 CIF Southern Section D3 title game when La Mirada fell in a memorable contest to Edison of Huntington Beach (which was the second-to-last game that longtime head coach Dave White had with the Chargers). He certainly looked the part of being an elite cornerback and eventually picked Cal over several other high major D1 offers. Hicks will now be going to the Bears of Chicago from the Golden Bears of Berkeley.