It’s no secret anymore.
The biggest pipeline to the NFL – the area that breeds and develops the highest quality football talent in the country year in and year out – is Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
St. Thomas Aquinas led all high schools across the country with nine players on opening day rosters. Miami Norland (5), Miami Northwestern (5) and Miami Central (4) were not far behind.
The local talent in the league includes: All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown of the Steelers (Norland), defensive end Olivier Vernon of the Giants (American), linebacker Lavonte David of the Buccaneers (Northwestern), eight 2016 Pro Bowlers, three 1,000-yard running backs in Atlanta’s Davonte Freeman (Central), Houston’s Lamar Miller (Killian) and Indianapolis’ Frank Gore (Coral Gables) and three 1,000-yard receivers in Brown, Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hylton (Miami Springs) and Oakland’s Amari Cooper (Northwestern).
Not to mention the hero of the Super Bowl: Patriots running back James White of Aquinas.
With the NFL Draft set to commence Thursday, NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter is projecting six former Dade/Broward players will be drafted with another handful that could also be drafted or will end up signing as undrafted free agents.
In all, 25 players from Miami-Dade and Broward have been taken in the first round since 2003 including at least one in every draft since then except in 2009 and 2012.
Here is the list of 11 locals to keep an eye on for this year’s draft:
▪ Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (Central): Cook (5-10, 210, 4.49 40-yard dash) was Mr. Florida Football back in 2013 and was a five-star prospect coming out of Central, where he ran for for 4,267 yards and 64 touchdowns, while leading Miami Central to a 52-5 record and three state titles. At FSU, he broke Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record and single-season record with 1,765 yards as a junior. Though Reuter has Cook going to the Buccaneers with the 19th overall pick, there are reports coming from draft experts that believe Cook could slip to the second round.
▪ Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida (University School): Reuter projects Wilson (6-1, 211, 4.54 40-yard dash) to go with the 28th overall pick late in the first round to the Dallas Cowboys, who badly need help in the secondary. A second-team All-SEC selection (3.5 tackles for loss, three INT, six pass break-ups) at Florida this past season, Wilson is projected by most draft experts to go in the second round. At U-School, Wilson was a three-star recruit, Under Armour All-American and All-Broward First Team selection his senior year. His father, Chad, played at the University of Miami (1992-94) and his younger brother, Marco, a four-star recruit at American Heritage, signed with Florida in February.
▪ Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA (Western): Reuter projects Moreau (6-0, 206, 4.35 40-yard dash) to go to the Cleveland Browns with the 65th overall pick and first pick in the third round. Going into the 2015 season, Bruins head coach Jim Mora, Jr. called Moreau a first-round talent. Then, three games in, his season end with a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. Moreau bounced back in 2016, receiving honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors by leading the Bruins with 10 pass breakups and two interceptions. Coming out of high school, Moreau was a three-star running back and All-Broward selection after compiling more than 1,800 all-purpose yards and 18 TDs as a senior.
▪ Danny Isidora, OG, University of Miami (Cypress Bay): Reuter has Isidora (6-3, 306) going in the fifth round with the 157th overall pick to the Arizona Carinals. Started 39 consecutive games at right guard to end his career at UM, where he earned All-ACC second team honors in 2016. A four-star recruit coming out of high school according to ESPN, Isidora was an All-Broward First team selection his senior season and helped lead Cypress Bay to the state semifinals in 2011.
▪ Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama (Boyd Anderson): Reuter has Jackson (6-0, 201) going to Buffalo Bills in the fifth round with the 171th overall pick. Jackson broke his leg on a punt return eight games into his final season at Alabama. Before that, had an outstanding junior season in 2015, where he was a first-team All-SEC and third-team AP All-American selection (six interceptions, scoring on two). A four-star recruit out of Boyd Anderson, Jackson earned All-Broward First Team honors his senior season as an athlete with over 37 receptions at receiver and five interceptions and 66 tackles on defense.
▪ Anthony Walker Jr., ILB, Northwestern (Monsignor Pace): Reuter has Walker Jr. (6-1, 238, 4.65 40-yard dash) going to Steelers in the seventh round with the 248th overall pick. A second team All Big-Ten selection in 2016, Walker Jr. had 105 tackles including 10 for loss as a junior before declaring early for the draft. In 2015, he finished fourth in the country with 20.5 tackles for loss. As a senior at Pace, Walker earned All-Dade First Team honors after racking up 71 tackles in the regular season.
▪ Isaiah McKenzie, WR/KR, Georgia (American Heritage): Reuter doesn’t have McKenzie (5-7, 173, 4.42 40-yard dash) in his seven-round mock draft, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Broncos taking the explosive punt returner in the third round. As a junior, McKenzie led Georgia in receiving with 44 catches for 633 yards and seven touchdowns and holds school records in career return touchdowns (6) and punt return touchdowns (5). He was equally electric at American Heritage where he was an anchor on a state championship team in 2013 and an All-Broward First Team selection.
▪ Matt Dayes, RB, N.C. State (Cypress Bay): Dayes (5-9, 205) isn’t listed in Reuter’s mock draft, but is rated the 16th best running back available by Scout.com and could be taken as early as the fifth or sixth round. His 2016 season was his best at N.C. State as he ran for 1,166 yards with 10 scores and also caught 32 passes for 267 yards on his way to second-team All-ACC honors. A three-star recruit in high school, Dayes ran for 1,878 yards and 28 touchdowns and led Cypress Bay to a runner-up finish in the state championship game his senior year.
▪ Bryan Cox Jr., DE, Florida (St. Thomas Aquinas): Cox (6-3, 265, 4.89 40-yard dash) isn’t listed in Reuter’s mock draft, but is rated the 18th best defensive end in the draft by Scout.com. He battled through injuries his senior year at Florida and netted just 19 tackles, but he started 13 of 14 games in 2015 and had 45 tackles on the season, including 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. At Aquinas, Cox was a three-star recruit. He missed most of his senior year with a wrist injury, but still earned All-Broward Second Team honors.
▪ Stacy Coley, WR, University of Miami (Northeast): Coley (6-0, 195, 4.45 40-yard dash) isn’t liste in Reuter’s mock draft, but is rated the 28th best receiver prospect by Scout.com and could go as early as the fifth or sixth round. The past two seasons, Coley was named third-team All-ACC and led the Canes in receptions with 63 this year with 754 yards and nine touchdowns. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Coley earned All-Broward first team honors in 2012 with 29 catches for 513 yards and 10 touchdowns.
▪ Joe Yearby, RB, University of Miami (Central): Yearby (5-9, 200) decided to leave UM early for the draft after averaging 6.0 yards per carry and rushing for 608 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior, but didn’t get an invite to the combine. Reuter doesn’t have him in his mock draft and NFL Draft Scout.com ranks Yearby, who ran for 1,002 yards and six touchdowns and earned All-ACC Third team honors in 2015, as the 32nd best running back prospect. It’s been a rather large fall from grace for Yearby, who was a four-star recruit at Central and totaled more rushing yards in his prep career than Cook.
LOCAL PLAYERS TAKEN IN THE FIRST ROUND SINCE 2003
3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (St. Thomas Aquinas)
25. Artie Burns, CB, University of Miami (Northwestern)
4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (Northwestern)
9. Ereck Flowers, OT, University of Miami (Norland)
29. Phillip Dorsett, WR, University of Miami (St. Thomas Aquinas)
15. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (Plantation)
32. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Northwestern)
25. Xavier Rhodes, DB, Florida State (Norland)
5. Patrick Peterson, DB, LSU (Blanche Ely)
18. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois (Hialeah)
15. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida (Deerfield Beach)
32. Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State (Gulliver Prep)
31. Kenny Phillips, DB, University of Miami (Carol City)
23. Dwyane Bowe, WR, LSU (Norland)
25. Jon Beason, LB, Miami (Chaminade-Madonna)
23. Davin Joseph, G, Oklahoma (Hallandale)
8. Antrel Rolle, DB, University of Miami (South Dade)
5. Sean Taylor, DB, University of Miami (Gulliver Prep)
12. Jonathan Vilma, LB, University of Miami (Coral Gables)
19. Vernon Carey, OL, University of Miami (Northwestern)
28. Chris Gamble, DB, Ohio State (Dillard)
3. Andre Johnson, WR, University of Miami (Miami High)
15. Jerome McDougle, DE, University of Miami (Blanche Ely)
23. Willis McGahee, RB, University of Miami (Central)
25. William Joseph, DT, University of Miami (Edison)