South Florida boasts numerous prospective NFL draft picks

As the 2021 NFL draft approaches, Broward and Dade player stock rises


Scott McIntyre for The Undefeated

Potential NFL draft picks Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain II practice on their home field at American Heritage in Plantation on Aug. 16, 2017.

South Florida is known for many things: Miami, South Beach, great weather and  hot spring break attraction sites. But one other thing that brings national attention to Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach county, is the elite football talent that it produces. Devonta Freeman, a running back for the Atlanta Falcons who played at Miami Central High School, said in a Yahoo!Sports interview with Frank Schwab that in almost every game he sees a guy from Miami. Florida had the most NFL players on opening day rosters this season with 212, which means there was an average of over 6 Florida players on each NFL team.

Hall of Famers like wide receiver Michael Irvin (St. Thomas Aquinas), linebacker Derrick Thomas (South Miami), and guard Steve Hutchinson (Coral Springs) all came from South Florida and made history at the highest level. In present time, guys like 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson (Boynton Beach) and the best brother duo in the league, defensive ends Joey and Nick Bosa (St. Thomas Aquinas) are taking the NFL by storm.

Now it’s time for the next wave of South Florida talent to join them in making history on the field. Here are some trailblazers to keep an eye out for during this year’s draft.

Pat Surtain II, American Heritage ‘18

The highest rated defensive back in this year’s draft according to multiple sources is the son of former NFL player Pat Surtain, who was his head coach in high school; and still leads the way for the Patriots. Surtain II played at the University of Alabama, the school most college football fans consider the hierarchy of the sport. On a team that is stacked with national talent at every position year to year, always in contention for a national championship, Surtain set himself apart early and never looked back. He ended his college career with the Defensive Player of the Game award in the semi-final playoff game at the Cotton Bowl and a national championship ring. 

Tyson Campbell, American Heritage ‘18

The silky smooth defensive back from the University of Georgia is also a hometown hero from Plantation. Campbell and Surtain II were partners in crime with the Patriots, being ranked as the #1 and #2 DB’s in the entire country. Campbell lived up to the hype for the Bulldogs, making 89 total tackles and having two touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball. In only three years, he proved he was ready for the big leagues and declared for this year’s draft. He is projected to be an early pick in the first two rounds due to his size, speed and ability to help in the run game as well as lock down an entire side of the field.

Anthony Schwartz, American Heritage ‘18

Also known as “The Flash,” Schwartz’s speed is his greatest asset. Schwartz was originally a track star in high school, setting multiple state records including the 100m and the 200m in class AAA while winning the Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2018. When he joined football, just like track, he was the fastest player on the field. He ended up going to Auburn, known for heavily recruiting South Florida for its football talent. Schwartz attained a total of 1,756 scrimmage yards (receiving and rushing yards combined), 13 total touchdowns for the Tigers, and the title of “the fastest man in college football.” 

Gregory Rousseau, Champagnat Catholic ‘18

A top defensive end prospect coming from the University of Miami, this 6’5,  215lb freak of nature initially played receiver with his big frame but changed his position once he got to Coral Gables. Rousseau was an outstanding player in 2019, but with the pandemic’s effect on college football, he decided to opt out of the 2020 season. However, he showcased enough last year to be considered a first round lock, recording 15.5 sacks, which tied for the most in the country that year. 

Elijah Moore, Western (2014-15) St. Thomas Aquinas ‘18

One of the most achieved yet underrated receivers in this year’s class, this shifty slot runner attended the University of Mississippi, better known as “Ole Miss”. Moore broke multiple records including the single-season record with 86 receptions. Not only was he doing the best in school history, he was doing the best in conference history too by having the most receiving yards ever in the first eight games of the season in the SEC. He also led the nation in 2020 in receiving yards per game (149.1) and receptions per game (10.8). Deciding to opt out of the final four games of his junior year to prepare for the draft, Moore did all he could to impress scouts of NFL teams and show how he can be a superstar at the next level.

Tutu Atwell, Miami Northwestern ‘18

The hidden gem out of the University of Louisville that can fly past you in a heartbeat comes from Miami. Atwell played quarterback for the Bulls, using his superior athletic ability to take over games and win them three state titles. At Louisville, Atwell used his hand-timed 4.33 40-yard-dash time to catch 20 touchdowns over three years. With a limited season on an under-achieving team, the trials of 2020 didn’t help. However, he might slip into the later rounds of the draft and become a specialized role player for a potential Super Bowl contender. 

Jose Borregales, Booker T. Washington ‘16

The stocky senior who shocked the University of Miami with his blazing leg this past season grew up in Miami. Borregales was at FIU for most of his career but transferred to Coral Gables before the ‘20-’21 season. In just one year at Miami, he won the Lou Groza Award for college football’s top kicker, and was a consensus First Team All-American. With Miami’s recent struggles at the kicker position, Borregales was their savior. He hit 20 of 22 field goals, made every extra point attempt (37), and had a season-long 57yd field goal. While kickers aren’t primarily picked in the first half of the draft, there is a slim chance that a team desperate for a new kicking job might take the risk and draft Borregales. He is one of the best kicking prospects in the last few years.

From top to bottom, these playmakers can be the next household names of the NFL. Each player brings something different to the table and they can all be impactful to the game in their own way. The opportunity they have dreamt for since they could pick up a football is now right in front of them. From April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland, college football’s finest will be called to the stage during the 2021 NFL draft and it’s likely a handful of the players selected grew up nearby.