ST. LOUIS– The National Football League Draft is set to start Thursday night in Cleveland, and over the course of the three-day event, several players from the St. Louis area or from the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois figure to hear their names called and their professional careers launched.
The first round will be announced Thursday night, with rounds two and three on Friday, followed by rounds four through seven on Saturday.
The first names with local ties to come off the board figure to be Missouri LB Nick Bolton, and Oklahoma Edge Rusher Ronnie Perkins (Lutheran North). Both have hovered around predictions of late-first, early-second round picks.
Perkins has been a standout pass rusher in three seasons at Oklahoma. He missed five games this past season due to an NCAA suspension, but still had 5.5 sacks in 6 games.
Bolton has been the emotional and physical leader of the Missouri defense the past two seasons, earning first team All SEC honors in each campaign. He’s the kind of hammer-meets-nail linebacker NFL teams love, but will come into the league undersized by an inch or two.
Only a handful of placekickers are selected annually, and Edwardsville, Ill native Riley Patterson has a shot at being one of them. Patterson has been the starting kicker at Memphis for most of his four years with the Tigers. His stats say he had a better 2019 season than 2020.
He’s assured of at the very least having an opportunity as a priority free agent, and would join fellow Metro East natives Austin Seibert (Belleville West) and Tucker McCann (O’Fallon) in the NFL. Patterson said all three of them were little league teammates growing up.
Have they offered any advice?
“Make kicks, man… At the end of the day, NFL coaches want to see you make kicks, overcome different adversity, whether its the weather, whether its the situation in the game, whether you had missed or made the kick previous to the one you’re about to do, having that same consistent mindset, not getting too aggravated with a miss, not getting too high after you make a great field goal, just a consistent mindset and at the end of the day, making kicks and doing great on kickoffs,” Patterson told FOX2 last month.
Antonio Phillips is another local prep product who could get drafted or see a priority free agent deal come his way. The defensive back and Kirkwood alum joined a long line of St. Louis-talent who has gone to the MAC and thrived.
At Ball State, Phillips was first team All-Conference as a junior and second team as a senior. He had an offseason back procedure and didn’t work out for teams at a Pro Day.
Other Missouri and Illinois players who could be drafted or be sought after on the priority free agent market:
Larry Rountree III