NFL Draft: St. Louis area players hope to have their names called this weekend

NFL Draft

Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins (7) celebrates after sacking Florida quarterback Emory Jones, center left on knee, during the second half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

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.

Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton celebrates a play as the Tigers took on Kentuckyat Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Hunter Dyke/Mizzou Athletics

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.

Memphis place kicker Riley Patterson (36) watches his field goal attempt during warmups before an NCAA Cotton Bowl college football game against Penn State, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

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.

Ball State Cardinals cornerback Antonio Phillips (21) during an NCAA football game against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 in Oxford, Ohio. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

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:

Kendrick Green

Josh Imatorbhebhe

Nate Hobbs

Tyree Gillespie

Larry Rountree III

Larry Borom

Damon Hazelton

Josh Bledsoe

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