Record afternoon for former local players in NFL draft

Eight players who graduated from high schools in the area were taken

From left to right: Stetson Bennett, Chamarri Conner, Warren McClendon, Will Mallory, Demario Douglas, Xavier Hutchinson, Cooper Hodges and Ameer Speed, all graduates of local high schools, were selected on the final day of the NFL draft. (AP and Getty)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was an unforgettable NFL draft for former local players, with a record number of players with area ties hearing their names called on a blockbuster final day.

Eight area players who graduated from schools in the News4JAX coverage region were selected on Saturday, including Baker County High School graduate Cooper Hodges by the Jaguars.

It was expected that 2023 would be a significant year for area players in the draft, but the numbers surpassed what had been done in any other previous year.

In 1987, 2002, 2010 and ‘18, the area had six players with local ties selected. And in 2017, seven players from area high schools were taken. This year eclipsed that by one.

Chamarri Conner (Trinity Christian), Stetson Bennett (Pierce County, Ga.), Will Mallory (Providence), Warren McClendon (Brunswick), Xavier Hutchinson (Bartram Trail), Demario Douglas (Mandarin), Ameer Speed (Sandalwood) and Hodges were taken on Saturday.

Two other players who spent a couple seasons playing in town were also drafted.

Former Bradford and Fleming Island player DeWayne McBride was taken in the seventh round. He later transferred and finished his career out in the Gainesville area. And Isaiah Bolden, who spent the early portion of his high school days at Bartram Trail before transferring to the Tampa area, was also a seventh-round pick.

In 2017, the area had seven players with local ties selected — Jarrad Davis (Camden County), DeMarcus Walker (Sandalwood), David Sharpe (Fletcher), Will Holden (Clay), Nathan Peterman (Bartram), Caleb Brantley (Crescent City) and Isaiah Ford (Trinity) — which remained the all-time standard for area players being taken.

Until this year.

Area high school graduates selected on final day of NFL draft

Pick, Pos., Player, NFL team, College, Local tie

119. S Chamarri Conner, Chiefs, Virginia Tech, Trinity Christian

128. QB Stetson Bennett, Rams, Georgia, Pierce County

162. TE Will Mallory, Colts, Miami, Providence

174. OL Warren McClendon, Rams, Georgia, Brunswick

205. WR Xavier Hutchinson, Texans, Iowa State, Bartram Trail

210. WR Demario Douglas, Patriots, Liberty, Mandarin/Menendez

214. CB Ameer Speed, Patriots, Michigan State, Sandalwood

222. RB DeWayne McBride, Vikings, UAB, Bradford/Fleming Island * (didn’t graduate from local high school)

226. OL Cooper Hodges, Jaguars, Appalachian State, Baker County

245. CB Isaiah Bolden, Patriots, Jackson State, Bartram Trail *(didn’t graduate from local high school)

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.