With the NFL Draft taking place over the weekend, we saw several players with local connections either get selected by a team, or sign on as undrafted free agents.
Even though it was not as successful a weekend as a year ago when two Massachusetts natives in Chris Lindstrom and Christian Wilkins went in the first round, you saw some locals go off the board later.
Here is a closer look at some of those players.
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College, drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers: This native of New London, Conn. who prepped at Lawrence Academy found a home in the tundra when he was picked by the Packers. Ever since Dillon spent his high school years at Lawrence, he has wowed onlookers with his combination of size, strength, and speed. Even though Dillon ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, evaluators seem to have overlooked his speed a bit. Yes, Dillon can be a bruising back who can break tackles. That goes without saying for the 6-foot, 247-pounder. But this is also a runner who can break away from defensive backs when he gets into the secondary. In other words, he is probably even better than he was hyped to be over these past few months. The Packers are a perfect landing spot for him, as Dillon is obviously a back who can produce in inclement weather. We are expecting Dillon to have a rock-solid career in Green Bay.
Matt Peart, OT, UConn, drafted in the third round by the New York Giants: One of the more underrated players as he came up through the ranks both in high school and college, this tackle has a chance to contribute to the Giants down the line. A native of New York who prepped at Governor's Academy, Peart casts a huge shadow. He is 6-7, 318 pounds, and has excellent athleticism and footwork for his size. It is no secret that the Giants have been striking out at the tackle position for years. Peart gives this team a chance to fill that void. With Dillon, Peart gives the ISL two alumni drafted this cycle, a nice feather in the cap for the league.
Isaiah Rodgers, CB, UMass, drafted in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts: This was one of the more pleasant surprises of the draft. Rodgers was the best player on the Minutemen this season. A scrappy cornerback and explosive return man, Rodgers made a ton of plays for UMass over his career. Rodgers was also someone who displayed leadership abilities under coach Walt Bell. Many times, in games where the outcome was already decided, Rodgers was still hustling and playing his hardest. The 5-10, 170-pounder has excellent speed and competes well no matter the circumstances.
Jake Burt, TE, Boston College, signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots: This Lynnfield native and graduate of St. John's Prep was one of the last signings of the weekend when he inked a deal with the Pats that is reportedly $80,000. That type of sizable deal usually means good things, although there should be plenty of bodies competing to make the roster at that position. Burt is a good story, as he battled numerous injuries in his time at The Heights. He is a solid blocker and dangerous receiver. At 6-3, 260 pounds, he's big enough to handle that position at the pro level, and if he can stay healthy, has a chance to make a roster.
Joe Gaziano, DL, Northwestern, signed on as a free agent by the Los Angeles Chargers: This Xaverian grad had an extremely productive career at Northwestern, as he was the all-time sacks leader for the Wildcats. What separates Gaziano from many other pass rushers is his pure strength at the point of attack. Gaziano can simply overpower offensive linemen on the way to the quarterback, where he usually came with crushing force. The Chargers no doubt have a lot of pass rushing talent on the roster, but we feel Gaziano will be one of the toughest players to block in practice. He should be able to catch the eyes of the coaches there.
Sean McKeon, TE, Michigan, signed on as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys: McKeon cut his teeth in high school at Shepherd Hill, a program that continues to churn out quality players to the college level and beyond. McKeon is an athletic tight end who can make plays down the field in the passing game. Although he is a fine blocker, McKeon will make his money at the next level as a pass catcher. At 6-5, 242 pounds, McKeon has the requisite size to be a mismatch as a receiver and to flash his skill as a blocker.
Kyle Murphy, OL, Univ. of Rhode Island, signed on as a free agent by the New York Giants: When we saw Rhode Island beat Harvard in 2018, we were surprised at the overall talent level for the Rams. They had a terrific weekend, as receiver Isaiah Coulter was drafted by the Houston Texans, and Murphy will also get a shot to make it in the league. Murphy checks in at 6-3, 316, and is an athletic guard who can get to the second level. He had a terrific career at Attleboro, and he has a shot at extending his playing days in the pros.