Every single year, the four major American sports leagues host their respective annual drafts which provide aspiring young athletes with the opportunity to earn a chance to compete at the professional level. In some cases these young men aren’t even old enough to drink alcohol yet but are so talented that they could potentially earn millions of dollars a year to do something they’ve spent virtually their entire lives doing. Regardless of the sport, being drafted by one of the organizations in these leagues is an honor for these young men and serves to validate the countless hours they’ve spent perfecting their craft. Prospects can come from all over the world as well, with some of the most notable talents coming from countries across virtually every continent and highlighting just how difficult yet special it is to be one of the many names selected in any given draft. But here, we are going to take a look at the budding athletes from our region of the country who were lucky enough to be selected in the 2023 NFL Draft which took place this past weekend and will be hoping to make their professional football debut this upcoming season.
Ji'Ayir Brown; Photo Courtesy of Penn State Athletics
With a total of 260 picks made in this year’s NFL draft, teams selected from a pool of hundreds of players from all different parts of the country and world and all with the same dream of playing in the NFL. While it’s unclear exactly how many of those young men hailed from the Garden State, we do know that four New Jersey natives were lucky enough to be selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. The first to come off the board was Ji’Ayir Brown who hails from Trenton and spent three years playing cornerback for Penn State University, eventually being selected 87th overall in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers this past weekend. Following him, with the 120th pick in the draft the New York Jets selected University of Pittsburgh senior and offensive tackle Carter Warren who calls Patterson his hometown and appeared in a total of 40 games for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Next it was the Buffalo Bills who elected to join the party, selecting Monmouth Junction native and University of Florida senior Justin Shorter in the 5th round with the 150th pick; Shorter played three seasons at Florida as one of their top wide receivers, racking up 95 receptions for just under 1400 yards before deciding to make the leap to the NFL. Last but not least, with the 190th selection in the 6th round of the draft the Cleveland Browns selected Ohio State offensive lineman Luke Wypler who spent three seasons with the Buckeyes and helped them compete for a national championship in 2021.
Expanding our search criteria, the tri-state area saw a handful of other young men hailing from Pennsylvania and New York get selected in this year’s draft. The most notable of which was actually selected first overall in Alabama quarterback Bryce Young who was raised in California but actually born in Philadelphia; the Crimson Tide passer threw for over 8,000 yards and 80 touchdowns in three seasons, winning a national title and Heisman trophy in the process, before being selected by the Carolina Panthers last Thursday. Three rounds later another Pennsylvania native was taken off the board when the New England Patriots selected University of Maryland kicker Chad Ryland, hailing from Lebanon, PA, with the 112th pick of the draft. 40 picks later in the fifth round, the Detroit Lions selected Pittsburgh native and William & Mary University offensive lineman Colby Sorsdal. Later that round, with the 169th pick of the draft the Dallas Cowboys selected another Philadelphia native in University of North Carolina offensive tackle Asim Richards. The final Pennsylvanian to be selected would come in the final round of the draft when the New York Jets made another selection, this time electing to draft Old Dominion University tight end Zack Kuntz who calls the town of Camp Hill his home.
Israel Abanikanda; Photo Courtesy of Pitt Athletics
Finally, the state of New York saw three of their prospective stars get drafted this past weekend. The first was Israel Abanikanda, a Brooklyn native and another University of Pittsburgh alumni who played running back for the Panthers before being selected 143rd overall in the fifth round by, once again, the New York Jets. In the fifth round and 153rd overall, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected yet another Pittsburgh Panther in linebacker SirVocea Dennis who calls Syracuse his home. The third and final prospect from New York to be selected was Titus Leo, linebacker for Wagner University who was selected 211th overall by the Indianapolis Colts and was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay, New York.
From the very first pick of the draft to the last round, the tri-state area was very well represented in the 2023 NFL Draft. With 12 players from the region selected in total, it will certainly be interesting to see what each of them make of the opportunity they each earned this past weekend and which, if not all, of them can have a lasting impact in the NFL. We at We Are Jersey are certainly happy to see New Jersey and the surrounding area so well represented in one of the most esteemed leagues in all of professional sports, and will be looking forward to see what each of these young men can do at the professional level when they make their debuts this upcoming season.