The Bay Area Was Represented Well in the 2021 NFL Draft

Jordan Colbert, Sports Editor

Over the course of seven rounds spanning 299 picks, the 2021 NFL Draft saw a glimpse of a return to normalcy as the country continues to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the first time since 2019, the NFL Draft was broadcast in front of a live audience in Cleveland, Ohio, where college prospects from around the country were set center stage to hear their name called on what could be one of the biggest moments of their young professional lives. The Bay Area was represented well throughout the process, churning out multiple promising draft prospects for eager NFL franchises.

Alijah Vera-Tucker: The New York Jets traded back up into the first round to land a potential All-Pro caliber offensive guard in Alijah Vera-Tucker. Vera-Tucker was born and raised in Oakland, Calif. and attended Bishop O’Dowd High School and earned a football scholarship to USC as a four-star recruit.

Vera-Tucker was taken 14 overall in the draft and joins a young Jets roster now trending upwards with a young rookie quarterback and young building blocks along the offensive line that should kickstart an offense that in previous years was devoid of talent on all facets of the offensive personnel.

Najee Harris: The Pittsburgh Steelers opted to revive their running game by selecting Antioch, Calif. native Najee Harris in the first round of the draft, selecting the Alabama football standout with the 24th overall pick in the draft.

Since high school, Harris has been touted as a “do it all” running back prospect, earning the #1 running back prospect ranking from panels such as Rivals, ESPN, and Scout. Harris made headlines for choosing to spend his draft night giving back to the community and hosting a party at the shelter he grew up in for part of his childhood.

The draft’s consensus #1 backfield option joins the Steelers in the twilight of quarterback Ren Roethlisberger’s career in hopes that he can give the offense a spark it hasn’t had since Le’Veon Bell was the team’s feature ball carrier.

Jevon Holland: In an NFL draft season where no safety prospect was taken in the first round, Jevon Holland had the honor of being the first safety off the board at the top of the second round when the Miami Dolphins added him to a loaded defensive secondary where his ball-hawking talents and line of scrimmage domination will shine in coach Brian Flores’ defensive scheme.

Born in Canada, Holland was raised in Pleasanton, Calif., and attended Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif., before taking his talents to the University of Oregon to play centerfield for the Ducks. Holland was a 2020 Covid opt-out and, despite this, was still the first of his position group selected on draft night.

Aaron Banks: The San Francisco 49ers offseason has been one for retooling. In the first round, they selected a fresh face at QB in Trey Lance and then came back in the second round and selected Notre Dame offensive guard Aaron Banks to protect him for the foreseeable future.

Banks grew up in Alameda, Calif., where he attended El Cerrito High School before taking his talents to Notre Dame, where he earned First Team All-ACC honors for his offensive line play. Banks won’t have to travel far from home to join the San Francisco 49ers as he turns his talents to the pros.

Nahshon Wright: Coming in at pick 99 in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys took a chance on defensive back Nahshon Wright. Wright was born and raised in East Palo Alto, Calif, and attended James Logan High School in Union City, Calif, before earning a scholarship to Oregon State University as a JUCO transfer.

Wright was lauded during the lead-up to the draft for his unique combination of size, strength, speed, and athleticism that makes for a “do it all” prospect that the Dallas Cowboys have been lacking in their defensive backfield for years.

While the greater Bay Area and California as a whole continue on with the tradition of producing top-flight talent that translates to the big stage, it will be interesting to monitor the successes of this 2021 draft class, in particular, considering the bridge that must be gapped after losing the majority of their final collegiate seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As we look ahead to the 2021 NFL season, watch for these talented Bay Area products to make a significant impact for their teams going forward.