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Wednesday February 8 2023
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Western PA Players move on to the NFL

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Three WPIAL players were drafted into the NFL this past weekend. Former Pitt wide receiver and Clairton standout Tyler Boyd was the first local player off the board when the Cincinnati Bengals made him their second round pick on Friday night.

Scouts love Boyd’s competitiveness, route-running ability and hands, which make up for his lack of elite speed. Boyd projects to be a solid number two wide receiver in the NFL and he'll get that chance immediately with the Bengals, who lost numbers two and three receiver Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Boyd reminds the team of Sanu, whose versatility enabled the Bengals to use him in various roles, much in the way Boyd was used at Pitt.

West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski of Bethel Park was the second local player selected. The Chicago Bears traded up in the fourth round to get Kwiatkoski. The former WVU standout has the versatility to play all three linebacker spots and is a weight room and film room warrior. Bears head coach John Fox called Kwiatkoski a "throwback player" and loves his instincts and dependability.

The third WPIAL product drafted was Maryland defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, who played at Woodland Hills High School. DT Maryland (Woodland Hills). The Seattle Seahawks made Jefferson the 147th pick (fifth round) and like the Bears with Kwiatkoski, the Hawks traded up to get Jefferson. Seattle general manager John Schneider said the team decided to trade up for Jefferson because there simply were not many players like him available that late in the draft.
Several other local players will get their chances to play in the NFL after signing as free agents throughout the league.

Mike Caputo, SS, Wisconsin/West Allegheny: New Orleans Saints. Caputo fought injury through his career at Wisconsin, and it’s taken a toll on his measurables. Tough, smart and active enough to be a special teams player.

J.P. Holtz, TE, Pitt/Shaler: Cleveland Browns. Had a career high 24 catches for over 300 yards as a senior. A solid receiver with great hands and a good enough blocker that some NFL teams liked him as a fullback.

Rob Kugler, C, Purdue/North Allegheny: Buffalo Bills. The son of former Steelers offensive line coach and current UTEP head coach Sean Kugler is an intelligent player with a high football IQ.

Lafayette Pitts, CB, Pitt/Woodland Hills: Miami Dolphins. Pitts was a four-year starter at Pitt and had an excellent freshman season before struggling as a sophomore and junior. He rebounded to have a solid senior year.

Cory Tucker, OL, Slippery Rock/South Park: Green Bay Packer. After a dominant career as a tackle at the Rock, Tucker will move to guard in the NFL. One of five offensive linemen named to the Little All-American team as a senior.

Delvon Simmons, DT, Southern Cal/McKeesport: Indianapolis Colts. Simmons was a standout for two seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to USC. After starting 10 games as a junior for the Trojans, he earned second team All-Pac 12 honors as a senior.

One other local product, Duquesne cornerback Trenton Coles (formerly of Clairton and Pitt) will get a shot at the NFL. Coles was invited to tryout for the Kansas City Chiefs at their rookie minicamp this weekend.

WVU had five players drafted including Kwiatkoski. Safety Karl Joseph was a first-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders while fellow defensive backs Daryl Worley (third round, Carolina Panthers) and K.J. Dillon (fifth round, Houston Texans) and running back Wendell Smallwood (fifth round, Philadelphia Eagles) were also selected.

Penn State also had five players selected: quarterback Christian Hackenberg (second round, New York Jets), nose tackle Austin Johnson (second round, Tennessee Titans), defensive end Carl Nassib (Browns, third round), defensive lineman Anthony Zettel (sixth round, Detroit Lions) and safety Jordan Lucas (sixth round, Miami Dolphins) were all drafted.

Former Pitt players Artie Rowell (Arizona Cardinals) and Nicholas Grigsby (LA Rams) signed free agent contracts, as did Duquesne's Dan Buchholz (Chicago Bears) and Chris King (Cardinals) and Penn State's Trevor Williams (San Diego Chargers).

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