FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA

Sports

Verrett, Bucannon defy odds by getting picked in first round

By From page B2 | May 10, 2014

What are the odds?

The city of Fairfield goes the first 78 years of the NFL draft with only one first-round selection.

Then it gets two more in about 15 minutes on Thursday.

Joining Armijo High graduate Doug Martin, who went to the Minnesota Vikings with the ninth overall selection in 1980, are Rodriguez’s Jason Verrett, who was taken by the San Diego Chargers with this year’s 25th pick, and Vanden’s Deone Bucannon, who went to the Arizona Cardinals a few minutes later at No. 27.

“Who’d of thought the 2008 Vanden-Rodriguez game would have two NFL first rounders on the field,” said Fairfield High coach David Fishleigh, who coached the Mustangs in 2008. “That’s pretty amazing . . . to have two guys within three picks of each other on the same field in 2008.”

Vanden coach LeVon Haynes agreed.

“When you look back on that game (won by the Vikings 21-15 with a fourth-quarter comeback), that time of year, who’d of thought these two kids would be high draft picks in the NFL,” Haynes said. “Deone was highly recruited while Jason wasn’t. It shows, even if you’re not recruited out of high school, if you work hard and let nothing stop you, anything can happen. I’m just proud of Jason. It’s the first time in Fairfield history having two picks in first round. I find it amazing, I find it a blessing.”

Anyone doing the math would find the odds astronomical.

Since 1936, the first year of the draft, Armijo, Fairfield, Rodriguez and Vanden have had a combined 189 graduating classes – more than 6,600 players with an average of 35 per squad – eligible to be selected to play in the NFL.

The odds of even making it to the NFL are slim, as just seven city players had been drafted in any round before Thursday night.

Armijo’s had two players drafted all-time (Martin and his older brother George Martin by the New York Giants), while Fairfield has had two (Quinton Ganther by the Tennessee Titans and Desmond Bishop by the Green Bay Packers), Rodriguez has had two (Stevie Johnson by the Buffalo Bills and James-Michael Johnson by the Cleveland Browns) and Vanden one (Carter Campbell by the San Francisco 49ers).

By being taken in the first round, there’s added pressure on Verrett and Bucannon to make a splash, to have an impact.

A quick look at what’s being said in San Diego and Arizona shows those in the know feel the choices were good ones.

In a column under the headline “Verrett fills need, but he’s not a reach,” Nick Canepa of U-T San Diego wrote, “I have no problem with Verrett, who isn’t big in stature in a league trying to find corners bigger than NBA centers. He does have a 39 1/2-inch vertical jump, which probably means he can dunk. But, by all accounts, even though he had shoulder surgery in March (and a few knee meniscus repairs before that), he wasn’t taken too early. He’s thought to be the draft’s best cover corner.”

Tom Krasovic, also of U-T San Diego, downplayed Verrett’s size, though he noted the last cornerback under 5-10 to go in the first round was Ohio State’s Antoine Winfield in 1999.

“Jason Verrett may be the Russell Wilson of the draft,” Krasovic wrote. “He has everything going for him except for height.”

Krasovic was quick to point out Verrett’s plusses – and how they help the Chargers fill a big “need.”

“For all their need at cornerback, the Chargers may have had Verrett as their top-ranked player when they made the pick. I doubt they had a great chance to trade down, my ideal scenario. They took a tough, brave performer who plays fast. Verrett flings his body, which weighed about 180 pounds last season into whoever has the ball, if he’s near enough. (Chargers General Manager Tom) Telesco wants players who love football. He found one in Jason Verrett.”

There was also praise for Bucannon in his new home, though with some reservations – over who the Cardinals didn’t pick.

Johnny Manziel was a favorite in some corners, but Arizona traded down out of the 20th spot to 27th. Manziel went to the Cleveland Browns at No. 22.

“The Cardinals played it safe,” wrote Dan Bickley for AZCentral.com. “They traded down, acquired an extra pick and drafted a hard-hitting safety who checks all the boxes.

“The Cardinals also left a lot of disappointed fans in their wake, including me.”

The disappointment stopped there, however.

Paola Boivin, also of AZCentral.com, wrote, “True Cardinals fans: at ease. Concerns about how the team would fare in the first round of the NFL draft were tempered Thursday with a pick who could make an immediate impact.

“Deone Bucannon, we salute you.”

Boivin praised the Vanden grad’s character and how he connected with the team’s brass during a pre-draft visit.

“The Washington State strong safety, whose father was a Marine sergeant and his mother a career Naval nurse, brings a hard-hitting style of play that General Manager Steve Keim said was Adrian Wilson-esque. . . . Bucannon doesn’t have a checkered past, but he did connect on a level with Keim and (head coach Bruce) Arians) that made the Cardinals decision-makers believe he would be an ideal fit.”

They have yet to play a down and their only acts as members of their respective organizations has been to travel to their new places of employment for introductory press conferences, but the early returns look good.

One more thing: Arizona closes the preseason at San Diego. San Diego opens the regular season at Arizona.

What are the odds?

Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.

Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer is a 1985 graduate of Brigham Young University. The Suisun City resident has been with the Daily Republic Sports Department since 1989 and has served as sports editor since 2007. He and his wife Jackie have four children.
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