Different draft for Gators this year

Ahmad Black considered entering the draft after the 2010 season.

Photo from file
Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 12:16 a.m.

The Florida Gators generated quite a buzz heading into last year's NFL Draft. And it wasn't just the presence of that Tebow guy that created it.

Granted, quarterback Tim Tebow was perhaps the biggest story surrounding the 2010 draft. But he had plenty of Gator company.

The Gators had three players taken in the first round (Tebow, cornerback Joe Haden and center Maurkice Pouncey) and three more in the second (defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap and middle linebacker Brandon Spikes).

In all, nine Gators were selected, making Florida a major player in the draft.

It will be a lot different this year, a lot quieter from a Gator perspective.

Center Mike Pouncey, Maurkice's twin, is projected to follow his brother and be a first-round pick. But he may be the only Gator whose name is called on the first two nights (three rounds) in New York.

In fact, Florida could have as few as only four players drafted. Along with Pouncey, most are projecting that offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, strong safety Ahmad Black and free safety Will Hill will be selected. But that could be it.

“It's not like it has been in past years, especially last year,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “After (Pouncey, Black, Hill and Gilbert), there's a whole bunch of other guys that never really played to their full potential at Florida — a lot of athletes that never became great football players, or great football players who just don't have the physical tools (to play in the NFL).”

The consensus among the draft experts is that Pouncey has the chance to be a longtime starter in the NFL, and he could go as high as the mid-first round tonight. Many project he could be scooped up by the Miami Dolphins with the 15th pick.

There has been growing speculation in Pittsburgh that the Steelers might try to trade up to take Pouncey and reunite him with his twin brother.

After Pouncey, the next Gator to go probably will be Gilbert, whose stock seems to have risen over the past month or so.

“I think Gilbert can be a starting right tackle in the NFL,” McShay said. “There's a chance he'll come off the board in the third round.”

McShay and others are predicting Black could go late in the third round or early in the fourth.

Black was one of the Gators' most consistent playmakers on defense the past three years, but like it has been throughout his football career, many question his lack of size and speed.

“It's frustrating,” Black said. “At the end of the day, it's about making plays. I get to the ball. I'm fast.

“I get what they're saying. But can he make plays or can he not? That's how I live. Teams may pass on me because of my size, but the team that picks me up will definitely have something good.”

Black considered entering the draft a year ago, but decided to return to UF for his senior season.

A guy who decided to skip his senior year is Hill, who may not go until the late rounds Saturday.

“I could have had a better career,” Hill said at the NFL Combine. “You have to live and learn. I'm learning from this whole experience. But I still think I made the right decision to come out.”

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