NFL contingent swarms Swamp
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.
Florida's best NFL prospect did not show at Pro Day on Tuesday in The Swamp. But the NFL coaches, general managers and scouts did. In droves. It was almost like three years ago, when Tim Tebow, Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez and others drew hundreds of the coaches and scouts to Gainesville.
It certainly was a different crowd, and different atmosphere, than the past two Pro Days, when the Gators did not have much to show the NFL in terms of draftable prospects.
“That's how Pro Day is supposed to look at Florida,” UF coach Will Muschamp said at its conclusion Tuesday afternoon. “All 32 teams are here, and that's how it ought to be. If we continue to do a good job evaluating, recruiting and developing our players, which we will, our Pro Days will continue to look that way.
“I'm really proud of these guys that worked out today and appreciate their contributions to the University of Florida. I want to congratulate our staff on doing a great job developing the guys as well.”
The large NFL contingent showed up even though the word got out late last week that defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, projected to be among the top players drafted next month, was going to skip Pro Day due to a slightly sprained ankle.
Even without Floyd, the coaches and scouts had plenty to look at and evaluate.
“Just the numbers of talent, guys that have the potential to get drafted and the athleticism and how they performed in this environment,” said Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, when asked to evaluate UF's Pro Day. “And getting a chance to talk to coach Muschamp, the style that he's presented here, the discipline, the toughness and to see it carry through with his players is impressive.
“All of the players, it sounds like he's got it rolling in the recruiting class and the players that he has here. And it shows in how their record has been. They've got a lot of good players. A lot of good players that we're looking at.
“You're looking for competitiveness. An opportunity to compete on a bigger stage like this. You look at them that way.”
With Floyd sitting it out, junior safety Matt Elam seemed to be the former Gator getting the most attention from the coaches and scouts. He did not run the 40-yard dash, electing to let the time he ran at the NFL Combine stand, but he participated in the coverage drills.
“Being fluid in the back end,” Elam said, when asked what he wanted to show the coaches and scouts Tuesday. “They see a lot of film of me playing nickel against a slot receiver. There's not a lot of me playing in the back end at middle safety and opening up my hips and showing them how fluid I am and my versatility. I didn't get the chance to do that at the Combine.”
Elam said he's hoping to go late in the first round. Most of the draft analysts project him being drafted early in the second.
Either way, some NFL team is going to get a player, Bradley said.
“Will has so many good things to say about him,” Bradley said. “You can tell on tape he's extremely competitive. It shows up on tape, as well as with the other guys. So it's very impressive. Very impressive man.
“There's a lot of good safeties out there, and I'm sure he'll get his chance in April to show what he's made of.”
Elam said he still isn't sure where he'll watch the draft. He seems happy that the process is starting to wind down.
“It's been a very tough process,” he said. “You just go day by day and get yourself fired up by going to the gym. You just go out there and work and let everything else happen by itself and just wait for Pro Day.
“Whatever team I go to, it will be a blessing.”
Elam's older brother Abe Elam is a starting safety for the Kansas City Chiefs. He attended Pro Day to offer his support. He said his younger brother is definitely NFL ready.
“He's what everybody is looking for right now,” Abe Elam said. “A safety that can cover, can go down and guard the fourth receiver, can play nickel, play dime and cover the deep part of the field.
“He's interchangeable. In some systems, he may be a corner. He's definitely talented, and his film speaks for itself.”
The other draftable Gators that seem to be impressing the coaches and scouts the most are middle linebacker Jon Bostic, who ran a 4.5 40 at the Combine, and pass-catching tight end Jordan Reed, who has yet to run the 40 due to a bone bruise on his knee he sustained in the Sugar Bowl.
Reed plans to run the 40 at a private workout in Gainesville on March 22.
“I got a bone bruise in the Sugar Bowl,” he said. “That's what held me out of the game. I had to rehab that for the first couple of weeks, but now it's coming along great. I should be perfect by the 22nd.”
Reed said his goal is to run a 4.5 40 for the coaches and scouts. He said he's been told he'll likely be taken in the second or third round.
“I feel pretty good about my choice (to leave UF after his junior season),” Reed said. “It feels great. It's a dream come true. I know I have the opportunity to play at the next level. I am excited.”