Florida football returns to relevance in NFL Draft
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 9:51 p.m.
The NFL Draft ends every year with the selection of Mr. Irrelevant. In 2012, had the league added a pick for University of Irrelevant, Florida might have been the one to get the call.
Round 1: 7-10:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN and NFL Network
Rounds 2-3: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN (ESPN2 at 7 p.m.) and NFL Network.
Rounds 4-7: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN (ESPN2 at 6 p.m.) and NFL Network
Given the Gators' rich draft history, last year's dismal showing was equal parts stunning and revealing.
Florida had only two players taken: defensive tackle Jaye Howard in the fourth round and running back Chris Rainey in the fifth.
The same elite program that was THE story of the draft only two years earlier — with three players going in the first round and nine overall — fell to irrelevant in 2012.
The draft was a reflection of back-to-back mediocre seasons on the field.
It was a much different story on the field last year with a rebound 11-win season. And it will be reflected in the NFL Draft over the next three days.
The Gators could have one player among the first three selected — defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Following Floyd, eight or nine more Gators could hear their names called in New York City.
Florida is relevant in the draft again.
“Florida's got a lot of kids,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “That's a good group overall.”
And it starts at the top, with Floyd, whom many consider to be the most dominant defensive player in the draft. The consensus among the analysts is that Floyd will be selected in the first round by Oakland with the third overall pick.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has Floyd ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in the draft.
“His quickness and ability to get off the field and disrupt the pass game is unique for a defensive tackle, and if you can get a defensive tackle that can affect the pass game, you've got something special,” Mayock said. “And he's also stout enough to play the run, so I have him No. 2 on my board. I love the kid."
Floyd might not be the only Gator taken in tonight's first round. Safety Matt Elam's stock has been rising over the past few weeks and some are projecting he'll go late in the first round.
“Really, the only downside is his height, and there's nothing you can do about that,” Mayock said of Elam. “The only downside with Elam, as far as teams are concerned, is there's nothing they can do about 5-10, and occasionally you're going to have to live with that. But on the positive side you get a kid that tackles, a kid that's tough, a kid that cares.
“I think he's going to play a lot of years in the league.”
Another Gator who has improved his draft status with his performance at the NFL Combine and in workouts is middle linebacker Jon Bostic, who could go as high as the second round.
“He's a guy I think you're going to like the way he plays the game,” Kiper said. “I have him slotted to go either in the second or third round. He's a nice football player. He really put together a heck of a year. He made some really good plays.
“When you watch him in coverage, sideline to sideline against the run, he just did a heck of a job.”
Most of the analysts project Florida will have six defensive players drafted: Floyd, Elam, Bostic, linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCray and safety Josh Evans. Other potential draftees are tackles Omar Hunter and Earl Okine, the former Gainesville High standout.
Two UF offensive players are expected to be drafted — tight end Jordan Reed and tailback Mike Gillislee, who rushed for 1,152 yards. Both project to go in the middle rounds.
“(Gillislee) doesn't have great top-end speed,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “But with the lateral quickness that he has and the determination that he has and the competitiveness with which he runs, I just like him.
“He's going to get in the league. He waited his turn (at UF), finally got his shot and when he did, he took advantage of it. I think it could be a similar story in the NFL. I wouldn't have a problem with the team using a third‑round pick on Gillislee.”
Mayock said he thinks Reed could end up going in the fourth round.
“He's not a blocker, doesn't block,” Mayock said. “You can tell he was a former quarterback, but he has really good speed and hands.”
By the end of the three-day draft, the Gators could have as many as nine or 10 players selected. The school record is 10, which was set in 1978, when the draft consisted of 12 rounds.
The Gators are relevant in the draft again. It's a trend that likely will continue under coach Will Muschamp, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Guy Bradley said after watching UF's Pro Day last month.
“The style that he's presented here, the discipline, the toughness and to see it carry through with his players is impressive,” Bradley said. “All 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.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
Where the Gators are projected to go in the NFL Draft:
Player, position, projected round
Sharrif Floyd, DT, 1
Matt Elam, S, 1-2
Jon Bostic, LB, 2-3
Mike Gillislee, TB, 3-4
Jordan Reed, TE, 4
Jelani Jenkins, LB, 4-5
Josh Evans, S, 4-5
Lerentee McCray, LB, 5-7
Xavier Nixon, OT, 6-7
Caleb Sturgis, PK, 7-Free agent
Frankie Hammond Jr., WR, FA
Omar Hunter, DT, FA
Earl Okine, DT, FA