UF’s Polite undecided about NFL future or returning

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Florida defensive end Jachai Polite has 16 tackles for loss, including 11 sacks, to rank third in the SEC in both categories. [Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer]

ATLANTA — Florida junior defensive end Jachai Polite has already received feedback from the NFL concerning his draft projection. He has a grade now, so he has a much better idea where he’ll be selected if he forgoes his senior season to enter the draft.

What he doesn’t have is a decision yet.

“Undecided still,” he said after Wednesday’s Peach Bowl practice. “I’m just trying to focus on winning this game right now. There’s a lot of other things going through my mind, but it’s just football right now.”

Polite said the biggest thing on his mind right now is getting ready for Saturday’s game against Michigan.

And, yes, he’s playing in the Peach Bowl. There was never any indecision about that over the past several weeks.

“I’m playing a regular game, like I did LSU, any game, regular playing time,” he said. “I don’t know why (people) would think that (I’d shut it down). I’m not that type of player. I’m a team guy, and I just want to be with my team for as long as I can.”

Polite said he’ll make his big career decision sometime after Saturday’s game. He has until Jan. 14 to declare for the draft. In the meantime, he has all the information he needs from the NFL to make the call.

“I heard (from the NFL), and I got my grade back and stuff,” he said. “But that was just because they made me submit it and stuff so that’s it.”

Polite will not reveal what grade he’s received from the NFL.

“Oh, I can’t discuss that,” he said. “Just don’t want to.”

Several draft analysts are projecting Polite as a first-round pick if he comes out. But those projections aren’t based on information coming directly from the NFL.

UF coach Dan Mullen has said if an underclassman is told by the NFL that he’s going to be a first-round draft pick, he should enter the draft. And if the projection is middle of the second round or higher, he should return for his senior season.

Polite said he’s been having discussions with Mullen and veteran defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, and that there’s still a chance he could return for his senior season.

“Yeah. Why not?” he said. “It’s the University of Florida. I mean, you can have a great education, have anything.

“I don’t know (when I’ll decide). I’ve been going through it with Mullen and Grantham. Like, going through different things to make sure my decision is right at the end of the day.

“They’ve just been telling me to stay focused on the game right now. You still have a deadline to declare, the 14th.”

During one of Polite’s discussions with Grantham, Grantham shared a story with Polite about Jarvis Jones, a former All-American defensive end that Grantham coached at Georgia.

After recording 13 sacks in his junior season, Jones was considering an early exit to the NFL, which projected he could go late in the first round but probably would end up being taken in the second.

“There’s value in coming back relative to where you stand or maybe where you can go,” Grantham said. “Jarvis Jones was coming out the same year as Von Miller. We kind of knew he might not be the first outside ‘backer taken, but he would have been a second-round pick.”

Jones decided to return for his senior season and had an even bigger year (14 sacks) and ended up getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 17th overall pick in the 2013 draft.

His decision to return resulted in big money.

“He went from a second-round pick to a middle-of-the-first-round pick,” Grantham said. “To give you an example, if you’re in the middle of the third round your guarantee number is probably around $800,000. Everybody thinks that’s a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not.

“If you’re a middle pick in the first round your guaranteed money is around $12 million. There’s value in working to come back.”

Grantham said Polite has the talent to become a first-round pick.

“I think he has the tools,” he said. “I think he has the tools to do that.”

Polite was asked if Grantham’s story about Jones has resonated with him on any level.

“No, it’s not off of anybody else,” Polite said. “It’s all off me, Jachai. Not Jarvis.”

15 COMMENTS

  1. It would be Polite of him if he came back for ONE MORE AGAIN! We could use leaders with all of the youth that we have and that can never be underestimated. This draft is going to be defense heavy and Polite has nothing but positives if he decides to return. I would dare say that we will be in contention for a shot at the NC next year with or w/o him. I am acting a bit selfish young man, but I know I speak for most of GATOR NATION when I ask you “ONE MORE AGAIN!” GO GATORS!!!

    • Daz – he is projected as a mid first rounder too. I would wager a guess that he leaves and I don’t blame him one bit. We were spoiled when Tebow and company returned for their senior year. Like you stated – they owe us nothing. We are in great shape no matter who stays or goes for one more year. GO GATORS!!!

  2. 2 most important things in the NFL: A QB who can lead his team and a guy who can go get the other team’s QB. He had very good games this year and a few average games, but he wasn’t necessarily one of those guys that the opponents were reviewing for hours in the film room. I think late 1st – mid 2nd is a reasonable projection for him, but another year w/ the strength crew at UF and he could be a nightmare for opponent’s o-lines. Edge rushers that cause problems like that go very, very early in the draft. He could easily make $10 million by returning. Not saying I would tell him what to do or be mad at him either way, but he could be a lottery pick if he comes back and has the disruptive type season he is capable of

    • For his position he’s a little undersized for NFL standards at 6’2 242 lbs, especially when you compare him to guys like Bosa, Ferrell from Clemson, and Allen from UK, who are all 6’4-6’5 and 265 lbs. Even Gary at 6’5 282 lbs can play inside or outside. This years D-line class is more loaded than its been in years. If helping his mother out financially is the most important thing, which it seems to be, then he’d be smart to come back for another year and be the cream of the crop in next year’s less loaded draft. Tough decision for sure.

  3. I like Jachai’s approach to the situation. I mean I’ve never understood why people always pressure these guys to ‘make a decision, make a decision!! Decide. Decide!!’ I mean he has a deadline of roughly 2 weeks out. Let him practice, prepare, and get ready for a ballgame and not have to worry whether or not to declare. He’ll have plenty of time after the bowl game to decide. I wish him luck whichever way he leans. Can’t wait to get to the Dome on Saturday to check out the Gators!! Heading out Friday evening. GEAUXXX GATORS!!!!

  4. Delayed gratification is one of the toughest lessons in life to learn only complicated more by the risk of injury in a violent sport. Polite appears to be taking a measured approach to one of the toughest decisions he will have to make so far in his young life. Either amount mentioned, $800,000 or $12,000,000 is life changing money if invested in the right way. The fact that he is weighing his decision and playing Saturday is a testament to the change in culture brought by Dan Mullen. Ivey’s words in the subsequent article about wanting another year echo the sentiment. Players playing for each other. Not the same situation at Michigan who have 4 players sitting out. Florida is in good hands.

    Polite will be okay either way if he takes care of his money. Let’s just hope that everyone comes out of the game healthy.

    • Mexi, you identified an often overlooked but key factor in the success of any sized unit: Team identification. That type of cohesion — “players playing for each other”, as you put it — coupled with sound leadership at the top, can do the impossible routinely.

    • Either amount is life changing yes, but assuming he’s got to support his mom, maybe some others in his family, $800k won’t set everyone for life if things simply don’t work out. However, $12 million will set everyone for life plus a generation or so behind, assuming it’s not blown on dumb stuff.

  5. I think he would be a 2nd round pick at best. He was ineffective against some of the bigger athletic tackles he faced this year. He needs to add more weight and strength and show he can dominate those nfl quality offensive tackles next year and then he could make his way into the first round next year if he performs at a higher rate. The difference between $800,000 and $12 million is huge when you take into consideration the typical lineman in the nfl has an 8 year average time in the nfl. You definitely want to make your big money on your first contract. If you sign a three year rookie contract and then get hurt it will obviously have a tremendous impact on the total lifetime money you can make at that level. It is also great to have a degree to fall back on if you get hurt or when your playing days are over. In the end it his decision and he will have to weight his options. Sounds like Mullen and Grantham are giving him good advice. It really all comes down to the numbers. I hope he comes back but totally support him either way. He will always be a Gator.

  6. I think we all wish him the best if he decides to leave. He knows what the NFL has told him, he knows what the pay scale is in the different rounds. He realizes that he is slightly small (comparative), and can use another year of strength and conditioning to become an even better and more dominant player. If it’s all about the money, I think MOM would rather wait another year and everybody CASH-IN handsomely. He know what the cards tell him, now if he listens to logic is up to HIM.

  7. The tea leaves are saying that his draft projection included the 2nd round or later, like late 1st to early 3rd. He had great production and quickness, but he is a little light compared to most rush ends. He dominated slower tackles with his speed move around the outside. He needs to develop an inside power move to complement his outside speed move to thrive against 5he quicker tackles in the NFL. He does have the long arms the NFL scouts like. If the draft projection was a solid 1st round selection, he wouldn’t have to weighing his choice. While he may be best served by another year at Florida and become a solid 1st rounder, maybe Top 10, I wouldn’t blame him for wanting to get paid next year.