Florida’s Bryan hopes NFL draft projection holds true

Defensive lineman Taven Bryan works a defensive drill during Florida's Pro Day at the University of Florida indoor practice Facility on Wednesday. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

Taven Bryan has his sights set on something he’s worked his entire life for: being selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

“That’s the end goal. You think about it, that’s your end goal in mind,” Bryan said. “And it usually happens if you work for it.”

The 6-foot-6, 291-pound Bryan, participating in front of NFL scouts and coaches Wednesday at UF’s Pro Day, ran through drills and received feedback with just four weeks until he will potentially hear his name called on the first day of the NFL draft. Bryan, who opted not to return to Florida for his senior season, called the experience “really exciting,” while saying he believes he’s done enough to be worthy of a first-round selection.

“Tape’s really what matters, honestly, and I feel like I have really exceptional tape, especially for a 4-3 defense, so, that’s most of what we played,” Bryan said. “That would suck if I didn’t (get drafted in the first round).”

Bryan will speak to most, if not all, of the league’s 32 teams before next month’s draft, and he’ll spend the next three weeks flying around the country answering any lingering questions from NFL general managers about his potential and ability.

He’s remaining humble about the entire process, and the Casper, Wyoming, native hasn’t experienced any unpredictable questions from the NFL executives who have the ability to change his entire life come April 26.

“I did better in the interviews when they asked me purely about football. When they asked me who I am I was like ‘I don’t know’,” Bryan said. “They just wanted to know who I was, where I’m from, what my family does.”

A former three-star offensive lineman coming out of high school, Bryan switched to the other side of the line upon arriving at Florida, but it admittedly took him time to truly flourish and reach his potential.

With just 4.5 sacks and 25 tackles total across his first two seasons in Gainesville, Bryan didn’t play up to the potential many believed he had when he signed with Florida as the No. 1 overall player out of Wyoming in the 2014 class.

But when you watch Bryan’s tape, you see flashes — not stretches — of a player capable of dominating at the next level.

With 37 tackles and four sacks in 2017 as Florida’s interior pass-rusher, Bryan’s play has earned him comparisons to the likes of Ndamukong Suh and JJ Watt, and his quick feet and strong hands have NFL coaches and scouts salivating at his long-term potential. Now, it’s about finding the right landing spot — and putting the entire package together. According to those close to Bryan, the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks have shown the most interest, while ESPN analyst Mel Kiper has the Detroit Lions selecting Bryan with the No. 20 overall pick.

“It’s a good day. Got to meet a lot of coaches, talk to them, see what I need to work on,” Bryan said. “They would like to see me finish a little more, which I can totally do. I’ll work on that.”

Once he puts it all together, Bryan says, he’ll play his heart out for whichever team realizes he’s worth the investment.

“I feel like I’m really good. You know, I never get blown off the ball. I always hold my gap. Pretty stout for 290,” Bryan said. “I don’t know if there’s anything I need to prove.”