NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor’s long wait that started Thursday night in the first round of the NFL draft ended swiftly in the second Friday night.
And, as it turns out, he ended up where many thought he would all along — with the nearby Jacksonville Jaguars.
Taylor, bypassed in the first round after being projected as a possible top-10 pick and possible Jaguars selection in the seventh round, heard his name called early Friday night.
The Jags traded up three spots with the Raiders in the second round to draft Taylor, their No. 1 offensive tackle target. He was the third player taken in the round and the 35th selection overall.
“It was a great feeling,” said Taylor, who was in Nashville for the draft and celebrated with family members when his name was called. “I just had to be very patient. I’m just thankful Jacksonville gave me this opportunity. I’ve been dreaming about this all my life, playing in the NFL. I’m going to give them all I’ve got, everything I’ve got.
“Most definitely (it’s a great fit), only two hours from home (Cocoa). It’s a big excitement for me and my family and a major blessing for me.”
Taylor was the first of two Gators drafted Friday night so far. Defensive end Jachai Polite was selected in the third round by the New York Jets with the 68th overall pick.
Polite becomes the fourth Gator on the Jets roster, joining defensive backs Marcus Maye and Brian Poole and offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison.
Many had Taylor going in the first round to the Jags in mock drafts, but Jacksonville addressed defense first Thursday, taking Kentucky defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen with the seventh pick.
When the Jags saw an opportunity to get Taylor early in the second round, they traded up to take him, giving up the 38th pick and their fourth-round selection.
“We had really good grades on him,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “All of a sudden you watch the draft and it goes and it gets close and, ‘Hey, we’ve got an opportunity to go get him.’ We knew it would be close.
“Credit to (executive vice president of football operations) Tom (Coughlin) and (general manager) Dave (Caldwell). They made the decision to move up and get him. I think if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have gotten him. We’re happy we have him here.”
Marrone said the Jaguars had a chance to really get to know Taylor when he had a lengthy visit with the team several weeks ago in Jacksonville.
“When he came up here we spent a lot of time with him,” Marrone said. “Hard-working kid, humble. Played against great competition. He’s a really good football player.
“I’ve told him, ‘Hey, looking forward to you coming up here so we can work you and get you in this offensive line room and see what you can do.’ Hopefully, he’ll be able to contribute to our football team.”
The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Taylor started 35 games, 33 at right tackle, in his three-year Florida career and is known as a dominant run blocker.
The Jaguars have an opening at right tackle, and Taylor said he’s ready to come in and compete for the starting role.
“Most definitely,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming in and competing right away. I had to do the same thing at Florida, came in and started every game my freshman year. I’m definitely looking forward to coming in and competing right away.”
In practice, he’ll be competing against first-round pick Allen. The two went head-to-head on the field the past three seasons and got to know each other well training together for the NFL Combine, Taylor said.
“A great guy, we’re great friends,” Taylor said. “I’m so happy we get to be on the same team, get to play together, get each other better every day. I’m going to get him better and he’s going to get me better.
“He’s a great guy. They made a great pick last night by taking him. I’m more than happy to be his teammate.”
Taylor also has another friend on the Jaguars, former Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, the team’s first-round pick a year ago.
“We’re very close,” Taylor said. “That’s another guy, he always motivated me and got me better ih practice every day. I look forward to playing with him again. He’s a great guy. He called me during the draft process a few times to just make sure I was staying on top of things. Just being a good big brother to me.”
There was speculation Thursday that Taylor had an injury. Caldwell said he has no major concerns on Taylor and called his medical grade “passable.”
“Medical reports were definitely false,” Taylor said. “It hurt me a little last night. My meniscus was torn in 2017, and I played my whole sophomore season on that. I got the surgery after the season. I played my whole junior season healthy and have been healthy ever since.”
Taylor is the 11th Gator drafted by the Jaguars in the team’s 25 years of existence.
The Gators have now had at least one player drafted for 68 consecutive years, the longest streak in SEC history.