When it comes to discussing the NFL, Florida coach Dan Mullen has repeatedly said he wants draft-eligible players to gather as much information as possible.
Speaking on the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday, the second-year UF coach said “about eight” juniors are considering the NFL, with just “two to three that could get serious about it.”
Yet attrition affects all programs, including the Gators — it’s more than likely that a handful of players Florida’s coaching staff expects not to test the NFL waters, will.
Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who has coached 11 seasons in various roles in the NFL, has seen more than his fair share of prospective professionals come and go, and he’s seen both outcomes; some arrive in the league far too soon to catch on with a team, others go on to successful careers.
Grantham said it’s important for coaches of student-athletes to give players realistic advice rather than simply pushing 18-to-22-year olds to pursue their dreams.
“I think each person is an individual, so you look at each person, and you are going to educate them the best you can on here are the things you can do well and here are the things you have to work on, here is how they see you in the league,” Grantham said. “So you take each guy individually and you talk to them and assess their situation and where they are, and obviously you are going to do what’s best for them and you really just give them the information – you can’t make the decision for them, you just have to give them the information to weigh it out what’s best for them from a percentage standpoint for them in the future.”
Many point to former Gators defensive lineman Jachai Polite’s fall from grace as a cautionary tale, and rightfully so.
However, there’s a flip side — Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s decision to leave UF early resulted in him landing in an ideal situation with the New Orleans Saints, and the 21-year-old is so far exceeding expectations in an experienced secondary.
So, when it comes time for Gators starting cornerback CJ Henderson to seriously discuss the NFL, he’ll presumably look at both of his former teammates as examples — as Grantham noted, it still comes down to the individual.
“I think he will sit down with his family, he is a very prideful guy and he is a guy that has a lot of upside and a lot of availability,” Grantham said, “and he will just have to assess where he is at and where he thinks he can get to, and make a decision from there.”
Henderson will be graded by what he puts on film, which could result in the Miami native receiving a second-day projection from the league — it’s simply unknown at this point. Nonetheless, Grantham acknowledged that Henderson’s impact transcends the field. Henderson will have a decision to make before Jan. 20, the NFL’s deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.
“I think CJ Is a guy that has worked hard. There are probably a few plays that he would have liked to make. He is a guy that’s helped us get to where we are in a wins and losses standpoint. We have given up a lot of low numbers on defense, and he has been a part of that,” Grantham said. “He has really helped our young guys. When CJ, and Jon (Greenard) work and prepare, even Marco (Wilson) for that matter, those guys prepare, the younger guys that are playing in the two deep can really see it and that helps. From all that, I think he is a guy that has helped us get to where we are right now.”