UF players in 2022 NFL Draft: DB Kaiir Elam headlines select group of former Gators
A trio of former Florida football players are projected to be selected within the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL draft, scheduled for April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
Once considered to be a fringe first-round pick, defensive back Kaiir Elam is now projected to be drafted with one of the top 32 picks after impressing both at the NFL Combine and UF’s Pro Day.
Elam’s 40-yard dash time ranked eighth among defensive backs, and the Riviera Beach native did well enough in the remaining measurables to solidify his place as one of the top four defensive back prospects in the draft.
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SEC opponents steered clear of Kaiir Elam in 2021 games
Following Elam’s impressive first two years in Gainesville, opposing teams steered clear of Elam for much of the 2021 season — he was targeted three or fewer times in eight games in 2021.
The combination of Elam’s speed, physicality and success against the Southeastern Conference should reassure any NFL team considering Elam, though much can change on draft night.
"I can't control anything. I've just got to go out here and show my abilities,” Elam said at UF’s Pro Day. “I've just got to keep focused on getting better. At the end of the day, it's about self-improvement, so whatever a team thinks, I'm just trying to prove myself."
With two former NFL defensive backs in Elam’s family in Abram Elam, his father, and Matt Elam, his uncle, he’s opted to represent himself at the next level rather than hire an agent.
Dameon Pierce, Zachary Carter among the Gators who could get drafted
After Elam goes off the board, things get a little murkier from Florida’s perspective. Dameon Pierce is labeled by NFL.com as the No. 9 running back prospect in the draft, indicating he has an opportunity to be selected on the second day, despite the perception the running back position’s value in the league has decreased over the past decade.
Pierce is a bruiser in the backfield without much mileage on his legs — as Florida fans can recall, he was underused in 2021, resulting in just 100 carries in his final season. At worst, he’s a goal-line back in the league, someone who will be used in short-yardage situations. But he also can contribute in the passing game, and Pierce is a skilled pass-blocker.
When it comes to a diverse skill-set, that may be former UF defensive lineman Zachary Carter’s most desirable attribute.
Carter is projected to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at the next level, though he has experience at multiple positions along the line. The versatility, along with his ability to play against the run or pass, has scouts projecting Carter as either a third- or fourth-round pick.
Carter plans to watch with his family in his hometown of Tampa, and he’s eager to begin his professional career after passing in 2021.
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“Honestly, I heard I could have come out last year, but it was one of those things I knew there was more that I could do. I just wanted to show that I was a complete player, I can stop the run, I can rush the passer and I wanted to lead my team,” Carter said at UF’s Pro Day. “I came back and ended up being team captain for the first time. That felt good. We might not have had the team success that we wanted to have, obviously the goal was a championship, but individually I feel I did pretty good. I had career highs. That was my mission, and I feel like I accomplished that.”
Jeremiah Moon has teams high on his potential at the next level. At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, Moon has experience at both inside linebacker and as an edge rusher at the collegiate level, though his significant injury history means he doesn’t have a wide body of work to reassure teams he’s a worthy mid-round selection.
Former Florida offensive lineman Jean Delance is also garnering interest, with several mock drafts including Delance, who began his career at Texas before transferring to UF, among the final two rounds of the draft. Delance may have work to do in pass protection, but he has desirable size for the position at 6-foot-5, and he’s improved his athleticism in the offseason. He benched 225 pounds 21 times at UF’s Pro Day and sported a slimmer physique. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Delance’s name called April 30.
“I want to get to the best place, the most suitable place for me and the organization, to prove that I'm a hardworking player,” Delance said, “and I'm a hardworking guy that's going to fit perfectly in the locker room and their scheme."