Gators in the NFL Draft

With the NFL Draft approaching next week, takes a look at Florida’s history in the NFL Draft. Florida has several top prospects this year with a chance to hear their names called early and often.

Before we take a look at this year’s prospects, let us take a look at some Florida draft history.

The Gators have 16 draft eligible players this year and most have a potential to be picked at some point. The most players drafted in a single year from the University of Florida came in 1978, when ten Gators heard their names called during the NFL Draft; led by legendary Florida wide receiver Wes Chandler who was taken third overall by the New Orleans Saints. On that note, the highest any Gator prospect has ever been drafted was third overall, which has happened on three separate occasions (67’ Steve Spurrier, 79’ Wes Chandler and 01’ Gerard Warren).

Florida is in a unique position this year; there is a good chance they will have at least one player taken in every round of the draft. Florida’s Shariff Floyd is perceived to be a top five lock and will mark the Gator’s return to the first round since Mike Pouncey was taken by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the 2011 draft. The most players the Gators have ever had drafted in the first round was three, which happened twice in program history (89’, 10’).

So who is likely to snag a Gator come draft weekend? Well If history is to be taken into consideration, the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the way all time with 24 Gators drafted, followed by the Chicago Bears at 18 and the New York Giants at 17. In fact, Pittsburgh has drafted a Gator in each of the past three seasons (12’ Chris Rainey, 11’ Marcus Gilbert, 10’ Maurkice Pouncey).

The first prospect to be drafted from Florida will inevitably be defensive tackle Shariff Floyd. Floyd was a monster in the middle for the Gators last season, earning him first team All-SEC and third team All-American honors. Floyd ate up offensive lineman all season long racking up 13 tackles for losses on the season to go along with one forced fumble and two blocked kicks.The highest drafted defensive tackle to ever hail from the University of Florida was big Gerard Warren who as aforementioned, was drafted third overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2001. Floyd is considered a top-five lock come draft day and will be in New York when the draft starts in primetime Thursday evening. The question is whether Jacksonville capitalizes on the nearby Gator with the number two pick or if he winds up with the Raiders at number three, who are in desperate need for a defensive tackle.

Following Floyd will likely be his defensive teammate, safety Matt Elam. The play-making Elam was all over the field for the Gators in 2012. Elam led Florida with four interceptions on the season and was second on the team in total tackles. Elam’s outstanding performance all year long was enough to earn him first team All-American honors.

Elam has traveled around the country interviewing and working out for several NFL teams. Most projections have Elam going anywhere from the late first round to the early second. The highest Florida safety ever drafted was former first-team All-American, Reggie “The Eraser” Nelson who was drafted 21st overall in 2007 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Below are my Predictions for all of Florida’s sixteen draft eligible prospects:

Shariff Floyd: Top five pick

Matt Elam: Late first round/early second.

Jordan Reed: With more NFL teams starting to use two tight end sets, I expect to see the pass catching Reed to go in the late second or third round.

Jon Bostic: Bostic has improved his draft stock tremendously leading up to the draft by performing well during workouts and clocking a solid 40-time. Expect Bostic to go in the middle to late third round.

Mike Gillislee: The Florida workhorse will certainly get a chance in the NFL but doesn’t have anything in particular that jumps off the page as a prospect. Most predictions have Gillislle going in the fourth or fifth round.

Jelani Jenkins: Jenkins surprised many when he chose to leave early instead of sticking around for his senior year. Jenkins is an extremely talented, fast and strong linebacker that is predicted to go in the fifth round by most experts.

Josh Evans: Evans silently led the team in tackles last season as he and Elam locked down the secondary. Most slate Evans as a fifth round selection.

Xavier Nixon: Nixon didn’t impress many during Florida’s NFL Pro day workouts and seemed to slowly be slipping as a prospect. Some have recently talked about improvements from Nixon and have him slotted anywhere from the fourth to sixth rounds.

Caleb Sturgis: Kickers are not typically drafted but players with talent like Sturgis also don’t come around everyday. Expect someone to snag Sturgis with a fifth, sixth or seventh round pick.

Lerentee McCray: Listed as a late round pick by some, McCray will at least get a chance with someone.

I expect most of the remaining players to get invitations for a chance to prove themselves to an NFL team during training camp.

James Wilson
Omar Hunter
Earl Okine
Omarius Hines
Sam Robey
Frankie Hammond Jr.

Be sure to check out leading up to next week’s draft as we keep you up to date with the latest news surrounding the Florida draft prospects.

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Seth Puglio
Seth Puglio joined GatorCountry while he was finishing his sports management degree at the University of Florida. Originally from Vero Beach, Florida, Seth has been a huge sports fan his whole life and always knew he would want to get into the sports industry anyway he could. He has spent time working for several athletic administrative departments for the Gators and joined Gator Country as an intern in October of 2012. He is now viewing the sports industry from a new angle as Gator Country’s editor. In his free time Seth enjoys fishing, grilling out, watching too much sports and afternoon naps on the hammock. He is a fan of the Gators, Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. Follow Seth on twitter @spuglio