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With the Florida Gators potentially seeing three players go off the board in the first round on Thursday and as many as 10 being selected over the three-day 2016 NFL Draft, OnlyGators.com is here to make some predictions and set some expectations for the event.
The fact of the matter is that few things are certain when it comes to the NFL Draft. Trades can occur at any moment and each team views its most pressing needs and what each player on its board brings to the table differently than analysts do. Rather than try to mock the draft, predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, let’s look at what should go down.
Prediction: Florida will have multiple first-round picks for the second straight year. Should more than one Gators player be selected on Thursday, it will be the first time since 1998-99 that the team will see more than one player selected in the first round over consecutive drafts. Back in the day, those to earn the honor were Fred Taylor and Mo Collins in 1998 and Jevon Kearse and Reggie McGrew in 1999. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (No. 3) and offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (No. 24) were selected in 2015. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is the only first-round lock, but defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard and/or safety Keanu Neal are other first-round possibilities.
Superlative: Linebacker Antonio Morrison is criminally undervalued. Though wide receiver Demarcus Robinson is getting a lot of love as a late-round gem, Morrison is the least discussed Florida prospect with the highest immediate upside. Morrison is an early day-three candidate who should actually go in the third round and may start sooner and be more productive than other linebackers drafted ahead of him.
Prediction: A Florida team will draft a UF player for the fourth time in six years. Be it the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Miami Dolphins picking Hargreaves in the first round, the Dolphins or Jacksonville Jaguars snagging running back Kelvin Taylor late or otherwise, there appear to be too many players and too many needs between those three teams and Gators in the draft for this not to happen in one way or another.
Prediction: Bullard will make a lot of teams regret passing on him. For some reason, I get the feeling Bullard will not ultimately be selected in the first round despite all the cases that can be made for a team drafting him on Thursday. With so many teams thirsty for quarterbacks and a record number of first-round trades possible, Bullard could very well slip into that difficult role of being the best player not picked on day one. Then again, maybe Dan Quinn just snatches Bullard up at No. 17 for the Atlanta Falcons and all of this is moot.
Statistic: History is possible. Should three Gators be drafted in the first round on Thursday, it would be just the third time that’s occurred in program history. Trace Armstrong, David Williams and Louis Oliver were all picked in 1989, while much more recently, Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey and Tim Tebow were selected in 2010.
Superlative: Hargreaves may indeed be overrated. There has been a lot of talk about whether Hargreaves actually deserves to be a top-15 pick and potentially the second cornerback selected on Thursday with most spending the last month criticizing a player who has appeared ready for the NFL for three years. The truth? His talent is not overrated, but he might get overdrafted based on potential for success in the league. While smaller corners have made names for themselves in the NFL, Hargreaves has struggled at times against extremely talented – and often times, much larger-bodied – wideouts. While Hargreaves will play – and likely start – in the NFL for quite some time, the question is whether he’s actually the second-best cornerback available and worthy of a top-15 pick.
Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey is ranked ahead of Hargreaves not due to college production but rather size and athleticism. Houston’s William Jackson III and Ohio State’s Eli Apple will be first-round picks that could have better careers than Hargreaves, and even Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander and Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller (similarly sized guys) could surpass him. Florida fans know the level at which Hargreaves was capable of playing in college, and while most criticism of him has either been unfounded or exaggerated, there is a legitimate chance he’s drafted too high on Thursday.
Prediction: Fans will freak at how high Robinson is drafted. Let’s face it. Robinson, despite his marijuana issues and propensity for avoiding contact and making dumb mistakes on the field, is a tremendous receiving talent. He’s tall with a great vertical, solid hands and the type of athleticism that is rare to find on the second or third day of the draft. There will be complaints that he doesn’t deserve to be selected as high as he will be due to his college production and off-field issues, but Robinson is going to go early on the third day – definitely by round five but possibly in round four.
Prediction: Tight end Jake McGee will be drafted in the first half of day three. Consider this: When McGee gets drafted, he will be the sixth Florida tight end to be selected in the last 16 years. In the 16 drafts prior, from 1984-1999, the Gators did not have a single tight end picked. Despite his injury history and concerns about his lack of explosiveness, McGee’s hands, smarts and other intangables are too much to pass up. He could be a late-round gem as a three-down tight end who can block and catch.
Prediction: Defensive back Brian Poole gets drafted. Tony Pauline touched on this during our draft breakdown, but I was nodding along throughout his answer. I do not think teams want to take a chance on Poole signing elsewhere as an undrafted free agent, especially because he’s a guy who has the potential to make some noise as a special teams player and deep-roster defensive back on the next level. He may not go in the fifth or sixth round, but teams could do much worse than a flier on Poole with a seventh-round selection.
Information: The last time a Gators player was drafted …
QB – 2010 (Tim Tebow)
RB – 2015 (Matt Jones)
WR – 2015 (Andre Debose)
TE – 2013 (Jordan Reed)
OT – 2015 (D.J. Humphries, Chaz Green)
OG – 2015 (Trenton Brown)
C – 2015 (Max Garcia)
DT – 2014 (Dominique Easley)
DE – 2010 (Carlos Dunlap)
LB – 2015 (Dante Fowler Jr., Neiron Ball)
CB – 2014 (Jaylen Watkins)
S – 2013 (Matt Elam, Josh Evans)
K – 2013 (Caleb Sturgis)
P – 1986 (Ray Criswell)
Arizona Cardinals – 2015 (OT D.J. Humphries)
Atlanta Falcons – 1998 (DB Elijah Williams)
Baltimore Ravens – 2013 (S Matt Elam)
Buffalo Bills – 1978 (DE Scott Hutchinson)
Carolina Panthers – N/A (N/A)
Chicago Bears – 2013 (LB Jon Bostic)
Cincinnati Bengals – 2010 (DE Carlos Dunlap)
Cleveland Browns – 2010 (CB Joe Haden)
Dallas Cowboys – 2015 (OT Chaz Green)
Denver Broncos – 2015 (C Max Garcia)
Detroit Lions – 1985 (OT Lomas Brown)
Green Bay Packers – 2007 (RB DeShawn Wynn)
Houston Texans – 2002 (WR Jabar Gaffney)
Indianapolis Colts – 1999 (LB Mike Peterson)
Jacksonville Jaguars – 2015 (DE Dante Fowler Jr.)
Kansas City Chiefs – 1992 (DE Darren Mickell)
Los Angeles Rams – 1990 (WR Tony Lomack) / St. Louis Rams – 2012 (CB Janoris Jenkins)
Miami Dolphins – 2013 (LB Jelani Jenkins, RB Mike Gillislee, K Caleb Sturgis)
Minnesota Vikings – 2013 (DT Sharrif Floyd)
New England Patriots – 2014 (DT Dominique Easley)
New Orleans Saints – 2014 (LB Ronald Powell)
New York Giants – 2001 (QB Jesse Palmer)
New York Jets – 1992 (C Cal Dixon)
Oakland Raiders – 2015 (LB Neiron Ball, WR Andre Debose)
Philadelphia Eagles – 2014 (DB Jaylen Watkins)
Pittsburgh Steelers – 2012 (RB Chris Rainey)
San Diego Chargers – 2007 (LB Brandon Siler)
San Francisco 49ers – 2015 (G Trenton Brown)
Seattle Seahawks – 2012 (DE Jaye Howard)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2011 (S Ahmad Black)
Tennessee Titans – 2007 (CB Ryan Smith)
Washington – 2015 (RB Matt Jones)