Four Florida Gators were selected on day three of the 2015 NFL Draft on Saturday as the team totaled eight players picked from Thursday through Saturday.
The eight players drafted out of Florida mark the third time in the last six events that the Gators have seen that many former players head to NFL teams.
Round 4 – No. 133
Max Garcia, C/G
Height: 6’4″ – Weight: 309 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Redshirt senior
Center/guard Max Garcia kicked off the day by going to the Denver Broncos with the No. 133 overall pick in the fourth round.
Character, consistency and versatility are Garcia’s greatest attributes as he was well-liked as a member of the Gators and the team’s most reliable offensive lineman. He proved that he could play any of the five positions as needed during his two seasons at Florida. Though not a top talent, mostly due to his stiffness and inconsistent footwork, Garcia’s ceiling was early on day three, and he should make the Broncos’ 53-man roster as a do-everything lineman and back-up center.
Garcia is the first Florida center drafted since Mike Pouncey in 2011 and the first Gators player selected by the Broncos since Tim Tebow in 2010. He will join Andre Caldwell, Jon Halapio and Lerentee McCray on the Denver roster.
Round 5 – No. 161
Neiron Ball, OLB
Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 236 lbs.
Age: 23 – Class: Redshirt senior
Linebacker Neiron Ball, who dealt with health issues and ailments throughout his college career, was the next Florida player drafted. The Oakland Raiders selected Ball in the fifth round with the 161th pick.
Ball, who has recovered from microfracture surgery he had in November, was unable to showcase himself physically at the NFL Scouting Combine but did so in subsequent workouts. Where he succeeded at the combine was in the interview room, which comes as no surprise to those that follow Florida football. Ball’s athleticism, toughness, resiliency and coverage ability are all pluses that not only make him a solid linebacker but also a great special teams competitor. He rebounded from a rare hereditary condition that required brain surgery and forced him to miss a full season and got better and better before getting injured again.
Ball will not be alone on the Raiders as Oakland grabbed wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose two rounds later with the No. 221 overall pick in the seventh round.
Round 7 – No. 221
Andre Debose, WR
Height: 6’0″ – Weight: 190 lbs.
Age: 23 – Class: Redshirt senior
Hailed as the “next Percy Harvin” despite never wanting that moniker, Debose’s career at Florida was derailed early on by injury; subsequent ailments resulted in him spending six seasons in Gainesville. Debose simply never lived up to his potential despite displaying tremendous athleticism, especially as a returner where he holds the school record (and tied the SEC record) with four career kick return touchdowns.
Debose only started eight of the 42 games he played with the Gators, picking up 543 receiving yards and four touchdowns (all scores during the 2011 campaign). He averaged 26.7 yards per kick return and 12.4 yards per punt return, and he will most likely be used as a special teamer and fifth wideout with the Raiders.
Ball and Debose were the first Florida players chosen by Oakland since Louis Murphy in 2009; Ball is also the only defender from the Gators ever to join the Raiders out of the draft. The two are the only UF players on Oakland’s 2015 roster at this time.
Round 7 – No. 244
Trenton Brown, OL
San Francisco 49ers
Height: 6’8″ – Weight: 355 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior
The successful day ended with massive offensive lineman Trenton Brown, a junior college transfer, being snatched up by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 244 selection in the seventh round.
Brown’s mass is an obvious positive, but he is relatively stiff and lacks the athleticism many analysts believe is necessary to compete as an every-down player. He was also inconsistent while at Florida, dominant at times and easily beaten on other occasions. He is a size play; the coaching staff will look to coach him up and develop him over the course of a year or two, one of which may be spent on a practice squad.
San Francisco went to Florida to draft a player for the first time since 2007 (Ray McDonald). Brown will be on the only Gators player on the 49ers roster, as of press time.
On Thursday, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. tied a record by being the highest-drafted player in school history when he went No. 3 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Later in the first round, offensive tackle D.J. Humphries was picked up at No. 24 overall by the Arizona Cardinals.
Two former Gators joined Fowler and Humphries in the NFL on Friday as OT Chaz Green went to the Dallas Cowboys with the 91st pick in the third round and running back Matt Jones was drafted by Washington four slots later at No. 95 overall.