OGGOA LIVE COVERAGE – May 8-10 – Florida Gators in the 2014 NFL Draft
Former Florida Gators are expected to come off the board throughout the three-day 2014 NFL Draft with the team assured of having at least six players drafted.
As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting the Gators are just as excited to see where the players they used to watch on Saturdays will be playing on Sundays in the fall.
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, OnlyGators.com is here to set your expectations for what should go down.
» Florida will not see a player drafted in the first round for the second time in the last three seasons and fifth time this century.
The Gators only have one legitimate shot to see their total of 45 first-round picks increase during this draft and that is with defensive tackle Dominique Easley. A talent deserving of being selected in the top 15 picks, Easley’s multiple knee injuries – coupled with the fact that he is still recovering from one suffered in October – make him a risky choice at the top half of the first round or on the first day altogether. Should a team be enamored with Easley and believe him to be a must-draft talent on Thursday, he would be the second UF defensive lineman chosen in the first round since 2008, and it would be the second time in school history that a defensive lineman was picked in the first round of back-to-back drafts (2007-08).
» Jaylen Watkins will be picked ahead of two other Gators cornerbacks – Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson.
Before the 2013 season, the consensus was that Florida would have three first-round picks from the defensive side of the ball – Easley, Purifoy and Roberson. The only question was which cornerback would get drafted ahead of the other. Now 10 months later, Purifoy and Roberson have been seriously downgraded while Watkins has done nothing but steadily improve throughout the process. For Purifoy, raised eyebrows about maturity and off-field issues have been combined with questions about his production and measurables, turning the dynamic athlete into a player who will not go off the board until the second – or even third – day of the draft. Roberson’s injuries have been the greatest deterrent to teams selecting him early, though low testing numbers and his own off-field questions also affected his stock.
Meanwhile, Watkins has impressed at every turn. He showed off superior coverage skills and versatility at the Senior Bowl, hit extremely high marks on his tests at the NFL Combine, wowed coaches with his football IQ in interviews and stood tall with a clean record and no character concerns. Watkins could go as high as in the second round on Friday but should be picked before the day is out, likely before his teammates.
» A team will draft linebacker Ronald Powell earlier than value dictates.
It is tough to determine Powell’s actual value. An athletic and versatile defender who matured over the last four years but did not live up to his potential due to consecutive torn ACLs, he is an attractive question mark for a number of teams. Multiple NFL scouts have told OnlyGators.com that they believe Powell could start in the league and be an effective pass rusher as long as he can remain healthy. That would make him a second-day selection, but injury concerns and perceived value will not allow a team to risk taking him that high. However, one should not be surprised to see Powell’s name called early on Saturday. He is a no-brainer as a fifth-round pick but could definitely sneak into the fourth round if teams value his high school hype and professional potential over his collegiate production.
» Wide receiver Solomon Patton and guard Jon Halapio will likely be the only offensive players out of Florida to be selected.
It should not come as much surprise that a team absent of offense in a given season would subsequently not get many players from that side of the ball selected in the draft. When it comes to the Gators, that is certainly the case, though it should also be noted that many of Florida’s most talented offensive players were injured or are currently underclassmen. The only two Gators who should be no-doubters to have some sort of NFL careers are Patton and Halapio. The former has size limitations but is underrated overall with plenty of speed to be used both as a fifth receiver and return specialist, while the latter is a solid, high-intensity lineman who was unable to play up to his full potential due to a torn pectoral that severely hampered his movement.
That’s not to say a couple other Florida players are will not be selected – it is more accurate to note that such picks would be unlikely. “Tight end” Trey Burton and center Jonotthan Harrison will both be in rookie minicamps with NFL teams; the only question is whether it will be as late third-day selections or undrafted free agents. Burton’s size and hands make him an intriguing option as a special teams player and possession receiver, while the undersized Harrison could fight for an opportunity as a reserve lineman due to his versatility inside and experience snapping the ball.
» Does anyone else have a chance?
Of the three remaining Gators – DT Damien Jacobs, LB Darrin Kitchens and OL Kyle Koehne – only Jacobs has a legitimate shot of eventually making a team. He should get scooped up early in the undrafted free agent process and will have to work his butt off in order to earn a spot on a roster. Kitchens is simply not an NFL-caliber player, and while Koehne may get a look by some team because of his ability to play all five positions, he does not stack up either.
When all is said and done, Florida should have six or seven players selected in the NFL Draft, which would be good for a top-20 class in school history in terms of total picks.
» When is the last time a Gators player was drafted at each position?
QB – 2010 (Tim Tebow)
FB – 1992 (Dexter McNabb)
RB – 2013 (Mike Gillislee)
WR – 2010 (Riley Cooper)
TE – 2013 (Jordan Reed)
OT – 2011 (Marcus Gilbert)
G – 2011 (Maurice Hurt)
C – 2011 (Mike Pouncey)
DT – 2013 (Sharrif Floyd)
DE – 2012 (Jaye Howard)
LB – 2013 (Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins)
CB – 2010 (Joe Haden)
S – 2013 (Matt Elam, Josh Evans)
K – 2013 (Caleb Sturgis)
P – 1986 (Ray Criswell)
» When is the last time your team drafted a Florida player?
Arizona Cardinals – 1999 (LB Johnny Rutledge)
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 D unlap)
Cleveland Browns – 2010 (CB Joe Haden)
Dallas Cowboys – 1994 (WR Willie Jackson)
Denver Broncos – 2010 (QB Tim Tebow)
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 – 2013 (S Josh Evans)
Kansas City Chiefs – 1992 (DE Darren Mickell)
Miami Dolphins – 2013 (LB Jelani Jenkins, RB Mike Gillislee, K Caleb Sturgis)
Minnesota Vikings – 2013 (DT Sharrif Floyd)
New England Patriots – 2010 (LB Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez)
New Orleans Saints – 1998 (DB Fred Weary)
New York Giants – 2001 (QB Jesse Palmer)
New York Jets – 1992 (C Cal Dixon)
Oakland Raiders – 2009 (WR Louis Murphy)
Philadelphia Eagles – 2010 (WR Riley Cooper)
Pittsburgh Steelers – 2012 (RB Chris Rainey)
St. Louis Rams – 1995 (DE Kevin Carter)
San Diego Chargers – 2007 (LB Brandon Siler)
San Francisco 49ers – 2007 (DE Ray McDonald)
Seattle Seahawks – 2012 (DE Jaye Howard)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2011 (S Ahmad Black)
Tennessee Titans – 2007 (CB Ryan Smith)
Washington Redskins – 2013 (TE Jordan Reed)