DE Cunningham starts second round of 2010 NFL Draft for Gators; picked No. 53 overall by Patriots

Round 2 – No. 53
Jermaine Cunningham, DE
New England Patriots

Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 266 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Senior

The Florida Gators tied a team record with three players selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft Thursday evening, but it took over 90 minutes Friday until one of their players received a phone call by a team the second round. That is when the New England Patriots submitted their draft card for defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, making him the No. 53 overall selection in the draft.

Missing the majority of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and the Gators’ first Pro Day with an injured shoulder, Cunningham impressed scouts at his semi-private outing and was all but guaranteed to go during the second day of the draft. His versatility as a 4-3 down lineman and 3-4 outside linebacker (where the Patriots will likely use him) made him attractive to a number of scouts.

“It doesn’t matter [what position I play],” Cunningham told OGGOA when we spoke on April 17. “When people ask me, I tell them that when it all comes down to it, I’m a football player. Put me at linebacker. Put me at defensive end. When the ball’s snapped, I’m just going to go for the person with the ball. Whatever position it is that the team [puts me at], all they need to know is that they are going to get a player who is going to go out there and work hard.”

He was called “one of the most polished/productive pass rushers in this draft” and a “real steal” by former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, who OGGOA also interviewed last week.

Unconcerned with projections made by front office personnel, Cunningham remains confident in his ability to succeed at the next level.

“That’s where you go wrong – when you start to worry about what everybody else is saying,” he said. “I’ve heard some things. But, when it comes down to it, you just have to wait until your name is called.”

His name was called Friday by New England head coach Bill Belichick, who has a close personal relationship with Florida head coach Urban Meyer; Belichick would go on to add another former Gators defensive star to his roster later in the night.

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Browns nab Gators CB Joe Haden with No. 7 overall pick in first round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 1 – No. 7
Joe Haden, CB
Cleveland Browns

Height: 5’11” – Weight: 193 lbs.
Age: 20 – Class: Junior

Months of speculation came to an end Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns selected former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In attendance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY, Haden’s eyes swelled up when he received the phone call from Cleveland before he took the stage with gusto to take a picture with league commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Browns had been drooling over Haden since at least March 1, with general manager Tom Heckert making his intentions known rather publicly. “I think Haden is a heck of a football player,” Heckert said. “He’s probably one of the top corners, if not the top corner in the draft. He’s played at a big-time program, and they won a ton of games. He’s going to go early.”

Considering Haden has only been playing cornerback for three years (he set Maryland state high school records as a quarterback), his emergence as a shut-down corner in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference became the stuff of legends around the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which he completed with less than stellar reviews after posting slow 40-yard dash times.

Haden corrected his speed at Florida’s Pro Day, impressing those in attendance including almost the entire Cleveland front office. Team president Mike Holmgren and head coach Eric Mangini met with Haden shortly after his Pro Day for a private workout and invited him to visit the team facility on April 6.

If the team’s comments are any indication, Haden has a legitimate shot to start as a rookie in 2010 opposite CB Eric Wright with veteran Sheldon Brown moving to safety; should he not be ready right away, he could play in nickel and dime packages until he is able to step in to a starting role.

The fourth defensive player from the University of Florida to be drafted in the top 10, Haden is also the highest-selected Gators cornerback of all-time.

Press Conference Transcript
Press Conference Audio
“I am just trying to soak it all up. It’s crazy. Just a dream come true. I feel like this is like a blessing. I definitely had a good idea about that when I talked to [team president Mike] Holmgren. He definitely was telling me that they were really, really interested in taking me at No. 7. And once he told me that, it just made me have a sigh of relief. Then once I left my visit in Cleveland, I really didn’t have contact with anyone from Cleveland, so I didn’t know if they just stopped liking me or what happened so I just came in here didn’t know what was going on.”

Press Conference Transcript
General manager Tom Hickert: “Joe was a guy we spent a lot of time with and evaluating. He’s a bigger corner that can really play the run, good cover ability. He’s a smart kid and he’s tough. He’s a guy we liked all along.”

Head coach Eric Mangini: “He did a great job the day he visited. You could feel the intensity, feel the passion, how much he cared about playing football and continue to improve. It was real. I don’t think there was anybody that met him that didn’t feel that way.”

Head coach Urban Meyer: “I’m happy for Joe and his family. He is one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. He came to Florida as an offensive skill player who never played cornerback. He approached the coaching staff about changing positions because he wanted to get on the field. Despite not playing cornerback in high school he developed into one of the best ever to play his position at the University of Florida and is now a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”

– Haden Browns choice at No. 7
– Heckert, Mangini intrigued by Haden
– Cleveland Browns select Florida cornerback Joe Haden in 2010 NFL Draft
– Cleveland Browns don’t get their safety, so they go with the safe pick
– Joe Haden joins Cleveland Browns with strong endorsement from teammate Tim Tebow
– Cleveland Browns find a defensive playmaker, and that decision is hard to argue
– Browns don’t buy buzz, go ahead with Haden pick

Haden on stage at 2010 NFL Draft with Commissioner Roger Goodell

Heckert and Mangini talk about picking Haden

Cleveland Plain-Dealer writers discuss the Browns’ selection of Haden

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

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Ex-pro scout on Gators in 2010 NFL Draft (Part II)

With just under a week to go before the 2010 NFL Draft, OGGOA sat down with former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah of Move The Sticks for a second time pick his brain about departed Florida Gators players eligible to be selected from April 22-24. Jeremiah first spoke with us before the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 24 and was completely candid in our discussion, pointing out qualities he liked in each player while explaining why certain Gators might fall further than some may expect. In addition to his website, Jeremiah also offers comprehensive NFL scouting coverage on Twitter.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. Things certainly seem to have been going fast for you over the last month or so. Tell us about what you will be doing with ESPN during the draft.
DANIEL JEREMIAH: I’m going to be in Bristol [ESPN’s headquarters] for the entire draft week. I will be helping provide analysis for both First Take and ESPNews.

AS: OK…let’s get into the Gators. In our first conversation, you had cornerback Joe Haden as a top ten pick who many would consider to be top three if he was 6’1” because of his speed, toughness and instincts. He ran slow at the combine but improved at Florida’s Pro Day. Some now see the Cleveland Browns passing on him at No. 7 overall (especially if they trade up) and him falling potentially as low as No. 14 to the Seattle Seahawks. What happened?
DJ: I think this is a very good draft class. When you have so many talented players to choose from, need becomes more of a factor. I can’t see him sliding past 14.

Read more of his thoughts the rest of the Florida Gators after the break!
Continue Reading » Ex-pro scout on Gators in 2010 NFL Draft (Part II)

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Spikes, Cunningham, James, DBs at Pro Day

Former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, kick returner Brandon James and defensive backs Wondy Pierre-Louis and Markihe Anderson all participated in the team’s second Pro Day on Wednesday as linebacker Brandon Spikes looked on and showed his support. The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu caught up with each player after their workout was completed though, as per usual, Spikes declined an interview request. Check out some notes and quotes (after the jump):
Continue Reading » Spikes, Cunningham, James, DBs at Pro Day

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Joe Haden has suitors lining up behind Browns

In all likelihood, the Cleveland Browns will have the first crack at selecting former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden in the 2010 NFL Draft. Positioned with the No. 7 overall pick, the Browns have been high on Haden for quite some time. The organization attended his Pro Day at Florida, met him afterward for a private workout and even flew up to Maryland to meet with him again in his home.

Haden, who is in Cleveland today visiting with the Browns according to the National Football Post, will likely have a few more trips to take before all is said and done on April 22.

Among his suitors are the Oakland Raiders (No. 8 overall), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 10 overall), San Francisco 49ers (No. 13 overall) and Tennessee Titans (No. 16 overall). “Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has talked at length with Haden and 49ers personnel had a meeting with Haden following the Gators’ Pro Day workout,” Aaron Wilson wrote.

Since running a lackluster 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, some league scouts and draft analysts have questioned whether or not Haden will be selected as high as initially projected. However, Haden proved that his slow times were a fluke at Pro Day, sending his stock back up.

Haden will be in attendance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY for the NFL Draft.

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FOUR BITS: Cunningham, Pouncey, Wright, Tebow

1 » As OGGOA has reported twice previously, former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham hopes to turn some heads at the team’s second Pro Scout Day on Wed., April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Speaking with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cunningham said he feels “100 percent” and is optimistic about his future. “To me, [playing DE or linebacker] is all the same,” Cunningham said. “I see myself as a football player. As long as I get on the field, when the ball is snapped, I’m going for the person with the ball. I’m very comfortable with both [positions].” As far as his decision to attend Florida (being a Georgia native)? “I felt it went pretty good,” he said. “Coming out with two National Championship rings, two SEC championship rings and a college degree. It was more than I expected.” He has received interest from nearly 20 teams in the league and has a private workout scheduled with the St. Louis Rams.

2 » The Denver Post reports that former Gators center Maurkice Pouncey could very well end up a member of the Denver Broncos if head coach Josh McDaniels decides to address its shallow offensive line in the first round. “He’s one of the youngest players on the board – he won’t be 21 until July – so the upside is still plenty big,” Jeff Legwold writes. “It’s just a matter of whether the Broncos would want to use the 11th pick of the draft on a center, even one of Pouncey’s skill level.”

3 » Former Florida safety Major Wright has accepted an invitation to work out for the Miami Dolphins in South Florida on Friday. Wright, who has been steadily climbing draft boards after his respective performances at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Day, could be picked as high as the third round according to some scouts.

4 » Two more teams talking about quarterback Tim Tebow are the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, both of whom plan to take a closer look at the former Heisman Trophy winner. Mike Wobschall, on the Vikings’ official Web site, believes the team would draft him with their second-round pick if he was still available. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reports that the Eagles will “join the parade of teams working [Tebow] out and spending time with him” leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, prayer, Dungy, UAA donations

1 » senior analyst Pat Kirwan takes a look at which NFL teams have former Florida Gators quarterback Tebow in their sights and where he may be able to find an ideal situation. Simultaneously, senior columnist Vic Carucci calls the Buffalo Bills a great landing spot for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

2 » Pro Football Talk reported that Tebow received from verbal harassment for asking his colleagues to pray before the Wonderlic exam at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. Tebow called the story’s author shortly after its posting to dispute the entire account. Now former Brigham Young Cougars QB Max Hall, who was in the session with Tebow, corroborates his denial. “Yeah, I heard about that report,” Hall told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It didn’t happen. I sat right next to Tim the whole time, and he didn’t say anything at all about praying. It’s totally not true. Not at all.”

NFL analyst Tony Dungy speaks on Tebow and the University Athletic Association makes a huge donation to the University of Florida…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow, prayer, Dungy, UAA donations

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

1 » Between critics, supporters and analysts, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow always has plenty of people talking about him. You can add former USC Trojans safety Taylor Mays to that list. Mays – who has grown close with Tebow after appearances at college football awards shows, 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2010 NFL Scouting Combinegot defensive when asked about his new friend’s ability to transition to the NFL. “I don’t understand it. He did everything right,” Mays said. “It’s not like everybody thought he was going to be the first quarterback taken, so I don’t understand why they’re killing him like that. You’re looking at one of the most established players in college football, ever. Ever! All these people they’re talking about don’t have half the credentials he does.”

2 » While Mays was defensive, New England sports writer Tom Curran went on the offensive against Tebow Wednesday. Curran opines that Tebow’s very public meeting with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is out of character for the team and was perhaps done in order to boost Tebow’s 2010 NFL Draft stock and, in some way, help out his friend and Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Side note: Tebow spent two days in Boston; he was not just there for a dinner. Curran also questions what Tebow is as a person. “I mean, how do we know the kid’s a virgin? He talks about it. And just as it’s his right to talk about it, it’s the right of observers to wonder what the motivations for doing so are,” Curran wrote. “Is he a football player? A spokesman? A vessel of the Lord? A well-crafted public relations creation? All of the above?”

Four more BITS on Erin Andrews’ ESPN contract and future as well as results from baseball, softball and lacrosse…after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

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