Florida Gators 2013 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

OGGOA LIVE COVERAGE – April 25-27 – Florida Gators in the 2013 NFL Draft

Former Florida Gators are expected to come off the board quickly and often during the 2013 NFL Draft with the team assured of having at least eight players drafted over the three-day event for the first time since 2010. Florida has a legitimate chance to set a new school record with 10 or more players chosen from April 25-27.

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 predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, OGGOA is here to set your expectations for what should go down Thursday-Saturday.

» Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd will be the first Florida player selected but may fall short of being the highest-drafted player in program history.

Over the last few months no first-round player has seen more hype as it relates to his rise in the draft than Floyd, who started the process as a pick in the teens or early 20s and is now believed to be a consensus top-10 selection and the top player at his position in the draft. Most mock drafts heading into Thursday have Floyd slotted at No. 3 overall to the Oakland Raiders; a selection there would make him the highest-drafted player in Gators history, tying him with DT Gerard Warren (No. 3 – 2001), wide receiver Wes Chandler (No. 3 – 1978) and quarterback Steve Spurrier (No. 3 – 1967). However, there is no guarantee that Oakland will stay at No. 3 overall; in fact, multiple reports on Thursday have the Raiders preferring to trade back in the draft because the front office has so many holes to fill on its roster. Should Oakland move out of its spot, Floyd could still go No. 3 overall (to a different team) or may even fall to the bottom half of the top-10 depending what other moves are made. The only thing known for sure is that Floyd will be the first (and possibly only) Florida player drafted on Thursday and will be the first Gators defensive lineman selected in the first since Derrick Harvey (No. 8 – 2008).

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Mayock high on most Gators in 2013 NFL Draft

In exactly one week’s time, the 2013 NFL Draft will commence from Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY. Florida Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, a consensus top-10 pick, will be in attendance but plenty of his teammates will be watching just as intently hoping to hear their names called.

The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, the featured analyst on the network’s coverage and one of the most respected draftniks around, is bullish on most of the players coming out of Florida and has given high marks to many Gators during his pre-draft evaluations.

Mayock believes that Floyd, who could very well become the highest-drafted player in program history if he goes in the top three picks of the first round, is the cream of the crop and has him listed as his No. 2 overall prospect.

“That tells you how much I like Sharrif Floyd. What I love about the kid is he’s a prototypical three-technique, a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. His quickness and ability to get up the field and disrupt the pass game is unique for a defensive tackle. If you can get a defensive tackle that can affect the pass game, you got something special,” he said on Thursday.

“He’s also stout enough to play the run. I’ve got him No. 2 on my board. I love the kid.”

Also a potential first-round selection is safety Matt Elam, who Mayock thinks will be selected in the 25-32 overall pick range. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he slid into the second round, but I like him as a first-round safety,” he said.

Mayock addressed Elam’s primary flaw, his height, which is the main reason why he is not a sure-fire first-rounder.

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Former Florida Gators shine at 2013 Pro Day

Nineteen former Florida Gators football players – including five that have been off the team for more than a year – participated in Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on a rain-covered Florida Field in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday.

Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance though many head coaches and general managers remained at their teams’ headquarters considering Pro Day was being held on the same day as the start of NFL free agency for the 2013 season.

“It’s an exciting time. That’s how Pro Day is supposed to look at Florida,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the event. “All 32 teams are here and that’s how it ought to be. As we continue to do a good job evaluating in recruiting and developing our players, which we will, our Pro Days will continue to look that way. Really proud of these guys that worked out today and appreciate all their contributions to the University of Florida. I want to congratulate our staff on doing an outstanding job developing these guys.”

“I think they’ve all worked extremely hard,” he continued. “They understand what’s at stake. These guys are at a great time in their life. Here they are the verge of playing in the arena on Sunday. That’s something, as you look at, you’re a football player and taking that next step. They understand what’s at stake. I’m proud of what I saw today just form the standpoint of how they worked and how they conducted themselves, the positive feedback I’ve gotten from general managers, head coaches, assistants and the National Football League of the character of our guys and how they handled themselves at the combine. All of it has been ultra-positive. I’ve been real pleased about that.”

Below are evaluations on and quotes from many of the Gators that participated on Tuesday. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Lerentee McCray and tight end Jordan Reed did not work out but will in a separate, private Pro Day event on March 22 in The Swamp. Reed did still participate in some on-field drills Tuesday.

Muschamp had nothing but high praise for Floyd when asked about him potentially going in the top five picks. “Turn on the tape,” he said. “The guy can anchor, he can play the run, he’s got great initial quickness, he can rush the passer. He’s everything you want from an inside player. The NFL teams, they don’t like to project. I’ve been there; I know. They want to see guys that play in 3-4 and 4-3. They’ve seen him play two-gap. They’ve seen him play nose. They’ve seen him play four-technique, They’ve seen him play one-gap, three-technique, five-technique, nine-technique. They’ve seen him play outside; they’ve seen him play inside.

“From a general manager prospective, talking to his owner and telling him he wants to spend money on a player – a clean player that has no issues off the field – that’s a very smart pick, in my opinion. You got a guy that can be a very dominating player that has got so many positive things surrounding him and he’s been exposed positionally to so many different things within our scheme.”

Other former Gators in attendance to root on the younger guys included wide receivers Reidel Anthony and Riley Cooper, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Mike Peterson, running back Chris Rainey and linebacker Brandon Siler.

Safety Matt Elam

» NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock (via Florida’s website): “On tape he plays so close to the line of scrimmage, especially in their nickel package, he’s on the slot. He’s quick-footed, an aggressive tough kid. What I saw today was what I wanted to see, his ball skills, especially on deep balls. I could see him open his hips, take angles like a deep half or deep third. I thought he really helped himself today.”

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Kiper evaluates Florida Gators draft prospects

ESPN insider Mel Kiper, Jr. had a busy day on Wednesday. In addition to holding a conference call with the media (including OGGOA) to discuss prospects ahead of the 2013 NFL Draft, he also released his first mock draft ($) of the offseason as well as his list of top-five players ranked by position ($).

Junior Sharrif Floyd – Defensive Tackle
Ranking: No. 5 defensive tackle
Projection: First round, No. 30 overall
Thoughts: “Sharrif Floyd I thought had a heck of a year. I think he’s solidly in the first round, at worst early second, but I have him in the first. I have no problem with that decision [to leave early] at all.”

Junior Matt Elam – Safety
Ranking: No. 2 safety
Projection: Late first or second round
Thoughts: “Matt Elam, as I said, he could be the second safety off the board. I figure late-one, early-to-mid-two. I have no problem at all with that decision [to leave early].”

Redshirt junior Jordan Reed – Tight End
Ranking: No. 5 tight end
Projection: Third or fourth round
Thoughts: “Jordan Reed can catch the football. I think he’ll have nice workouts. As a tight end he could be a third-, fourth-round pick. Could he have elevated [his stock] a little bit [by staying]? Maybe, but I have no issue with that as well.”

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FOUR BITS: Evans, Reed, Strong, Kitchens

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio (knee), redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) all underwent arthroscopic surgery on Monday, according to the school. All are expected to be healthy enough to return to the field by March for spring practice.

2 » Florida senior safety Josh Evans told OGGOA on Tuesday that he has received an invitation to the 2013 NFL Combine as well as a projection from the league of being selected anywhere between the third and fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Evans is currently in Boca Raton, FL training for both the combine and the 2013 East/West Shrine Game. He has signed with agent Malik Shareef of Dimensional Sports, Inc. Friend of OGGOA Darren Heitner also reported Tuesday that redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed has signed with agent Mike George of SFX Sports Group.

3 » One player who will not be on the field for the Gators this spring is senior offensive/defensive lineman Nick Alajajian. After fracturing his right knee back in August, Alajajian missed the entire 2012 season. He has spent most of the year tweeting about returning to football, but a Florida spokesperson told GatorCountry.com’s Mike Capshaw that Alajajian did not apply for a medical hardship and therefore he has no more eligibility and his career is over. He earned one start in 32 games over four years, the first three of which he spent on the offensive line before transitioning to defense prior to the 2012 season.

4 » Just moments after the conclusion of the 2013 Sugar Bowl, Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong was swarmed by family, friends, reporters and his players as he celebrated his team’s victory. Also stopping by to congratulate Strong after the game were some of his Gators including redshirt senior left guard James Wilson, redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, redshirt senior linebacker Lerentee McCray and senior LB Jon Bostic (likely among others). Check out the video below.

Extra BIT » Friend of OGGOA Whitney Holtzman snapped the below picture of junior LB Darrin Kitchens staying on the field to sing the alma mater with the band at the conclusion of the Sugar Bowl. We retweeted the picture moments after Holtzman posted it on Twitter and within a short period of time it went viral with her shot being picked up nationally. Kitchens himself quickly found out that his actions meant a lot to Florida fans and took to Twitter two days later to express his gratitude for the kind words that were sent to him via the social networking service. “I’m touched. I didn’t think my gesture would impact so many people. I’m honored to have made so many of you proud. God is to be praised ,” he wrote.

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Gators must replace 13 starters from 2012 team

The last time the Florida Gators saw a handful of juniors move on to the NFL Draft was the 2009 season and fans have certainly not forgotten how the team looked in the two years subsequent to those departures.

And while Florida now has four junior starters having declared for the 2013 NFL Draft to go along with the nine senior starters departing the program, the Gators are in a better position to move forward next season even if there may be a few bumps in the road.

On offense, Florida will lose five starters including left tackle Xavier Nixon (senior), left guard James Wilson (redshirt senior), running back Mike Gillislee (senior), wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. (redshirt senior) and tight end Jordan Reed (draft).

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12/30: Driskel’s future, Gillislee’s present

No. 3 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Sunday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.

SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR JEFF DRISKEL IN 2013

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, fresh off a regular season in which he led the Gators to 10 wins in his 11 starts while posting an 11-3 touchdown-interception ratio (with four more scores on the ground), is only scratching the surface. That according to Pease and his teammates, who all believe that by the time he is done at Florida, Driskel could be one of the all-time greats.

“Tim Tebow is a great quarterback, I don’t want to take nothing from him,” senior running back Mike Gillislee told the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson on Sunday. “But I think Driskel is going to be a lot better. I think after this year he’s going to be a lot better.”

Both Gillislee and redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. described Driskel as a humble leader who is focused not on his numbers but rather ensuring that the offense runs smoothly and everyone on the field gets involved.

“The sky’s the limit,” said Hammond, who noted that Driskel’s ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage is a big-time characteristic he already possesses. “It’s a great advantage. Having trust in the quarterback like that and knowing that he will get us guys in the right situation. When we are all on the same page and we all see it through his eyes, how he sees it, then everything starts clicking.”

Pease on Sunday called Driskel “a good kid” and “a good player” who showed that he took steps every week, increased his knowledge and became a better leader. For those reasons, he is in the position to take a huge leap in his second year as a starter as he, the players around him and the offense as a whole continues developing.

Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
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TWO BITS: football awards, less Tebow on ESPN

1 » The Florida Gators football team participated in its annual banquet on Saturday in which members of the team are presented with a number of awards for everything from on-field performance to working hard in practice and how courageous a particular player may be throughout the season. Below are the 2012 award winners, according to the University of Florida, along with some award explanations and additional details.

Coaches’ Choice Awards
President’s Academic Award: Jeff Driskel, Michael McNeely, Caleb Sturgis
* Second-straight year that Sturgis won the award.
Gene Elleson Community Service Award: Jon Bostic, Jeremy Brown, Caleb Sturgis
Iron Gator Strength and Conditioning Award: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Omarius Hines, Lerentee McCray, Sam Robey
Chris Patrick Courage Award: Dominique Easley, Chaz Green, Jon Halapio, Ronald Powell, James Wilson
Most Valuable Offensive Scout Team Award: Max Garcia, Mark Herndon | Defensive: Alex McCalister, Jeremi Powell | ST: David Campbell, Rhaheim Ledbetter

Players’ Choice Awards
Rex Farrior Most Team Spirited Offense: Xavier Nixon | Defense: Dominique Easley, Matt Elam
* Second-straight year that Easley won the award.
Greg See Tenacity Award Offense: Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison | Defense: Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd
Most Valuable Player Offense: Mike Gillislee | Defense: Matt Elam ST: Loucheiz Purifoy, Caleb Sturgis
* Second-straight year that a running back won the award for the offense (Chris Rainey). Second-straight year that Elam and Sturgis won the award for defense and special teams, respectively.
James W. Kynes Award (Best Mental/Physical Toughness): Jon Bostic, Matt Elam
* Presented to the “player who best exemplifies the mental and physical toughness and ‘iron-man’ determination.’ The award is traditionally won by offensive linemen.
Ray Graves Award (Team MVP): Mike Gillislee
* Second-straight year that a running back won the award (Chris Rainey).
Fergie Ferguson Leadership Award: Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, Sharrif Floyd, Frankie Hammond, Jr.
* Presented to the “player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
Captains: Jon Bostic, Matt Elam, Mike Gillislee, Jon Halapio, Omar Hunter

2 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has barely seen the field since being traded last offseason. Now the head of ESPN is promising fans that they will see much less of him on their television sets as well. In an conversation with John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal, ESPN President John Skipper said he recently told his production staff to reduce the amount of coverage that the networks give to Tebow and his exploits. “I said, ‘Guys, we didn’t handle this very well. Going to training camp wasn’t a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long,’” Skipper explained. “Training camp was fine. The guy’s very popular. In our business, we want to drive ratings. You’ve just got to keep long-term, short-term in mind.”

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