Mel Kiper on Florida Gators in 2012 NFL Draft

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. spoke on a conference call Thursday, taking an early look at the 2012 NFL Draft and where he expects players across the nation to be slotted.

Asked about players coming into the league from the Florida Gators this year, Kiper expects running back Chris Rainey to be the highest pick but says he is unlikely to be selected before the fourth round.

“Florida right now is looking at guys that are figuring on day three of the draft,” he said. “Rainey is an interesting guy because he has speed and has got some versatility. He certainly could fit what a team is looking for in the fourth round area.”

The rest of available Gators – notably defensive tackle Jaye Howard and quarterback John Brantley – Kiper believes will be picked in rounds 5-7 depending how they perform at Pro Day and the 2012 NFL Combine.

“Howard right now I have as the 12th highest-rated defensive tackle and that was before the juniors came in,” he said. “That would push him down between say 17 and 23, which pushes him into the late-round category.”

Kiper has Brantley as the No. 15 quarterback overall and says that his inability to show any major strides this season is the reason he will not be picked higher if at all.

“He never developed into the quarterback he was hyped to be,” he explained. “We all heard about John Brantley coming through. He was going to be coming over off of [Tim] Tebow. He was going to be the pure passer. He was going to be the guy that was going to get that passing game going. You never saw any indications of him being an early round pick. He just didn’t perform to that level.

“Obviously he did not have great talent around him to the level that Florida has had in past years. We know that. The guys up front and certainly the guys at the skill positions even though they did have [Jeff] Demps and Rainey and some other kids that have ability. You never saw any indication that Brantley was going to take that next step and put himself in the mix with the first-second-third-round quarterbacks.”

Other UF players available for selection in the draft include defensive end William Green, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and center/guard Dan Wenger.

Kiper’s highest-rated player with any ties to Florida is North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He believes Jenkins “looked like a first-rounder” while playing for the Gators and continued to play up to that level this season.

If there were no character concerns, Kiper thinks Jenkins could have been selected in the middle of the first round. Now he will have to fight to be among the first 32 picks.

“When you look at Jenkins, I’d say right now early- to mid-second with a chance of moving into the late first if he maximizes the next three months,” Kiper said. “But right now I’m projecting him as a kid that goes between 33 and 42.”

Kiper, who had thrown some positive comments Tebow’s way during the 2011-12 NFL season, found an opportunity to reaffirm his original stance on the Denver Broncos quarterback when discussing why he never wavered from believing Robert Griffin III would be a quarterback at the next level.

“I know I’ve debated that with different people, about him being a wide receiver. I never saw that. I thought he was a quarterback all along,” Kiper said of Griffin. “I didn’t think that about Tebow. I still think Tebow’s an H-back. And I said that about Pat White, I thought he should have been a receiver and a return man. He wanted to be a quarterback and now he’s out of the league.

“Sometimes you hit, sometimes you don’t on these guys. But I always thought Griffin was a quarterback and not a projection. I think Denard Robinson’s a projection, a wide receiver coming out of Michigan. I didn’t think that about RG3.”

No matter how things unfold for Florida, chances are the Gators will not have a first-round pick to their name for the first time since 2006. Florida has had 43 players selected in the first round of the draft all-time including 12 in the last 15 years.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SIX BITS: Juniors in NFL, Henderson’s visit, Loeffler, Azzanni, Bell, Kiper’s Big Board

1 » According to Florida Gators strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, the team’s liaison with the NFL, 8-10 juniors have submitted their paperwork for evaluation by the league’s Draft Advisory Board. One can assume those names include cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tight end Aaron Hernandez, center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Mike Pouncey. Others who may have submitted their information include safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright, defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh and offensive linemen Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert.

2 » Five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (St. Paul, MN), considered by many recruiting services to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the country, will be taking his official visit Gainesville, FL, this weekend. Henderson is also seriously considering the USC Trojans, Ohio State Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

3 » Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has only been on the job one year in Gainesville, is considered a top candidate for the Central Michigan Chippewas and Buffalo Bulls head coaching jobs vacated by Butch Jones and Turner Gill, respectively. Some believe a year with next season’s starting quarterback John Brantley could earn Loeffler a much better gig just 12 months from now.

4 » Another name being thrown around the CMU job is brand new Gators wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who joined the program one week ago after the departure of Billy Gonzales to the LSU Tigers. Suffice to say that Florida head coach Urban Meyer would be none to pleased to be forced to replace a second WR coach in a matter of days.

5 » Former Gators QB and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell met with Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong on Wednesday about the Cardinals’ vacant offensive coordinator position. Though working with Strong could be considered a promotion of sorts, Bell may prefer being his own boss at Jacksonville. “Kerwin really likes running his own program and calling the shots,” his athletic director Alan Verlander told The Florida Times-Union. “Unless they throw a lot of money at him, I’m about 95 percent certain that he will be at JU next year.”

6 » ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s latest NFL Draft Big Board has been published and little has changed for Florida’s players. Dunlap crept up one spot from his season-low of No. 17 to No. 16, with Kiper saying his “physical tools are off the charts” and that he “has unlimited upside.” Also on the list are Haden, a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match,” who held strong at No. 7, and Hernandez, who also popped up a spot to No. 18.. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a third-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Heisman, Big Board, Keys, Redshirts

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow continues to gain ground in the Scripps Howard Heisman Trophy poll. Accounting for five touchdowns and 311 total yards on Saturday, Tebow now holds the No. 2 spot on the list, earning three first-place votes. Ahead of Tebow is Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy (5), while Stanford Cardinal RB Toby Gerhart (2), Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum (0) and Alabama Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram (0) round out the top five. Ingram led the poll the last three weeks. Voting tabulations are made on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis, with each voter ranking a top five.

2 » Skyrocketing up ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s NFL Draft Big Board all season, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has fallen back to earth after his recent DUI arrest. Dunlap dropped 14 spots from No. 3 last week to No. 17 on Wednesday. Also on the list are junior cornerback Joe Haden – a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match” – who is up to No. 7 after holding down the No. 9 spot last week, and junior tight end Aaron Hernandez brand new to the list at No. 19. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a second-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.

3 » ESPN Insider and Football Outsiders are featuring the five keys to the Florida vs. Alabama game. While OGGOA cannot reprint the article, here is the gist of it. The five keys and teams with the potential advantage for each are as follows: Yards Per Play (Florida – 6.8 vs. 6.0), Sack Rates (Alabama – 3.9% vs. 10.5%), Second Quarter (Push), Turnover Battle (Push), Field Position Advantage (Florida – 14th vs. 25th).

4 » The Orlando Sentinel reports that redshirt senior safety Dorian Munroe will apply for a medical redshirt and expects it to be granted by the NCAA. Junior cornerback Moses Jenkins, sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan and senior transfer WR Carl Moore have all been granted medical redshirts so far in 2009.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Petrino vs. No. 1; Kiper’s Big Board; Harvin update; LSU cries about TD

1 » Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino will face a No. 1-ranked team for the first time in his coaching career Saturday afternoon when he takes on the Florida Gators. Losing to Florida 38-7 at home last season, Petrino and the Hogs have plenty of motivation to come back and attempt to take it to the Gators. Running back Michael Smith, who went for 133 yards against UF last season, tweaked his hamstring against the Auburn Tigers last week and is day-to-day.

2 » ESPN’s NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. has come out with his new Big Board, which lists his top 25 NFL prospects. Gators on the list include defensive end Carlos Dunlap at No. 7 (down one spot from last week) and middle linebacker Brandon Spikes at No. 19 (up one spot from last week).

3 » In a story that always seems to draw news, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin missed practice Wednesday. Harvin injured his shoulder last week against the St. Louis Rams but did not miss any game time.

4 » As if only scoring three points last Saturday night was not humiliating enough, the LSU Tigers have decided to be sore losers and ask Southeastern Conference officials to review Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper’s touchdown catch. Cooper grabbed the shirttail of cornerback Chris Hawkins and used it as leverage to get wide open in the end zone and catch a pass from quarterback Tim Tebow. The touchdown gave the Gators a 10-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the first half. “Yeah, we sent that in,” LSU head coach Les Miles said Tuesday. “I’m savoring the opportunity to call in there.”

Extra BIT » Cleveland Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip and left big toe on Tuesday. It will take the former Gators first baseman 4-6 months to recover from the injuries, which may slow him down to start the 2010 season.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,