1 » Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jaylen Watkins and New England Patriots guard Jon Halapio, both third-day selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, signed rookie contracts with their respective teams on Monday. There is already talk that Watkins may be able to push for a starting cornerback job at some point this season, though Philadelphia’s plan right now is to work him out at corner, nickel and safety in order to figure out how he can contribute the most from the get-go. Halapio is expected to start out as a reserve in New England, which is trying to strengthen its offensive line this offseason. OnlyGators.com will post full stories on each signing once it is able to obtain the detailed contract information for the players.
Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end with the Florida Gators and New England Patriots currently in jail awaiting trial for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, was indicted Thursday by a grand jury for a July 2012 double murder outside of a nightclub in Boston.
According to Ted Daniel of FOX 25, who first reported last June that Hernandez was being investigated for the double homicide, the incident included three men being shot, “two fatally, as they sat in a car at a traffic light. … A gray or silver SUV with Rhode Island plates opened fire on it.”
Investigators believed that a fight broke out at a nightclub called Curve in the South End between two men and a group of others that included Hernandez. After everyone left the club, someone from an SUV believed to contain Hernandez and his group allegedly opened fire on the vehicle.
Apparently, the SUV containing Hernandez circled the block numerous times waiting for the men to get out of the club and sit at the light.
“This case was about two victims who were stalked, ambushed and senselessly murdered,” the district attorney said on Thursday.
One theory as to Hernandez’s motive for allegedly murdering Lloyd was because he was a witness to this incident.
1 » Teams understandably praise the players they draft, but Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly went above and beyond simply sharing the standard compliments when discussing Florida Gators cornerback Jaylen Watkins, his fourth-round pick, after making the selection. “Extremely high football intelligence,” he said of Watkins. “He has the speed to play corner, but sometimes when you’re drafting guys, you’re trying to project that maybe he can be this. Obviously, there is evidence of him playing safety and doing it at a really high level. He could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence, and we just thought that versatility and that football intelligence and character part of it, we thought it was a really good value, especially [on day three]. He’s one of those guys that we were really excited about [Friday] night, where if we didn’t get a great offer then we were going to stay right there and take Jaylen [with the first pick of the fourth round].” Watkins will start out at cornerback for the Eagles, according to general manager Howie Roseman (a Florida alumnus), but could play safety down the road as he develops and potentially adds more weight to his frame.
2 » The New England Patriots jumped at the opportunity to draft Gators guard Jon Halapio in the sixth round on Saturday with head coach Bill Bellichick “a little surprised to see him where he was” still available that late in the draft. While Halapio should make the team and could eventually develop into a starter in New England, he will also help the team’s first-round pick, Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley, with his transition to the NFL. “It’s good to have people [here] I’ve been around four years in college,” Easley said in his team press conference. “It makes it real comfortable.”
Anywhere from six to eight Florida Gators were expected to be selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the event came Thursday and ended Saturday with only four being picked up by professional teams out of 256 slots.
Defensive tackle Dominique Easley (first round, No. 29, New England), cornerback Jaylen Watkins (fourth round, No. 101, Philadelphia), linebacker Ronald Powell (fifth round, No. 169, New Orleans) and guard Jon Halapio (sixth around, No. 179, New England) were all picked, but other Gators were not as lucky.
Junior CBs Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy, early entrants who were both projected as first-round picks by numerous draft analysts before the 2013 season, went undrafted during the three-day event.
Roberson’s injuries were likely the greatest deterrent to teams selecting him, though low testing numbers at the NFL Combine, a lackluster Pro Day and some off-field concerns also affected his draftability.
Purifoy did not progress as scouts hoped in terms of his coverage ability and overall play at cornerback during his junior campaign. Poor testing numbers and numerous off-field issues, including a run-in with the law for possession of marijuana and bath salts just two months before the draft, likely forced teams to bail on picking him up.
Round 6 – No. 179
Jon Halapio, G
New England Patriots
Round 6 – No. 179
Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 323 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Redshirt senior
The New England Patriots went back to their Gainesville, Florida, well on Saturday, adding a former Florida Gators player for the second time in three days (and fifth time in five years) by selecting guard Jon Halapio with the No. 179 overall pick in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
A solid high-intensity lineman who entered the 2013 season projected as a second-day selection, Halapio was unable to play up to his full potential due to a torn pectoral that severely hampered his movement and effectiveness. He is known as a tough and excellent run blocker who needs to improve in pass protection.
Halapio played 51 games and made 43 starts for during his career with the Gators, starting at right guard for the last seven games of 2010, all of 2011 and 2012, and the final 10 games of 2013 after missing the first two due to his pectoral injury.
He will begin his career as a reserve with the Patriots but could quickly develop into an NFL starter as his strength returns and technique improves.
Halapio is the first UF offensive lineman drafted since 2011 and 13th former Florida player selected by New England, joining first-round defensive tackle Dominique Easley in the team’s 2014 draft class.
The Patriots have selected multiple Gators in the draft three times, drafting two in 2006 (Chad Jackson, Jeremy Mincey) and three in 2010 (Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez).
@Jhalapio67 pio we back together baby
— Dominique Easley (@MR_ChUcKiE_2) May 10, 2014
You thought you could run away from me @MR_ChUcKiE_2 !! Lol back to work we go. GO GATORS
— Jon Halapio (@Jhalapio67) May 10, 2014
— Audie A. Attar (@AudieAttar) May 10, 2014
Round 1 – No. 29
Dominique Easley, DT
New England Patriots
Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 288 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior
Round 1 – No. 29
A first-round talent who would have been drafted much earlier if not for injury concerns, Florida Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley heard his name announced late Thursday night when the New England Patriots selected him with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Easley, a quick and explosive three-technique lineman who possesses a lightning-fast first step and terrific inside pass rush skills, is the second Florida defensive tackle to come off the board in the first round in as many seasons after DT Sharrif Floyd was picked six spots earlier at No. 23 overall by Minnesota in 2013.
A starter at UF for three seasons, he is the first Gators player selected by the Patriots since the team took three players in 2010 and will be able to show his relentlessness and versatility from the get-go. Easley compiled 72 total tackles (18 for loss) and 5.5 sacks in 32 games with 26 starts.
“He’s an all-in guy. There’s not much to not like about him,” said head coach Bill Belichick after making the selection. “I’m always looking for people who can hit the quarterback. No question. It’s at a premium.”
Despite suffering a devastating knee injury – including a torn ACL (the second such injury in his career) – six games into the 2013 season, Easley has spent the last seven months undergoing intense rehabilitation. He called his knee 80-85 percent at Pro Day last month and expects to be 100 percent healthy at some point during training camp.
Easley is the 11th Florida player to be drafted in the first round in the last eight years and 46th in school history dating back to 1936. He is also the 12th overall to be chosen by New England in the history of the NFL Draft though none of the previous 11 were first-round selections. Easley will be the only former Gators player on the Patriots’ roster despite the team picking eight UF players dating back to 1999.
If New England had not chosen Easley at No. 29 overall, the consensus amount NFL reporters is that Seattle – with former Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in the same position – would have snagged him at No. 32. The Seahawks subsequently traded out of the pick after the Patriots selected Easley.
“Dominique Easley is one of the best value picks in this draft,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. “He was a top-30 pick until he tore his ACL this September. … A lot of people felt like he was going to end up dropping because of the ACL. … This is a typical Bill Belichick pick. He’s got talent. The rest of the league discounted the talent because of the injury. … This kid is gifted.”
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTIONS TO EASLEY SELECTION
Continue Reading » Patriots select Gators DT Dominique Easley with No. 29 overall pick of 2014 NFL Draft
From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.
» Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a card accident before his team’s game on Monday – don’t worry, he’s OK – when a woman ran a red light and hit his sports utility vehicle. What happened next? “She said she ran a red light and it was her fault,” Parsons told the Houston Chronicle. “She had a little car so it kind of messed up the front bumper of my car. She was OK. Asked me to sign her insurance card.” Parsons led Houston with 21 points in 40 minutes on Monday. He entered the game recovering from a hip injury he suffered last week.
» According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Philadelphia Eagles have a high level of interest in Gators outside linebacker Ronald Powell. Kempski notes that Philadelphia has a history of selecting high-upside players that were ranked among the top players in the country coming out of high school seeing as the Eagles used a seventh-round selection on running back Bryce Brown in 2012.
» The final USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll came out following the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the individual ballots of all 32 coaches that voted were released as well. Five coaches – Tim Cluess (Iona), Matt Driscoll (North Florida), Tim Floyd (UTEP), Shaka Smart (VCU) and Don Verlin (Idaho) – voted Florida into the No. 2 spot over Kentucky, while four other coaches picked UF at No. 4 behind Wisconsin. One coach – Mike McConathy of Northwestern State – ranked the Gators fifth in the final poll.
Through the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York, NY from May 8-10, Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.
Florida’s third-leading tackler with 52 takedowns last season, Watkins played safety for the Gators after being primarily used as a cornerback – the position he will play as a professional – during his first three years. Watkins started 28 of the 48 games in which he participated but saw the field for starter’s minutes in many of those other contests.
His eighth entry was submitted shortly after his participation in Pro Day in Gainesville, FL. Watkins also began private meetings and workouts.
Heading into Pro Day, I was hoping to be 100 percent recovered from my Achillles injury. I felt good that day, good enough to do the broad jump, vertical jump, shuttle drills and on-field work, which I did not anticipate doing all of those heading into the day. I ended up aggravating it doing those activities, and it definitely started bothering me, but I got some good notes back on how I performed.
The weather played a factor, too. It was nasty last year but dried up before the guys got out on the field. We didn’t know what to expect. The earlier part of the day, looking outside, it was pouring and we didn’t expect to go outside at all. I know it was rough for Marcus [Roberson] and Loucheiz [Purifoy] and the rest of the guys having to run on the indoor track and having things off-schedule. “Out of all the days, it had to rain this day.” You know? It was warm the day before, right after it cleared up as well. But just for it to happen like that was a stroke of bad luck for all of us.
Before Pro Day even began, the night before, I had my first meeting since the combine and linked up with the Indianapolis Colts at the Florida football facility. It was very similar to all of my other meetings. We went over film, got to know each other and they picked my brain on some things over about 20-30 minutes.