Florida Gators 2013 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

By Adam Silverstein
April 25, 2013

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).

» Safety Matt Elam will be the next Florida player off the board but is no guarantee to be a first-round draft pick on Thursday.

If one watched Elam play throughout the 2012 season, (s)he might find it hard to believe that a team would not consider him one of the 32 best players in the NFL Draft. While his devastating hits and prowess for coming up with big plays make him an attractive player, Elam’s height (5’10”) has him slotted as the third-best safety on most draft boards behind Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) and Eric Reid (LSU). Elam’s coverage skills and ability to blitz off the line of scrimmage, coupled with his aforementioned talents, could help him find his way into the bottom of the first round (perhaps to Baltimore as a replacement for Bernard Pollard), but his height may force him into the top of the second round on Friday. Reggie Nelson (No. 21 – 2007) and Louis Oliver (No. 25 – 1989) are the only UF safeties to ever be selected in the first two rounds of the draft.

» Jon Bostic will be the first Gators linebacker selected, but Lerentee McCray may very well go ahead of Jelani Jenkins.

Aside from Floyd, no Florida player has been bumped up boards more expeditiously than Bostic, who eased concerns about his speed by running a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine and is seen as a high-IQ football player by coaches and staffs across the country. Bostic has received significant praise from head coach Will Muschamp and former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. He has gone from being a middle-round selection to a second-day pick. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock even has him as the No. 65 overall player in the draft, just one pick outside the second round. McCray has moved up from an afterthought to a coveted player, one with a lot of momentum heading into the draft. On the other hand, Jenkins’s inability to stay on the field due to injuries has teams concerned, as does the fact that his play simply does not stand out on film while Bostic’s and McCray’s do.

» Tight end Jordan Reed has taken a tumble but will still be the first offensive player selected, ahead of running back Mike Gillislee and offensive tackle Xavier Nixon.

Reed is neither as athletic as Aaron Hernandez nor produced at the same rate as the Gators’ former playmaking tight end, but teams do believe they can use him in a similar fashion to how New England utilizes Hernandez. Concerns about durability, after-the-catch production, experience and blocking have Reed outside of the many teams’ top-five as far as tight ends concerned, but the potential will get him drafted higher than any other Florida offensive player. Gillislee’s low mileage senior season production have teams intrigued, but his lack of film does not allow them to see him as more than a back-up to start his career, which is why he is unlikely to be selected before Saturday. Nixon has the ideal physical makeup but as teams viewed more and more of his film, chances he gets selected earlier than the fifth round dwindled.

» Kicker Caleb Sturgis will be drafted…possibly in the fifth round.

Noting that a player will be drafted is obvious until one considers how many top-tier kickers and punters do not get selected in a given year. As far as Sturgis is concerned, not only is he a shoe-in to get picked, some teams appear to be infatuated with his talent and ability. Strugis and Dustin Hopkins (Florida State) are ranked first or second on every team’s kicking board; each has a legitimate opportunity in being selected earlier than one might assume a kicker would be picked.

» Plenty of teams like S Josh Evans; he could be off the board as early on Saturday.

Though most know him as the Gators’ “other” safety, Evans has his share of fans in team circles, some of which actually believe his ceiling is higher than Elam’s though it may take him a few years to reach that level of play. Evans will likely begin his career on special teams but is the type of player who could eventually find a role as a starter after a year or two of hard work. Teams are well aware he has that potential; do not expect him to last too long on the third day of the draft.

» Does anyone else have a chance?

Absolutely. Even if all 10 players mentioned above get selected – setting a new school record for most picks in a single draft – there are still others who could be picked late on Saturday. Defensive end Earl Okine and wide receiver Omarius Hines have both been speaking to a number of teams; if neither is drafted, each will be scooped up as an undrafted free agent almost immediately at the conclusion of the draft. Guard James Wilson and DT Omar Hunter are other potential considerations with sixth- or seventh-round picks, as is WR Frankie Hammond, Jr.; none of the three are expected to hear their name called on Saturday, however. All five players should at least have some opportunity to participate in an NFL camp over the summer.

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