Florida Gators 2012 NFL Draft viewer’s guide

By Adam Silverstein
April 26, 2012

The Florida Gators may not have a proverbial dog in the race when it comes to the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday but a handful of former Florida players still hope to see their childhood dreams come true this weekend.

As fans of the 32 NFL teams look on nationwide, those supporting the Gators may not be as excited about the event this time around considering there will be yet another a significant drop-off from the nation-leading nine players that were selected in 2010 (including a school-record three in the first round and six in the first two rounds). In fact, Florida is not expected to have a first-round pick for the first time since the 2006 draft when Chad Jackson was an early second-round selection by New England.

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 brings to the table differently than analysts do. Rather than try to predict the unknown variables and tell you what could happen, we will stick with what likely will happen Thursday-Sunday.

» Cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be the only player with (close) ties to Florida to be selected in the first two rounds – probably in the latter part of round one.

Unless a team falls in love with running back Chris Rainey’s potential, Jenkins is the only name Gators fans can hope to hear on Thursday or early Friday. He has early first-round potential but what many teams apparently consider undraftable off-the-field character concerns. Reports coming out this week state that some teams have removed Jenkins from their draft boards entirely while others recognize that his talent may be too good to pass up. Many analysts even believe he has a higher upside than LSU’s Morris Claiborne, who is expected to be the first cornerback selected (somewhere in the top 10) on Thursday. With such a rush of anti-Jenkins reports, it appears as if a number of teams are trying to create a major smokescreen in the hopes that he falls to them late in the first round. Marijuana arrests and multiple children out of wedlock may matter to some front office executives, but they are not considered to be on the same level with felony arrests, for example. It is likely that someone takes a chance on Jenkins Thursday and does not let him slip into the second round where he would be an absolute steal.

» Florida will not have a player selected until at least the third round.

Rainey wowed scouts at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine by completing the 20-yard shuttle (3.93 seconds), 60-yard shuttle (11.06 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.50 seconds) with blistering speeds that dominated the competition. He registered the best time out of the entire field in each event and also came in second in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.45 seconds. However, his size (5’8” 180 lbs.), lack of consistent production when healthy and next-level durability are all question marks that should keep him out of the second round. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock both have Rainey pegged for the third- or fourth-round though each believes a team will take a chance on him later on Friday. That does not mean he is a shoe-in to go on day two; Rainey’s size could make a lot of teams believe he is a day three pick.

» It will probably be two (three)-and-out for Gators fans this weekend.

Depending whether or not you consider Jenkins to be a “Florida” draftee, the Gators are expected to have the fewest players selected in the draft (two) since 2008. The last time UF had just one player chosen was 1980, which is also the last year that Florida, Florida State and Miami all went without a first-round pick…until Thursday.

Keeping the Gators’ 32-year streak of having at least two players drafted going will be defensive tackle Jaye Howard, who is not expected to be selected until the final day of the event on Saturday. Howard improved his stock this past season by increasing his level of consistency and overall work ethic but did not produce enough to receive early round consideration. Unless he catches a team’s eye (in which case he would be at-best a fourth-round pick), Howard should wind up being selected in the fifth or sixth.

» Does anyone else have a chance?

Sure. Well…probably not…but all is not necessarily lost for wide receiver Deonte Thompson and quarterback John Brantley. Despite neither coming anywhere close to reaching their supposed potential, each possesses some qualities that NFL teams covet. Thompson did himself a favor by listening to head coach Will Muschamp and concentrating on becoming an impactful player on special teams. Muschamp has coached in the league and knows what it takes for a lower-tier wide receiver to make it. He is openly rooting for Thompson to be selected because he saw first-hand how hard he worked his senior season. Brantley also made strides as a senior, but his ankle injury combined with a number of other factors (porous offensive line, lack of playmakers surrounding him, lost confidence at times) never allowed him to take the major steps that he and fans were hoping to see. Kiper has Brantley so far down on his quarterbacks list that he has players better than him also not being drafted, but it is not inconceivable that a team could take a chance on him in the sixth or seventh round to ensure another team does not sign him as an undrafted free agent.

Florida also has center/guard Dan Wenger, defensive end William Green and cornerbacks Moses Jenkins and Dorian Munroe out there on the open market. Wenger and Green could get looked at as undrafted free agents while Jenkins and Munroe are unlikely to be picked up as of press time.

One Comment

  1. Daniel M. says:

    Florida Gators 2012 NFL Draft…. (((crickets)))

    This will change.

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