2021 NFL Draft projections, mock: Where will the Florida Gators land this year?

By Adam Silverstein
April 27, 2021
2021 NFL Draft projections, mock: Where will the Florida Gators land this year?
Football

Image Credit: GatorsFB / Twitter

As the 2021 NFL Draft approaches with Round 1 set for Thursday, OnlyGators.com is here to take a closer look at the Florida Gators who could be selected over the course of the three-day, seven-round draft. This year, with limited evaluation windows and no official NFL Scouting Combine due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is once again expected that the draft will feature plenty of twists and turns.

Below are draft projections for each of the 12 Gators available this weekend along with evaluations of the prospects from your’s truly following consultation with multiple national draft experts. While all 12 could potentially be selected, Florida is likely looking at 8-9 being chosen and a few more moving on as undrafted free agents. Let’s get to it.

Reminder: OnlyGators.com will offer complete, live coverage of the 2021 NFL Draft all week. So be sure to come back on Thursday and bookmark our draft tracker to follow the action all three days.

Tight end Kyle Pitts
Only Gators projection: Round 1, picks 4-6
An expected first-round pick before the 2020 season, Pitts’ draft stock consistently rose all year despite the fact that he missed numerous games due to injury. Arguably the best overall player in the draft, Pitts’ ceiling is extraordinarily high in the modern NFL as a massive yet agile pass-catching tight end who can line up just as easily at wide receiver. At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, the Philadelphia native was a consensus All-American who won the John Mackey Award and became the first tight end named as a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award for nation’s top pass catcher. In fact, that’s one reason why Pitts is more favorably compared to Calvin Johnson than a contemporary at his position like Darren Waller.

Pitts could be selected as early as No. 4 overall if the Atlanta Falcons do not select a quarterback. It would be a surprise to see him fall past No. 6 as the Miami Dolphins are badly in need of playmakers and would likely take Pitts over one of the top wide receivers available if he falls to them. Pitts is largely impossible to defend due to his rare combination of size and speed. He will enter the NFL as an elite athlete at his position, and his top-tier ball skills will likely make him an instant-impact playmaker.

Wide receiver Kadarius Toney
Only Gators projection: Rounds 1-2
There’s a chance Toney slides into the early part of the second round, but the 6-foot, 193-pound pass catcher has proven to be a game-changer with his breakneck speed, agility and ball skills. Toney compares directly to Tyreek Hill due to his size along with his incredible acceleration, change-of-direction ability and route running. He battles inside and consistently beats defensive backs on the outside. Though Toney is shifty and likes to move with the ball, his straight-line speed allows him to take advantage of any trouble he may find himself in. Injury issues and that aforementioned freestyling may concern some teams, but Toney’s upside is immense. That should land him with a contender in the bottom third of the first round.

Quarterback Kyle Trask
Only Gators projection: Round 2
All Trask did last season was put together arguably the greatest campaign by a Gators quarterback in program history. At 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, he possesses the prototypical size and strength that NFL teams covet from their quarterback, though his lacking speed makes him more of a throwback signal caller as opposed to a modern passer coveted by teams. Despite that, Trask is exceptionally shifty in the pocket; he does an incredible job avoiding pressure, reading defenses and getting the ball out.

After barely playing early in his collegiate career, Trask put on a show over his last season-and-a-half and went toe-to-toe with Alabama’s Mac Jones in the 2020 SEC Championship Game. He was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award for good reason after leading the FBS with 43 passing touchdowns last season. Trask has improvements to make with his eyework as he had a propensity for throwing pick sixes, and he is a bit slower than some of his peers in this class, but his accuracy and delivery should take him far in this draft as he should be a targeted option on Day 2.

Offensive lineman Stone Forsythe
Only Gators projection: Rounds 3-4
Forsythe was one of the few Florida offensive linemen who could be counted on weekly. A legacy whose father played professional football across multiple leagues, Forsythe started 25 games at left tackle over the last two seasons. At 6-foot-8 and 307 pounds, he has the frame to get the job done at the NFL level, though he will require development. While Forsythe excelled in pass protection due to his length, he and the Gators’ entire line struggled in the running game. His overall strength and plus hands generate movement of linemen while blocking, and there is no questioning his power, but he does not get his pads low enough in the run game and must improve his change of direction. While Forsythe could be a late Day 2 pick, he may slide into Day 3 but should not last long.

Defensive back Marco Wilson
Only Gators projection: Rounds 4-5
Shoe-throwing incident aside, Wilson’s final season at Florida left a lot to be desired. After a freshman campaign that had many believing Wilson would be yet another star defensive back coming out of the program, he failed to live up to his brother’s successes and now faces a questionable NFL future. At 6-foot and 191 pounds, he has the size and strength — along with the speed and athleticism — to be chosen early on Day 3; however, due to a lack of production, he could slide past Round 4 into Round 5. Perhaps coaching limited Wilson’s production because he clearly has all of the traits for an NFL defensive back, but he was frequently beaten on coverages and often lost 50-50 opportunities with the ball in the air. Quincy Wilson’s success in the NFL could provide him with some cushion among teams wavering on whether to draft him, but there are so many holes on tape that it is tough to see Wilson being selected earlier than his projection.

Defensive back Shawn Davis
Only Gators projection: Rounds 5-6
Davis’ tape will be appreciated in NFL circles. He hits hard, proves his toughness and leads by his actions on the field. His 5-foot-11, 202-pound frame will make him an intriguing strong safety on defense as he can provide run support and also serve as a potential gunner on special teams. Davis will have every opportunity to win an NFL job due to his speed, athleticism and overall passion for the game. However, his instincts and ability to track routes are both in the second or third tier among players in the draft. Nevertheless, he should comfortably go on Day 3.

Wide receiver Trevon Grimes
Only Gators projection: Rounds 5-6
Grimes’ winding career saw him transfer to Florida from Ohio State, and his move paid off. He displayed great size as a pass catcher at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, which should allow him to fight off defenders and win a roster spot in training camp. The biggest question about Grimes is whether he can match up with opposing NFL cornerbacks in terms of see his routes through to the end and winning on contested receptions. Where Grimes excels is being a sure-handed target who can handle punishment and build up speed as he runs down the field. But it takes more than that to succeed at the NFL level. He should have an opportunity to prove that by being a late-round pick.

Kicker Evan McPherson
Only Gators projection: Rounds 6-7
It’s difficult to determine whether individual kickers and punters will be drafted or signed as undrafted free agents. In McPherson’s case, his somewhat-underwhelming 2020 season (featuring multiple missed kicks late in the year) could be the difference. That does not detract from the fact that he hit four field goals from 50+ yards last season, consistently gets touchbacks and was perfect on extra points last season. However, McPherson did surprise some by declaring for the draft as a junior, which is unusual or specialists. His powerful leg and career accuracy are positives, the fact that he converted only 77% of his field goals last season and missed his final three collegiate field goals from 50+ yards could see some teams shy away.

Defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton
Only Gators projection: Round 6 to undrafted free agent
Slaton’s pedigree as a high school All-American and massive size at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds should get him an opportunity in the later rounds. He will get an opportunity at nose tackle in the NFL, likely as a reserve run-stopper on key downs. Slaton’s athleticism, power and relentlessness when engaged make up for some of his weaknesses. He’s the paradigm of a player who may make significant developmental strides in the NFL with the right coaching, so he could wind up being a late-round steal if given the opportunity to get into a camp with some momentum.

DB Donovan Stiner, OL Brett Heggie, DT Kyree Campbell
Only Gators projection: Undrafted free agents
Stiner has an opportunity to be selected late on Day 3, but both Heggie and Campbell will likely be priority free agents signed by NFL teams shortly after the draft concludes on Saturday.

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