Go be great, Justin Shorter! (Photo credit: Brad McClenny, Gainesville Sun)
Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter will begin his NFL career with some familiar faces at practice.
The Buffalo Bills selected Shorter with the 150th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, making him the fifth Gator selected in this weekend’s draft and the second Gator to be taken by Buffalo. The Bills took O’Cyrus Torrence midway through the second round last night, with the 53rd overall pick. Buffalo also used its first round pick on Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam last year, who spent two seasons as Shorter’s teammate in Gainesville.
With the selection of Shorter, Florida has now placed at least five players in eight of the past nine NFL Drafts, with the lone exception being last year.
After transferring to Florida from Penn State in 2020, Shorter immediately commanded a role in a historically-dominant Gator offense commanded by QB Kyle Trask. Though Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes were all ahead of him in the pecking order for targets, Shorter still reeled in 25 catches for 268 yards and three touchdowns in his first season as a Gator. Trask’s departure was followed by QB struggles in 2021, but Shorter expanded his role in the passing game with 41 receptions for 550 yards despite that.
In his final season at Florida in 2022, Shorter began to round out his skill set. He finished the season with 577 receiving yards- second on the team- on 29 catches in a more run-heavy offense. Having already spent five years in college, he then decided to forgo a sixth year of eligibility that was available to him and enter the NFL Draft.
Shorter enters the NFL looking to carve out a role as a possession receiver. He’s got decent speed for a receiver at 4.55 in the 40 yard dash, but not nearly enough to take the top off of NFL defenses. On the other hand (no pun intended), he’s great at going and getting the football in traffic with strong, sure hands and solid 6’4, 230 frame that can screen out defenders.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of top-flight speed, either. Just because he’s not going to burn most cornerbacks in a straight footrace doesn’t mean he’s not a deep threat. His jump-ball abilities more than make up for that; in seven of the nine games he played last season at Florida, he recorded at least one reception for 20+ yards. If he continues to work on his route-running, he could make a nice career for himself at the next level.
All the best in Buffalo, Justin Shorter! Have fun with Josh Allen, and thank you for being a Florida Gator.