Even in down years, the Gators sure can produce some talent.
Florida saw eight players get selected in the 2015 NFL Draft this past weekend, highlighted by Dante Fowler going 3rd overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Gators’ eight draft picks qualified for third most in the country, behind only Louisville (10) and Florida State (11).
But unlike FSU, the Gators didn’t lose basically their whole team from last year. Florida could be returning up to five first round picks next year- Antonio Morrison, Jonathan Bullard, Vernon Hargreaves, Kelvin Taylor and DeMarcus Robinson. When they decide to go remains to be seen, but the fact is that Florida didn’t simply unload the entirety of their roster just to rack up the draft picks (OK, it doesn’t work like that, but you know what I’m saying).
For all the criticism that Will Muschamp (deservedly) receives for leaving Florida in such a mess in so many different areas of the roster, and then snapping back when called out about it, he did leave some extremely talented individuals for Florida to work with next year, and build a team off of. So just think what Florida’s draft dracker could have looked like had those aforementioned five players all left early. It would decimate the roster, so I’m glad it didn’t happen, but the Gators would have set all sorts of records for players drafted had they sent out every player who made some sort of contribution. Even more impressive is that the Gators had eight players selected despite going 11-13 the past two seasons. Think about that, a college football team has a losing record over a two year span, and yet eight players from last year’s team- almost all of whom also contributed to the previous year’s 4-8 team- were thought of highly enough to merit being selected in the NFL Draft. This just goes to show what a horrendous coach Muschamp was; all that talent, and the best he could do was 11-13 his last two years.
Anyway. Enough about Muschamp. Let’s get to the Gators who were picked, and give them some recognition:
-DE/OLB Dante Fowler, 3rd overall to Jacksonville
Fowler is probably the best player in the entire draft in terms of who’s ready to step up and contribute immediately. His strengths are numerous, and each one is off the charts. He runs a 4.6 40, meaning his straight speed is ridiculous for a lineman. He’s able to get by blockers with incredible ease because he possesses spin and juke moves running backs would kill to have. And boy, is he powerful. Expect greatness, Jaguars fans.
-OT DJ Humphries, 24th overall to Arizona
Humphries was a surprise entry to the NFL Draft because he’s so raw, and rather small for a lineman. But the natural talent, specifically his run blocking ability, is off the charts. He worked his way up to a consensus first round talent this offseason, and, well, that’s exactly what happened. If he can bulk up some, and get some real reps in pass protection this offseason, he could be an opening day starter for the Cards.
-OL Chaz Green, 91st overall (3rd round) to Dallas
Like Humphries, Green could really use some work in terms of developing as a pass blocker. Unlike Humphries, Green is an ideal size for a lineman and could develop into a starter for the Cowboys fairly quickly, if only because of their weakness on the offensive line.
-RB Matt Jones, 95th overall (3rd round) to Washington
Jones is a powerful runner with good footwork and good hands to catch passes out of the backfield. But he’s a project, primarily because the Redskins already have Alfred Morris (who I will point out rushed for 16 yards on 14 attempts vs. Florida in his senior season) entrenched as their starter. However, I’m inclined to believe the Redskins will give him some playing time, because third round picks aren’t taken for sheer luxury purposes.
-C Max Garcia, 133rd overall (4th round) to Denver
God, I love Garcia. His infectious smile and positive attitude made him a fan favorite in Gainesville, not to mention a locker room leader. He does have some talent, too, playing several different roles and positions during his time at UF, and his ability to be given a task, any task, and perform it well should be enough to warrant consideration when it comes time for the Broncos to pick a starting offensive line rotation.
-OLB Neiron Ball, 161st overall (5th round) to Oakland
Ball might be the story of the entire NFL Draft. A rare hereditary condition that led to brain surgery caused him to miss the entire 2011 season, and more importantly, had him “scared of dying”. He bounced back from it to become a leader on Florida’s nasty 2012 defense before getting injured. He does everything you need a linebacker to do well (as opposed to off the charts). But Oakland took him to provide a spark, and he’s just about guaranteed to provide one, if on special teams.
-WR/KR/PR Andre Debose, 221st overall (7th round) to Oakland
Too bad the kick return is becoming a lost art. If it still held the importance that it did ten years ago, Debose might have gone in the first round or two. He holds the Florida career record for return touchdowns (four kicks, one punt) despite the NCAA moving kickoffs up five yards halfway through his career, and during those return TD’s, reminded fans why he was hailed as the next Percy Harvin. Unfortunately, that’s about all he did in his long Florida career. But he obviously showed enough during those returns to make Oakland think they could wring some production out of him.
-OL Trenton Brown, 244th overall (7th round) to San Francisco
Jumbo Brown capped off the Gators’ big draft by getting picked by San Francisco. He’s, um, big, which helps, but he’s too stiff right now to be an effective lineman in the NFL. He’ll need lots and lots of reps in the offseason if he wants to make the 49ers’ roster.
In addition to the eight draftees, four Gators have signed as undrafted free agents:
-TE Clay Burton to Buffalo
-WR Quinton Dunbar to Washington
-DT Leon Orr to Oakland
-DT Darious Cummings to Carolina
And three more Gators were invited for tryouts:
-RB Mack Brown, Houston Texans
-LS Drew Ferris, New York Jets
-P Kyle Christy, Minnesota Vikings