2013 NFL Draft Good to Former Florida Gators; Floyd, Elam Selected in First Round

The 2013 NFL Draft was good to the Florida Gators. Good to the tune of eight former Gators selected in the first six rounds. And Florida wasn’t the only school celebrating its draft accomplishments. The SEC set a new record with 63 total players selected. Those of us that consider ourselves fans of the conference still chuckle when outsiders question the SEC’s dominance.

Sharrif Floyd - Minnesota Vikings

Kicking things off for the Gators–albeit later than expected–was defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd. Floyd–an early entrant–was once considered one of the few with a legitimate shot at being selected first overall. He wasn’t that high on every team’s board though and fell into the welcoming lap of the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23. A similar situation occurred just three years ago when Percy Harvin fell to the Vikings. Harvin was recently traded to the Seattle Seahawks, but had enjoyed a successful stint in Minnesota up to that point.

Sneaking into the first round with Floyd was another early entrant, safety Matt Elam. Elam couldn’t have fallen into a better situation; the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens selected him at No. 32. A first round talent, Elam could have been selected anywhere between picks No. 20 and No. 40 and no one would have been entirely surprised. As it stands, the Ravens feel they have found the perfect fit to fill the void left by Ed Reed who signed with the Houston Texans this offseason.

In the second round, the Chicago Bears selected linebacker Jon Bostic with the 50th overall pick. Bostic upped his game during his final season and pushed himself into a position where the Bears thought he was worthy of a second-round pick. With an NFL-ready body and superb on-the-field speed, Bostic could be the heir-apparent to former Chicago middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Those are large shoes to fill, but the Bears will give him every opportunity.

The third round saw the selection of another early entrant. With the No. 85 pick, the Washington Redskins selected tight end Jordan Reed. There was some debate over Reed. While some thought he could improve his stock with another season at Florida, others believe he was selected where he would have been regardless of it being this year or next. Reed may be looked to early to bail out Robert Griffin III when the dynamic quarterback is pushed out of the pocket.

The Miami Dolphins made quite the splash beginning in the fourth round. The new-look Phins may have become many an orange and blue fan’s favorite team after they selected three former Florida Gators. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was selected by Miami in the fourth round and was followed by running back Mike Gillislee and kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth.

The Gators’s run would come to an end in the sixth round when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected safety Josh Evans No. 169 overall. Evans ended a run of three Gators selected in six slots from picks 164 to 169.

Having eight players selected is nothing new for the Gators–just as recently as 2007 and 2010, Florida saw nine players picked–but it’s a great accomplishment all the same. Consistently putting players in the NFL–or at least preparing them to be drafted into the league–is something recruits notice. Not that Will Muschamp and the Gators need help in the recruiting department, but this is just one of many things that leads to top classes.

With the draft coming to an end, we closed the book on another season for the Florida Gators. The overall picture proves it to be a successful one. We can think of two very clear down moments that resulted in the ‘2’ in the 11-2 record, but the past season was one to build on. With that, we wish the newest NFL employees luck and remind them that once a Gator, always a Gator.

Sharrif Floyd Tops Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board; Could The Former Florida Gators DL Go No. 1?

Near the top of most lists for all of this year’s NFL Draft season, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd has become the No. 1 player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board. Floyd has already established himself as a top-five pick in next month’s draft, but as he continues to impress, the chances of him being selected first improve.

Sharrif Floyd - Florida Gators

Fans love to hate Kiper. If he doesn’t believe a player from your school is worthy of a top pick, you can’t stand the man and don’t believe he knows anything about, well, anything. If he does have your favorites among his top players, then it’s no better because that’s his job and he’s just regurgitating what you already knew. Basically, he can’t win.

Regardless, of how you feel about the man and his methods for ‘guessing’ the outcome of the NFL Draft, he does his homework and evaluates each year’s prospects to a level of detail few others do. And, of course, as Florida fans, we can now praise the man for his unmatched expertise and intelligence. There’s a player atop his board with a Gators logo next to his name.

Being atop Kiper’s Big Board doesn’t guarantee that Floyd will be selected No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. First of all, the Chiefs are thought by many to be leaning toward an offensive lineman (but they could take the best overall player regardless of position, which they should probably do). Second, this is a year without a definitive top choice. But Floyd does have a chance to be the highest Gator ever selected in the draft and that’s something for us to applaud.

Florida has had three former players go No. 3 overall, but never been able to jump into the top two. Those three are extremely recognizable.

    • 1967 – Steve Spurrier – QB
    • 1978 – Wes Chandler – WR
    • 2001 – Gerard Warren – DT

Floyd could join those three at No. 3, or make a name for himself all alone as the only Florida player to ever be selected in the top two. And—orange and blue glasses aside—he’s worthy. He has the size, speed and overall talent to succeed in the NFL in either 4-3 or 3-4 systems. Throughout his Gators career, Floyd was moved from defensive tackle to 4-3 defensive end to nose tackle to end in the 3-4. His versatility and ability to excel wherever he lined up has made him one of the better players available. Whenever he goes, we won’t be waiting long to hear his name.

Oddly enough, the baseball program’s highest drafted player also went No. 3—Mike Zunino one year ago. The men’s basketball program bests both football and baseball by one spot. Neal Walk went No. 2 overall in 1969.

Jelani Jenkins Declares For NFL Draft; LB Becomes Fourth To Leave Florida Gators Early

In a somewhat surprising move, Florida Gators’ redshirt junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins has declared his intention to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Jenkins joins fellow early draft entrants safety Matt Elam, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and tight end Jordan Reed.

Jelani Jenkins - Florida Gators

Though not lacking in potential or talent, Jenkins’ announcement is a bit of a shock because he could be deemed as the one of the four that would most benefit from another season with the Gators. Jenkins career wasn’t derailed by injuries, but they did slow his development at times. He came to the Gators as an all-world recruit, considered one of the better high school defensive players in the nation, but leaves with some feeling of “what if.” What if there hadn’t been a coaching change during his Florida career? What if he had been 100% healthy? What if he had played from day one? And what if he came back for one more season?

Jenkins is likely a mid-round pick as many teams might not believe they’ve seen enough to take him in the early rounds. He could be a sleeper if still available in the later rounds.

We’ll most remember Jenkins for one glorious moment that bailed the Gators out of possible disaster when he returned a block punt against Louisiana-Lafayette, sealing a Florida victory.

Jordan Reed To Forgo Senior Season; Florida Gators Tight End Will Enter NFL Draft

Florida Gators’ tight end Jordan Reed has joined safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd in declaring his intentions to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Reed–the Gators’ leading pass catcher in 2012–will forgo his senior season for a chance to play at the next level.

Jordan Reed - Florida Gators

Reed led the Gators with 45 catches for 559 yards and 3 touchdowns during his junior season. Despite being the most reliable receiver on the roster, his orange and blue career ended with a quiet 7 yards on 1 reception in the Sugar Bowl loss to the Louisville Cardinals.

Looking back on Reed’s career will always be enjoyable to say the least. He came to Florida as a quarterback and–though minimal–got his chance to play the position during the 2010 season. Reed’s most memorable performance as a QB came that season in a 55-14 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores. Reed was 11-for-19 for 120 yards, 1 passing touchdown and 1 interception while also rushing 16 times for 84 yards and another score.

Reed would only attempt one more pass after the 2010 season as the Florida coaches converted him to tight end full time in 2011. Over his final two seasons, he developed into a dangerous weapon with good speed and surprising power. Reed turned himself into an All-SEC TE and a possible future professional at the position. We should see Reed go in the first half of the 2013 NFL Draft.

The Gators have been building depth at tight end, but will miss Reed in 2013. This team has struggled to find go-to receivers in recent years and Reed clearly would have been the top choice next season.

Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd Head To NFL; Florida Gators Say Goodbye To Two Stars

Even if we did see this coming, the sting is still real. Florida Gators’ junior safety Matt Elam and junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd have both announced they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

Matt Elam - Florida Gators

Eventually, there will be many things to smile about when looking back at the Florida Gators’ season. For the immediate future, we’ll only remember the Sugar Bowl loss, but when we come around and are ready to celebrate the 2012 season for it’s high points, Elam and Floyd will be among them.

Both came to Florida with great expectations and both left fulfilling them, using the hire of head coach Will Muschamp to springboard their success. Elam was an All-American as a junior and Floyd collected All-SEC honors. They both would have surely liked to have ended their Gator careers better, but neither can be blamed for testing the NFL waters either. Both are potential first-round draft picks and it’s hard to imagine either falling past the second round.

Elam was the spark to the defense in both 2012 and 2011. When there was little to celebrate during the 7-6 2011 season, Elam played like he was on fire. He was a vocal leader on the field and, although frustration could be seen rising from time to time, he played as an example to others. Elam’s reckless style earned him some unwanted penalties on occasion, but it also made him the player he was. Just take a look at the 2012 victory over the LSU Tigers as an example.

Floyd could be described as a little bit of a slow starter, but most defensive linemen are (ignore that Jadeveon Clowney character at South Carolina). Playing at one of the most difficult adjustment positions when it comes to learning the game at the college level, Floyd was moved from inside to outside and back again. He improved tremendously over the course of his career and was a dominate player wherever he lined up. We should be watching Floyd for years to come at the next level.

As Elam and Floyd make the next step in their football careers, we wish them the best of luck. Once a Gator…