Florida Gators: NFL Draft Projections, Best Fits Ahead Of Combine

    Florida Gators-NFL draft projections, evaluations and best team fit for each player ahead of the 2016 NFL Combine.

    February 16, 2016

    Florida Gators-NFL draft projections, evaluations and best fits ahead of the NFL Combine.

    Jim McElwain’s first season as head coach of the Florida Gators went better than most expected. Florida reached the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009. Despite the stomping they received from Alabama — plus the the beat-down Michigan gave them in the Citrus Bowl — the Gators still had a successful season.

    As McElwain continues to recruit his own players to Gainesville, Fla., there’s also quite a few guys moving on to the NFL — most of them from the Will Muschamp era.

    Florida has eight players headed to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine and a total of 12 players in the draft. Below are their individual projections and best fits for teams.

    Vernon Hargreaves III – CB

    Projection: Top 10

    Best Fit: Baltimore Ravens

    Player Comparison: Joe Haden

    There isn’t a whole lot you can find wrong with Vernon Hargreaves III’s game. You just have to know what his game is exactly. As a cover corner — in man or zone — he’s a lockdown defender. Hargreaves recognizes routes very quickly and attacks the ball in the air. There isn’t a wide receiver in the game that he shouldn’t be able to match step for step with his agility and acceleration. His biggest areas of improvement need to be in tackling. He leaves himself vulnerable by staying too high when attacking ball carriers. He needs to work on keeping a wide base, sticking his helmet into the ball carrier’s arm pit and driving his hips through while completing the tackle to the ground.

    Jonathan Bullard – DT/DE

    Projection: Late First Round

    Best Fit: Arizona Cardinals

    Player Comparison: Malik Jackson

    Whatever you do, do not sleep on this guy. Jonathan Bullard is a bad, bad man on the defensive line. The most impressive thing about him is he’s improved each and every year. In his freshman year, Bullard was overshadowed by Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Dante Fowler Jr. took all of the limelight. The best decision Bullard could have made was to return for his senior season, and he put on a show. He tallied 18 tackles for loss with 6.5 sacks for Florida. He’s a natural bull-rush defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, but he has the burst off the line and the versatility to slide out side and attack from other techniques, which can allow him to thrive in a 3-4 look. He was born to stop the run and learned to rush the passer. 

    Kelvin Taylor – HB

    Projection: Mid Fourth to Late Fifth Round

    Best Fit: Dallas Cowboys

    Player Comparison: C.J. Anderson

    When you look at the body of work Kelvin Taylor put together, the judgment depends on what you expected from him going into his career with the Gators. One could argue his development was stunted with Will Muschamp calling the shots, which isn’t necessarily wrong. But as the No. 1 running back in the 2013 class, Taylor didn’t exactly thrill everyone over the past few years. Having said that, he’s an explosive, shifty running back capable of stopping on a dime. His vision is his greatest attribute, which makes his cutback ability a big threat. He’s most effective on the perimeter, but running behind an offensive line like Dallas’ would help him “learn” how to run between the tackles. He did rush for 1,035 yards with 13 touchdowns last season, but the consistency is the biggest question mark with him. The body of work isn’t evenly distributed throughout his three collegiate seasons. Again, that wasn’t entirely his fault. 

    Antonio Morrison – ILB

    Projection: Early Third to Mid Fourth Round

    Best Fit: New York Jets

    Player Comparison: Brandon Marshall

    Talk about a roller coaster of a ride. Antonio Morrison went from a standout freshman to an off-the-field question mark, and he made the right choice in returning for his senior season — even if part of the reason was his health. Morrison evolved into a leader for Florida’s defense in 2015. He’s a natural playmaker whose instincts lead to loose balls and huge hits. Aside from his ability to level ball carriers, Morrison brings an ability to go get the quarterback, which is a valuable trait for defensive coordinators to utilize when dialing up stunts and blitzes. He’ll need to improve his man coverage skills, ball skills and his overall technique dropping back, but Morrison could be a steal for a few teams. 

    Keanu Neal – FS

    Projection: Late Second to Early Fourth Round

    Best Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Player Comparison: Harrison Smith

    There’s only one way to describe Keanu Neal: He’s a shark in bloody water. Early on, he was a victim to a crowded secondary, but he quickly found his way into the starting lineup at Florida. His man coverage skills, footwork and technique need work, but he’s probably the hardest hitting safety in the entire draft class. He’s reminiscent of Harrison Smith in that nature. Neal shows excellent form in bringing down ball carriers, and he times his hits over the middle very well, too. His ball skills could use some fine tuning, but they’re not a weakness by any means. When the ball is in the air, Neal finds it and makes a play. He’ll have to work on getting depth and keep receivers in front of him, but man, he can inflict pain.

    Demarcus Robinson – WR

    Projection: Mid Fourth to Early Sixth Round

    Best Fit: Baltimore Ravens

    Player Comparison: Josh Gordon

    One of the most talented players the Gators have had on offense in the past few years has also been one of the most frustrating. The suspensions and attitude obviously raise off-the-field questions, but there’s no denying Demarcus Robinson is a supremely skilled wide receiver. At 6-foot-1 and 204 lbs he has good size, but his most impressive attributes are his strong hands and his ability to create separation. Now, where can he improve? His after-the-catch antics are a concern. Robinson made a habit of palming the football with one hand and dancing laterally after he reeled in the ball instead of just putting a foot in the ground and getting north. His catch radius is exceptional, and he’s a deep threat with the ability to go over the middle or make plays on the perimeter. But he needs to grow up — big time. 

    Jake McGee – TE

    Projection: Early Sixth to Late Seventh Round

    Best Fit: New York Giants

    Player Comparison: Jordan Cameron

    When you watch Jake McGee on film, it’s hard not to fall in love with his pass catching ability. He has strong hands, maintains concentration through the catch, and he’s a decent route runner with the ability to find space when the play breaks down — all solid attributes. But he’s had injury concerns the last two years. He broke his leg when he transferred to Florida from Virginia and received a sixth year of eligibility because of it. He was even banged up in the senior bowl. And the stats don’t really tell the whole story because look at where he played. Virginia’s quarterback situation was a mess. The Gators’ wasn’t any better. He’ll be a late pick — if drafted at all — but McGee can have a solid future in the NFL … especially in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense.

    Alex McCalister – DE

    Projection: Mid Seventh to Undrafted

    Best Fit: Atlanta Falcons

    Player Comparison: Dion Jordan

    At 6-foot-5, it can be difficult for someone like Alex McCalister to stay low to the ground, but he’s shown time and time again at Florida that his best attribute is his ability to rush the edge and rip under offensive tackles. McCalister’s ability to stand up on the edge makes him a valuable asset for defensive coordinators looking to rotate their defensive linemen but still get a pass rush. His first step on twists with defensive tackles in a 4-3 scheme is solid and allows him to get depth on the guard. He needs to put on weight and work on his overall technique and hand fighting. He’s not a reliable threat to stop the run, but he can provide depth at the defensive end position. There were also some character issues at Florida that teams will have to fully examine.

    Brian Poole – CB

    Projection: Mid Seventh to Undrafted

    Best Fit: Seattle Seahawks

    Player Comparison: Jeremy Lane

    Everything about Brian Poole screams nickelback. He may have been one of the more under appreciated members of the Florida secondary over the past few years, but Poole always seemed to be in the right place in the right time, and that, in itself, is a valuable trait. He makes plays on the ball and can serve as a reliable option for corner blitzes. The footwork and the coverage skills can always be improved, but Poole could benefit greatly from being mentored by the secondary Pete Carroll has in Seattle, who’s always looking for depth at cornerback.

    Trip Thurman – OG

    Projection: Undrafted

    Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Player Comparison: Bryce Quigley

    Everything about Trip Thurman’s game needs work. His footwork needs work. His hand placement needs work. He isn’t ready to take on the beasts living on NFL defensive lines, but he is big, and he’s decently strong. The size is definitley there at 6-foot-5 and 307 lbs, but Thurman won’t be anything more than a depth chart filler in the NFL. He could provide some insurance for a team like Pittsburgh, though, who has had health issues on the offensive line.

    Latroy Pittman Jr. – WR

    Projection: Undrafted

    Best Fit: Kansas City Chiefs

    Player Comparison: Josh Boyce

    Talk about not living up to your potential. Latroy Pittman Jr. went into Florida as a pretty highly-touted wide receiver out of high school, and he just never put it all together. To be fair, the offense stunted under Will Muschamp while he was there, but injuries played a big factor, too. Pittman does have some speed. With any luck, he can find a role as a returner — maybe even as a fifth or sixth wide receiver. It wouldn’t be the worst idea for him to get reps at defensive back, too, in order to hang around the league.

    Mason Halter – OT

    Projection: Undrafted

    Best Fit: Washington Redskins

    Player Comparison: Ian Silberman

    There isn’t a very bright future for Mason Halter in the NFL, but he could possibly find his way onto a practice squad. In all likelihood, a prolonged stint in the NFL just doesn’t seem likely, but he can still find have a career in professional football in another league. Halter has decent size at 6-foot-5, 295 lbs and can get out and move a little bit, which allows him to create lanes in the running game. There just isn’t much to talk about after that.

    MORE: Two First-Round Gators In 2016 NFL Mock Draft


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