The 2013 NFL Draft weekend proved, once again, that it is not only great to be a Florida Gator: It also pays off. Eight Gators were drafted, with seven coming in the first five rounds, one shy of Alabama and LSU's high-water mark for most players takenin the first five rounds. Four out of eight Gators drafted were selected by teams in the state of Florida. Each player selected seemed to fit each team's need, and with that, we could see a lot of these players making their mark in the pros sooner rather than later.
Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota Vikings (Round 1, No. 23)
Every year, there is a player that falls father than he should. This year, to the dismay of Gator fans, that player was Sharrif Floyd. Floyd was projected to be a top-five pick; some mock drafts even had him going as high as No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But after the Jags decided to go with Luke Joeckel at No. 2, and the Raiders traded out of the No. 3 spot, Floyd's slide began.
I predicted Floyd would go out of the top 10, but I was just as shocked as any when teams like the Jets, Panthers, and Cowboys all passed on him on his way down to No. 23. In Minnesota, Floyd will learn behind Kevin Williams, a six-time Pro Bowler. The 4-3 system the Vikings run is perfectly suited for a 3-technique defensive tackle like Floyd. Minnesota planned on picking a defensive tackle all along, but I doubt they expected that defensive tackle to be Floyd. He should see a lot of snaps in his rookie season, and will be groomed as the centerpiece of that defense for when Williams, 32, retires.
Matt Elam, Baltimore Ravens (Round 1, Pick No. 32)
Gator fans were guaranteed at least one pick in the first round (Floyd), but whether or not Elam would go was a debate. Well, with the final pick of the first round, the defending Super Bowl Champions selected Elam to begin their secondary's life after Ed Reed.
Elam instantly becomes the starter at either FS or SS after the departure of Reed and Bernard Pollard. According to Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, Elam was the highest-rated player on their board. He'll be reunited with Teryl Austin, the Ravens' secondary coach, who coached Elam at Florida his freshman year. Austin knows what he's capable of, and if Elam acclimates, look for a lot of production early on.
Jon Bostic, Chicago Bears (Round 2, pick No. 50)
Team scouts look at the measurables, like height, weight, and NFL Combine drill numbers, but when coaches get involved during drills, they look at the whole package. Bostic was projected to be a third-round pick, but after coaches got to see him in private workouts, Bostic's draft stock significantly rose.
Bears GM Phil Emery said that Bostic will have a chance to play all three linebacker positions while he learns their system. Though Bostic won't start week 1 (baring an injury to the other players), he should be the first linebacker off the bench at any of the linebacker positions. His versatility allows him to play in any scheme on any down.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (Round 3, pick #85)
Reed had to wait for his name to be called a little later than he thought, believing he would be a second-round pick. The knock on Reed is that he hasn't had time to fully learn the skills of the tight end position. He was brought in to Florida as a QB out of high school but switched over to full-time at tight end for his sophomore season.
He's probably third on the Redskins depth chart at TE, but Reed's receiving skills and big body will allow him to see a good amount of time on offense as a WR, FB, or TE. He'll also get the majority of special teams snaps.
Jelani Jenkins, Miami Dolphins (Round 4, pick No. 104)
Players drafted on what is now the third day of the NFL Draft typically don't start within the first few years they're in the league. That's probably the case with Jelani Jenkins, but I love the Dolphins' thought process in drafting him.
Jenkins may be even more athletic than his UF linebacker counterpart, Bostic. Jenkins will start the year off getting a lot of special teams time, but could work his way into a significant substitute roll early on in the year. With two new starting linebackers in Miami (Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler), Jenkins has a great opportunity to make a good impression and see some quality playing time. He just has to stay healthy.
Mike Gillislee, Miami Dolphins (Round 5, Pick No. 164)
There were few situations better for Mike Gillislee than ending up with the Miami Dolphins.
Gilly is the kind of RB that can do everything well, but isn't spectacular at anything. His skills as a change-of-pace RB along with reliable hands allow him to be plugged in on any down. Current Dolphins starting RB, Daniel Thomas is in his third year in the league and only average 3.6 yards-per-carry last season. That's nowhere near impressive, or job-securing.
Gillislee also has to beat out Lamar Miller, but I wouldn't be shocked if he was splitting time by the end of the season. All depends on how quickly he improves to the NFL game. After he was drafted, Gillislee said, "The Dolphins were always my favorite team. It was always a dream, and now that dream came true."
Caleb Sturgis, Miami Dolphins (Round 5, Pick No. 166)
Round 5 is pretty early for a kicker, and for that, Sturgis should be honored. He should also know that that means he has a chance to be the starting kicker by Week 1, though Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said "There's definitely going to be a competition at placekicker. We're not giving the job away." Current starting kicker Dan Carpenter missed field goals last season.
Josh Evans, Jacksonville Jaguars (Round 6, Pick No. 169)
Evans, like Gillislee, has a very good chance of contributing right away for a guy drafted this late. If you don't watch Florida games, you wouldn't understand the improvement that lead to production for Josh Evans all the way to his senior year. He gets plugged into a depth chart with only Dwight Lowery in front of him at FS. Lowery has only had one season where he had more than 50 tackles and is coming off a season-ending foot injury. After analyzing the situation, Evans might have a better chance to start in Week 1 than Bostic, Jenkins, and Reed.