As soon as the NFL Draft was over this year everyone's attention turned to the lockout. Will the season start on time? Will there even be a season? Nobody knows at this point. I happen to think there will be a season and it will start on time.
Usually though, as soon as the NFL Draft is over, lists pop out from all over the place about the next years draft. Who will go #1 overall (Andrew Luck anyone?) and all of that good stuff. Sports fans are obsessed with lists. That's why ESPN does a Top 10 play list at the end of every SportsCenter. That's why we have power rankings in every sport ranking every team under the sun.
The 2012 NFL Draft is no different. NFLmocks.com compiled a list of five current Florida Gators football players to watch for in the 2012 NFL Draft and beyond. After the jump, I'll show you what they had to say about each player and give you my opinion on whether they were right or wrong, and what round I think that respective player could be drafted in.
John Brantley (Senior), QB, 6’3″ 220
Brantley has the requisite size and athletic ability to be an NFL quarterback, and he has the arm strength to do it as well. Against lesser competition (Florida International) it seems he is very accurate under pressure and on the run, and throws a very catchable ball. Obviously, he had some real problems translating that to the field this past year, where he threw for merely 2,061 yards, nine touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while completing just under 61 percent of his passes. This all coming after a sophomore campaign where Brantley threw for 410 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions completing 75 percent of his limited number of passes the year before. There’s no doubt the skills are there for Brantley to be a successful quarterback, and hopefully with one year in Charlie Weis’ system, he can grow into a potential starting NFL quarterback as well. He had shown glimpses of what he can bring to the table, but can he put it all together this year? Questions remain for Brantley, but he remains a viable NFL prospect.
John Brantley will always be a viable NFL prospect because he plays the quarterback position and he is 6-foot-3. His size alone (added with the fact he played at a major university) will warrant a look from NFL scouts. There is no doubt he has shown glimpses of what he can do, he just appears to be afraid to do it often. That is where Charlie Weis comes into play. If Charlie can orchestrate the same turn around for Brantley that he did with Brady Quinn, there is no reason to believe that Brantley shouldn't be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. If Brantley has a season like he did last year, he'll be a 5th, 6th or 7th round pick if he is even drafted at all.
Jeffery Demps (Senior), RB, 5’8″ 190
Jeff Demps is flat out one of the fastest men in sports right now, regardless of what level. Demps has Olympic track star speed, and translates that on to the field. Last year, he led the Gators with 551 rushing yards, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Demps has 17 career rushing touchdowns, and has averaged 7.5, 7.0, and 6.0 yards per carry throughout his Gators career. He has had some injuries, which has prevented him from being a top tier runner in college football, but he definitely has game-breaking speed and could be a great change of pace back at the next level, and also has potential possibly as a slot wide receiver and return specialist.Demps is the fastest track athlete in college right now (9.85 second 100 meter dash) and could challenge for the fastest recorded 40 yard dash time in the history of the league at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.
My gut feeling is that Jeff Demps goes the same route that John Capel went. Demps very well could explode at the combine and post the fastest time in the 40 yard dash, but I believe that his future is in Track and Field. Change of pace scat backs sometimes do very well in the NFL, but none of them have ever had the speed that Demps has. The fact that he skipped out on spring ball this year to run track (as he has in the past) shows me that he is in fact thinking of a future outside of football. He can make a lot of money running track, winning Olympic medals and traveling the world. I think he'll be drafted (probably a 2nd day pick) and he might stick with a team for a little bit, but he'll see the light and go with track.
Chris Rainey (RS Senior), RB/WR, 5’9: 178
Very versatile player for the Gators who comes with a long list of red flags. Rainey has been arrested and charged with stalking in his time at Florida, allegedly sending a text to his former girlfriend of three years that said, "Time to die," and then after she called the police, he allegedly told her to "Wait and see what happens when they [the police] leave." Coaches declared that Rainey was no longer part of the Florida football team in September last season, but he was given a second chance and enters the season on top of the team’s depth chart at both running back and as a wide receiver. Rainey is a smaller player who can contribute in a multitude of ways thanks to his gift of blazing speed. Rainey is getting all of the reps right now as the starting RB in Charlie Weis’ system with other players nursing injury and the aforementioned Jeff Demps running track, and he says it feels like he’s back in high school again now running out of the I-formation. Watch out for Rainey to have a huge year if he can stay healthy. With Brantley’s struggles at quarterback, the Gators should use their speedy running game to get the offense going, and with two guys in Rainey and Demps who have speed to burn, they could be dangerous.
Chris Rainey has two HUGE questions marks that will follow him to the NFL. Character issues and an inability to stay healthy. Both of those will make him a liability and teams especially aren't going to spend a high draft pick on a running back who can't stay healthy. The fact that he has played some wide receiver is a plus, but it isn't enough to outweigh the negatives. He's probably going to end up as a 2nd day draft pick at best, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him taken in the last couple of rounds. If he has a monstrous year this year, stays completely healthy and out of trouble he just might sneak into the 2nd or 3rd round. I just don't see that happening.
Deonte Thompson (RS Senior), WR, 6’0″ 200
The common theme so far in the Florida skill position players has been speed, and Thompson is another guy who has a ton of it. Thompson enters the season as the most experienced receiver on the Gators’ depth chart, and he led the team in receiving last year with 38 catches for 570 yards and a touchdown. You would love to see Thompson able to get into the end zone more often, and he was on pace to seemingly do so before with seven touchdowns in his first two seasons as a Gator. Shows very solid effort as a blocker downfield. Able to get downfield in a hurry, and has big play ability. Thompson is probably most famous for his comments about transitioning from Tim Tebow to John Brantley, where he said that Brantley was a "real quarterback" as opposed to the way he described Tebow. He’s got great size and speed, and should be able to contribute to an NFL offense and special teams unit.
Two things are guaranteed to get you a look at from NFL scouts if you are a wide receiver. Speed (which Thompson clearly has) and the ability to block down-field (again, Thompson excels at this aspect). Thompson is the type of wide receiver who will probably have to earn his spot on an NFL team through the special teams route, but he has plenty of experience playing on special teams in college so he has that going for him. As with Demps and Rainey, he'll get a look because of his speed but he is really going to have to improve on his drops. His penchant for dropping the ball won't result in him going undrafted but it will lower him a round or so. He's probably now, right around a 4th or 5th round pick, possibly a 6th.
Jaye Howard (RS Senior), DT, 6’3″ 305
Howard is Florida’s most productive returning defensive tackle defensively, though following ankle surgery this offseason, he is not listed on the Spring two-deeps. He has NFL potential with his size, strength, and athletic ability, and if he can build off of a junior season where he had 12 tackles for loss, he could be a day two pick in the coming draft. Howard also has seven career sacks, and could be a big impact player and leader for the Gator defense in 2011.
The "Landlord" as he is so nicknamed, had a very productive year this past season. If he has a big season like he did last year he without question will be picked on the 2nd day (probably in the 2nd round). If he loses substantial playing time to Sharrif Floyd, William Green or any other DT, he could be in trouble. If he explodes during the season and becomes one of those "unblockable" defensive tackles and impresses mightily at the combine, he just might be able to sneak into the 1st round. But the type of season that would take seems highly unlikely given the quality the Gators have on the defensive line.