Florida wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and running back Kelvin Taylor plan to leave the school and enter the 2016 NFL Draft, Gators coach Jim McElwain announced during a press conference on Monday.
McElwain says RB Kelvin Taylor and WR Demarcus Robinson plan to enter NFL Draft. #Gators— Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) December 21, 2015
Both players are expected to appear for Florida in the Citrus Bowl on January 1.
McElwain says Taylor and Robinson will play in the Citrus Bowl. "I’m expecting those guys to play all-out."— Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) December 21, 2015
While McElwain announcing that both players plan to enter the draft isn't quite a declaration for them — something Robinson took exception to later on Monday — it's a good indication that this is the most likely scenario for both. Neither Robinson nor Taylor has been expected to return to Florida in 2016.
Their paths to this point have been far different, however.
Robinson came to Florida to much fanfare late in the 2013 recruiting class, having flipped from Clemson to the Gators ... and flipped back again ... and back to Florida in the final weeks of his extraordinarily eventful recruitment. And he immediately showed out in practices as early as that spring, appearing to be Florida's most talented receiver.
But Robinson would also go on to have a star-crossed career at Florida, with at least three separate suspensions that would have cost him games over all three years of his career. His promising practice play translated to just six catches as a true freshman, and while he led Florida in both catches and receiving yards in 2014, more than a quarter of his production in those two categories and receiving touchdowns as a sophomore came during an incredible 15-catch, 216-yard, two-score game against Kentucky in 2014, one that stands as his best day as a Gator.
Too often in 2014 and 2015, Robinson seemed to be underperforming his prodigious talent, whether as a result of poor choices that limited his use, maddening dancing to evade contact on the field, or inexplicable and untimely drops. While he has led Florida in receptions in each of the past two seasons, Robinson's never quite morphed into the big-play threat he could always have been, and though he's got NFL-caliber talent, it remains to be seen whether he can channel his efforts well enough to stick in the league and play on Sundays.
Taylor's story is more coherent and consistent: The son of Florida great Fred, Kelvin was a ballyhooed running back recruit in that same 2013 class Robinson was in, and was expected to eventually be Will Muschamp's bellcow. But he struggled often in 2013 and 2014, with Matt Jones providing a more physical presence for Muschamp and offensive coordinators Brent Pease and Kurt Roper when healthy and possessing a well-rounded skill set — including a penchant for pass blocking that far exceeded Taylor's — that got him the lion's share of the load.
As a (mostly) more mature player and Florida's feature back in a better-fitting offense in 2015, Taylor has shined brighter. He sits just 15 yards from joining Mike Gillislee as only the second Florida rusher to top 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason did so in 2004, has punched in 13 rushing touchdowns to sit one score away from tying Emmitt Smith's record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a Florida running back, and was a rare bright spot for the Florida offense in a miserable November in which he strung together three consecutive games of 100-plus yards for the first time in his career.
Taylor lacks truly exceptional speed, size, or quickness, and though he's certainly not bad at anything at this point in his career, his chances of having a long career in the NFL to rival his father's seem slim to my eyes. But there's no doubt that his NFL Draft stock is at its peak, and given the relative fungibility of running backs, any one with an NFL dream is wise to get as much money as possible before the miles on his treads make him a lemon in the league's eyes.
McElwain also confirmed Monday that defensive end Alex McCalister, reportedly dismissed from Florida's team for the Citrus Bowl, will enter the NFL Draft.