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Florida Gators in the NFL Draft: The best picks ever by AFC teams

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With the NFL draft tonight, we go team-by-team in search of the greatest Gators selected by each AFC squad.

Fred Taylor eludes the tackle of Sean Kelly in 1996.
Fred Taylor eludes the tackle of Sean Kelly in 1996.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

According to the 2014 Florida football media guide, through last year, 327 Florida Gators had been drafted by 34 different NFL franchises — 31 current and three now defunct.

So at Alligator Army, we had a question: who is the best UF draft pick is for each NFL team?

Here are the answers for the AFC. The NFC selections are here.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: Travis Taylor: 2000, round one, pick No. 10, wide receiver

It was a close one between Taylor and former center Jeff Mitchell, but I gave Taylor the nod for being with the organization for five years while Mitchell spent only three. Taylor was a productive pass-catcher, seventh in the league in yards per reception in 2003 with 16.2. His best season was in 2002 when he had 61 catches for 869 yards and six touchdowns, both team-high marks.

BUFFALO BILLS: Scott Hutchinson, 1978, round two, pick No. 38, defensive end.

The Bills have only drafted four UF players in their history and have only selected one — Hutchinson — since 1968. Hutchinson had a six-year career, three of them in Buffalo in which he started eight games and recovered three fumbles.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: Cris Collinsworth, 1981, round two, pick No. 37, wide receiver.

You may recognize him as Al Michaels' partner in crime on Sunday Night Football telecasts but Collinsworth was a solid NFL wideout for eight seasons with the Bengals. He made the Pro Bowl in his first three years in the league and was second team All-NFL as voted on by the Associated Press in all three of those seasons as well. He eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark four times in his career and came close in 1984 when he gained 989. He most likely would have done so again in the strike-shortened 1982 season during which he gained 700 yards in nine games.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: Gerard Warren, 2001, round one, pick No. 3, defensive tackle.

The Browns are an interesting team to do this exercise with and forgive me if you think Warren is a bust. Warren was a serviceable defensive lineman during his time with the Browns but fans aren't exactly high on him because of his lack of production given the place he was drafted. That's a very fair criticism and I don't really care because unless you're going to argue Joe Haden — which I can absolutely entertain — Cleveland doesn't have a more productive drafted Gator in their franchise's history. Corner play is also so notoriously tough to quantify and his numbers aren't so eye-popping that they separate him from Warren by a longshot. Warren had five sacks as a rookie and 48 tackles then his production took a hit during his sophomore season. He rebounded to have 9.5 sacks over his final two seasons as a member of the Browns before being traded to the Broncos.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Ellis Johnson, 1995, round one, pick No. 15, defensive lineman.

This one came down to two players that actually shared real estate on Indy's defensive line in the mid-to-late 90s. Johnson joined 1992 draft pick Tony McCoy and by 1997 was playing right defensive tackle while McCoy played left. Johnson averaged 4.7 sacks over his seven year Colts career and has two fat guy interceptions to his credit, enough to give him the honor as best Indianapolis drafted Gator on its own merits.

DENVER BRONCOS: Cooper Carlisle, 2000, round four, pick No. 112, guard.

This may be my bias towards offensive linemen shining through (it definitely is) but as a member of a Broncos line unit that paved the way for a 1,000 yard rusher in all but one of the seasons between 1995 and 2006. Guys like Reuben Droughns, Olandis Gary and Tatum Bell hit four figures in Mike Shanahan's offense, popularizing the term "zone blocking," along the way. Offensive line is without a doubt the most unique position in team sports. No other position group has more of an impact on offensive success while having less direct contact with the ball/puck — there are actual legislated rules against them touching the ball and going downfield. Because of that, I found Carlisle worthy of the best Gator drafted distinction for Denver. He did not crack the regular starting lineup until his last two seasons in town but his development as a player showed through because he started his final 32 games as a Bronco and then the next 95 as a member of the Oakland Raiders. His development into a mature and talented lineman is what I'm keying on, and besides them sticking around to have a long career with your team, isn't that what you want out of any draft pick?

HOUSTON TEXANS: Jabar Gaffney, 2002, round two, pick No. 33, wide receiver.

Gaffney is the only Gator the Texans have selected in their 13-year history so he wins this one by default. Gaffney was quickly overshadowed by a hotshot wideout drafted the season after him named Andre Johnson but he was serviceable for the four seasons he played in Houston. Gaffney averaged 502 yards per season with his best year with the team coming in 2004 when he hauled in 41 receptions for 632 yards and two touchdowns. Also, Fox had a fantastic oral history of the Gaffney's most famous/infamous moment at UF last week that's definitely worth the read.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Fred Taylor, 1998, round one, pick No. 9, running back.

Of course it's Taylor. He's a member of Jacksonville's Pride of the Jaguars ring of honor and is 15th on the NFL's all-time leading rushing list with 11,695 yards. Taylor probably won't get into the Hall of Fame but every running back ahead of him on the all-time list is enshrined in Canton besides LaDainian Tomlinson (who isn't eligible until next season). Besides that, Taylor was a consistent face to outsiders of a young franchise for 10 years. When you thought of Jacksonville you thought of Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Randy Clark, 1984, round eight, pick No. 202, defensive back.

The Chiefs are a franchise that has drafted a few UF players but only Clark has done anything for the franchise on the field, and it's not much playing in only two games as a Chief. He's much more fondly remembered by older Gators fans for a late-game interception in the 1982 win over USC which was called by the editor of the Gainesville Sun at the time "probably the greatest victory in the school's (then) 76-year-old football history..."

MIAMI DOLPHINS: Nat Moore, 1974, round three, pick No. 78, wide receiver.

Moore is one of the most prolific wide receivers in franchise history. He's in the top-three in career receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards for the team and was a model of consistency. Moore was not a wideout that ever put up 1,000 yards in a season but his 13 season career was at its best in 1977 when he had 765 yards and led the NFL with 12 receiving touchdowns. He was voted to his only Pro Bowl that season and was a consensus first team All-NFL selection.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Aaron Hernandez, 2010, round four, pick No. 113, tight end.

After a rookie season in which he was 11th in the NFL in tight end receiving yards Hernandez followed it up with a year in which only Jimmy Graham and teammate Rob Gronkowski could be argued as definitively better players at the position, and I'd argue that the dual tight end nature of New England's offense that year makes what each player did look even better. Hernandez caught 79 balls on 113 targets for 910 yards and seven touchdowns but sat out two games with an injury. He was again banged up in 2012 missing three games on two separate occasions and totaled 483 yards on 51 receptions in 10 games played. Whatever potential Hernandez had to be an all-pro NFL target was squandered the night Odin Lloyd was killed on June 17, 2013. This month, Hernandez was found guilty of murder in the first degree following a trial and will stand before a jury of his peers again in late May in connection with a separate double murder.

NEW YORK JETS: Derrick Gaffney, 1978, round eight, pick No. 197, wide receiver.

Much like his son Jabar, Derrick Gaffney wins the Jets' moniker as best Gator by default, although there were other options, none of whom were particularly appealing. In their first four seasons both Derrick and Jabar had similar production numbers. Derrick averaged 467 yards per season with five total touchdowns. Jabar averaged a shade over 502 with six total scores. Unlike his son, Derrick played for the Jets his entire career but his production declined every year and he was never able to regain the form shown in his rookie season in when he had 691 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

TENNESSEE TITANS: Jevon Kearse, 1999, round one, pick No. 16, defensive end.

"The Freak" absolutely laid waste to the NFL as a rookie and was the first player the Titans picked after rebranding from the Oilers. Kearse had 14.5 sacks (fourth most in the league), eight forced fumbles and 48 total tackles. That level of production was good enough to earn him Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year honors as well as a consensus naming to the All-NFL first team. Kearse came back the following year and tallied 11.5 sacks and then 10 in his third year in 2001. He had two stints with the team that drafted him, a five-year stretch in the beginning and the last two years of his career. He retired with the fourth-most sacks in team history and holds the team record for forced fumbles.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: David Little, 1981, round seven, pick No. 183, linebacker.

Little was referred to by legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll as "the glue who held our defense together," and he played 12 seasons in the black and gold taking over for Hall of Famer Jack Lambert as an inside linebacker and was first team All-NFL in 1990. Little died at the age of 46 while weightlifting in his home in 2005.

OAKLAND RAIDERS: Mo Collins, 1998, round one, pick No. 23, offensive lineman.

Collins once said of Peyton Manning "As a person and a player, I think (he) is highly overrated. Doug Johnson is just as good a quarterback ... There is no ‘I' in team. They (media) put all the focus on Manning." That was Collins and at 6-foot-4 325 pounds everything about him was big, not just his talk.

Collins played six seasons with the Raiders including starting in the Super Bowl blowout at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the tuck rule game against the New England Patriots. Knee injuries forced a premature end to his career. He passed away on Oct. 26, 2014 during his first season as head coach at his alma mater, West Charlotte High School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Brandon Siler, 2007, round one, pick No. 240, linebacker.

Siler was a modest contributor playing at linebacker in 58 games during his four year tenure with the Chargers and his 52 tackles in 2009 was good enough for fourth on the team. He made the team initially as a special teams contributor and took advantage of playing time offered thanks to a suspension to someone ahead of him on the depth chart. Siler went on to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs but an Achilles injury led to the end of his career.

Agree with my picks? Disagree? Head to the comments section and let me know.