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2016 NFL Draft open thread, first round: How many Florida Gators will go Thursday?

There's a chance that half of Florida's 2015 secondary will be gone by midnight.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL Draft is just now beginning (8 p.m., ESPN or NFL Network / WatchESPN), and none of the Florida Gators in this year's draft is projected to go very early in Thursday's first round.

But as many as three might be gone by the end of the night.

The one player that it would be shocking to see still available by night's end, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, is likely to be a top-15 pick despite months of debating about his height and size. Surprises after Hargreaves gets selected — the in-state Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins would seem to be candidates to nab VH3 — could come in the form of first-round picks used on safety Keanu Neal and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard.

Neal's stock has risen meteorically in recent days and house, with some intense speculation that the Atlanta Falcons might want him in the latter half of the first round swirling on this Thursday. And Neal does go in the first round of the latest mock drafts from ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, the culmination of a fine pre-draft process that showcased Neal's athleticism and readiness to be a pro.

Bullard, meanwhile, is thought of as a likely Day 2 pick, caught between defensive end and defensive tackle, but slotted into the late first round in McShay's final mock draft.

If three Gators are taken in the first round, it will mark just the third time that has happened, after three-Gator hauls in the first rounds of the 1989 and 2010 drafts. And these three Gators would be the first trio of defenders to go in the first round.