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Breaking down Florida’s roster after the 2017 NFL Draft early entry deadline

As many as three of Florida’s early entrants could be first-round picks.

NCAA Football: Georgia vs Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for early entry to the 2017 NFL Draft came earlier this week, on Monday, January 16, and the Florida Gators’ contingent of players in this year’s draft is now set, barring the league unexpectedly not accepting one of the program’s underclassmen.

Here’s who is and isn’t going pro.

Announced early entries

Florida has five players forgoing eligibility to head to the pros: Linebacker Alex Anzalone, defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, offensive tackle David Sharpe, and cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson all announced that they would pass on returning to Gainesville for the 2017 season to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

Brantley, Tabor, and Wilson were all widely expected to leave Florida, and are widely expected to be considered near the top of the draft. Mel Kiper, Jr.’s Mock Draft 1.0, released Friday morning, has Tabor and Wilson going No. 13 and No. 14, respectively; Walter Football has Brantley as the draft’s No. 3 defensive tackle, and projects him as a first-rounder.

Anzalone was also seen as more likely to leave than return, though the same thing that made him likely to go — an extensive injury history — may be what prevents him from being selected early. Walter Cherepinsky — the Walter of Walter Football — blasted Anzalone’s decision to enter the Draft as “reckless” and “one he’ll eventually regret,” but the site also lists him as its No. 12 inside linebacker in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Sharpe’s decision was the first of Florida’s early entrants, and came as a genuine surprise. While Sharpe possesses the physical tools to be an NFL player, he is seemingly even further from the technical baseline to be an effective NFL tackle than D.J. Humphries was when he surprised many Florida fans by declaring early in 2015 — and, comparing the two, Humphries had superior agility and footwork. Cherepinsky called Sharpe’s decision to leave for the NFL “insanely stupid,” but Walter Football writer Charlie Campbell rated Sharpe as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the 2017 draft class in early February, and both writers projected that he would be drafted.

Seniors entering NFL Draft

In addition to those five early entries, a few Florida seniors are likely to be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Jarrad Davis is the unquestioned leader of those seniors, much as he was the unquestioned heart of Florida’s defense for most of his final two years with the Gators. Kiper has him going No. 22 — and to the Miami Dolphins, where he could pair with former Gator Jelani Jenkins in a young linebacking corps — in that same Mock Draft 1.0, and it’s widely assumed that Davis will be in the mix near the end of the first round.

Safety Marcus Maye could also merit a first-round selection, though a deep pool of talent at safety in this year’s draft might push him to the second round. Walter Football rates him the No. 7 safety in the 2017 class and projects him as a second or third rounder, but Maye’s stock could be buoyed by the success of former secondary partner Keanu Neal, who has starred for the Atlanta Falcons as a rookie.

Defensive linemen Bryan Cox, Jr. and Joey Ivie might also earn consideration as late-round picks. Cox, who is participating in this weekend’s East-West Shrine Game, might also be a player who catches on as an undrafted player if he is not selected, perhaps in part due to his father working as the Falcons’ defensive line coach. Ivie issued a heartfelt thank-you letter to Gator Nation shortly before the Outback Bowl.

Seniors Ahmad Fulwood, Daniel McMillian, and Neil MacInnes are all out of eligibility at Florida, and Draft-eligible as a result. Fulwood and McMillian could be training for the NFL Draft, but there is no indication from their social media accounts that they are doing so, while MacInnes, famously added to Florida’s 2015 roster as a walk-on kicker, is likely to continue his path to dentistry.

Announced returns and departures

Florida corner Duke Dawson, safety Marcell Harris, and punter Johnny Townsend were the only Gators to make public announcements about their intentions to remain in Gainesville.

Dawson made his announcement on the Tuesday after Florida’s Outback Bowl win over Iowa, and Harris made his within a week of that victory, while Townsend waited more than a week longer to do the same.

Dawson is likely to improve his stock with a senior season that might give him the opportunity to play outside cornerback rather than being relegated to the slot. Harris, too, should develop as a player and a prospect in 2017, after coming on strong in the wake of Maye’s season-ending injury.

Townsend, on the other hand, will have a hard time improving his stock — it’s hard to go from being arguably the nation’s best punter to definitively the nation’s best punter — but is quite possibly missing out on a year’s worth of NFL earnings by returning. Only three punters were taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, none earlier than the sixth round, but all three averaged fewer yards per punt in 2015 than Townsend did in 2016, when his 47.9 yards per punt led the country.

Meanwhile, center Cameron Dillard is the only Florida player to announce an intention to transfer since the end of the 2016 season. Dillard has a Florida degree and will likely be eligible as a graduate transfer at the FBS level in 2017.

Likely returnees

A slew of other draft-eligible juniors, redshirt juniors, and redshirt sophomores are set to return to Florida in 2017, but did not announce their intentions publicly.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio is probably the headliner among them. Del Rio started in six games for Florida in 2016, and averaged a surprising 226.3 yards per game despite suffering a knee injury against North Texas, playing far less effectively after his return, and eventually sitting for the final five games of Florida’s season after injuring his shoulder at Arkansas. He was likely to compete for Florida’s starting quarterback job in spring practices prior to Thursday’s announcement that he would miss those practices after having surgery on an injured shoulder, but was not seen as the likely victor of that competition, with freshman Feleipe Franks expected to start for Florida in 2017.

Del Rio also graduated from Florida in December, which could permit him to transfer to another FBS program in 2017 without sitting out a year under the NCAA’s graduate transfer exception.

Juniors Dre Massey, Brandon Powell, and C.J. Worton are all set to return and bolster Florida’s receiving corps, with Massey likely retaining two years of eligibility after a season-ending ACL injury in 2016. (Of those three, Powell was the only one who could have been drafted, and he shot down speculation about that a week ago.) Junior DeAndre Goolsby and redshirt sophomores C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens should do the same for Florida’s tight ends.

Redshirt sophomores Khairi Clark and Justus Reed should return to Florida’s defensive line, while Andrew Mike should return to Florida’s offensive line. Redshirt junior Nick Washington is set to pair with Harris as Florida’s battery of starting safeties in 2017, while junior Joseph Putu should return in Florida’s secondary, and may be in line for more work as a senior.

Last but not least, redshirt sophomore Eddy Piñeiro should return as Florida’s kicker in 2017 after having one of the most accurate seasons in school history in 2016. He should be backed up by Jorge Powell, who is also just a redshirt sophomore.