The Florida Gators added a fifth draftee to their 2017 NFL Draft crop on Friday night, and their first third-rounder, as linebacker Alex Anzalone was selected with the 76th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints.
The oft-injured Anzalone — who did not finish a single season of his four at Florida in full health, and suffered three season-ending injuries even after being redshirted in 2013 — surprised some by choosing to enter the 2017 NFL Draft instead of returning to Florida for one final go at putting a complete season of full health together. Getting selected in this draft — especially in the third round — is a vindication of that decision.
But his 53 tackles were third among all Gators defenders despite a broken arm curtailing his 2016 season to just eight games, and Anzalone showed the speed, quickness, and instincts that made him a coveted prospect way back in 2013 more consistently than he had in any previous stint in Gainesville, also developing a knack for getting pressures as a pass rusher.
Anzalone is the Saints’ first Gators draft pick since Ronald Powell in 2014, and the fifth Gator to be taken in this 2017 NFL Draft, following first-rounder Jarrad Davis and second-rounders Marcus Maye, Quincy Wilson, and Teez Tabor.