Thursday was shaping up to be the day that one of Florida standout Jawaan Taylor’s biggest dreams came true.
Instead, after the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft came and went on Thursday night, Taylor will have to wait at least until Friday night to determine where his professional football career will begin.
Taylor arrived at Florida with relatively little fanfare — he was a low-profile three-star recruit, especially compared to five-star Martez Ivey, whom he ended up bookending Florida’s offensive line with for three years — but he dropped weight both prior to arriving in Gainesville and early in his career and made his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman as a result. From there, Taylor developed into a reliable pass protector and bullish run blocker with nimble feet — and at 6’5” and around 320 pounds, Taylor also has the sort of ideal size for the tackle position that made it easy for NFL folks to see a perennial starter.
And Taylor spent nearly all of the pre-draft process as a surefire first-rounder, with buzz suggesting he was widely coveted and was likely a top-10 pick, with only a smattering of “red flags” with seemingly dubious relation to truth appearing late in the game.
Yet sliding not just to the end of the first round but completely out of it — and doing so as one of the players the NFL invited to Nashville for the draft — is a suggestion that there was legitimate concern about Taylor’s health, related to some knee injury not widely known by the public.
Taylor will spend whatever portion he spends of Friday’s second and third rounds yet undrafted squarely atop “best player available” lists, and he is still likely to end up being selected first among Florida’s crop of players. (Less importantly, his slip means Florida’s string of consecutive years with a first-rounder ended last night, as the first round went without a Gator being drafted for the first time since 2012.)
But whether it’s concern over this knee injury or something entirely different, something has clearly depressed Taylor’s stock, costing him millions and making what could have been a fully joyous night one to remember mostly as motivation.