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2019 NFL Draft: Florida’s Vosean Joseph picked in fifth round by Buffalo Bills

Florida’s rangy hitter is going to a defense that might be better than you realize.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Few Florida Gators have put as many licks on opponents in recent years as linebacker Vosean Joseph did. Now, he’ll begin his professional career by dishing out that sort of contact in Buffalo.

The Buffalo Bills selected Joseph with the ninth pick of the fifth round — No. 147 overall — in the 2019 NFL Draft on Saturday, adding him to what was quietly one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2018.

Joseph earned a reputation as a hitter both by laying thunderous hits on opponents — most notably LSU quarterback Danny Etling, as he tried to score in the Gators’ 2016 win in Baton Rouge — and by lacking in other facets of linebacker play, with instincts that sometimes led him astray and coverage skills that were average at best. But he improved throughout his career, and led Florida with 90 tackles in 2018, adding another nine tackles for loss and four sacks.

Still, Joseph’s decision to turn pro early was seen as a bit of a surprise by fans who though he could have improved even more with a final season in Gainesville, and he was never considered likely to end up going earlier than the NFL Draft’s Day 3.

Where he’s going, though, is a fairly nice spot for a mid-round pick, as Buffalo’s stout defense, coordinated well by Leslie Frazier and overseen by a defensive-minded head coach in Sean McDermott, is one of the NFL’s better young units. Joseph also joins first-rounder Ed Oliver, a potential star on the defensive line, in the Bills’ 2019 draft class.

With Joseph’s selection, the lone Florida early entrant yet to be selected in the 2019 NFL Draft is running back Jordan Scarlett.