NFL Draft season officially kicked off with a slew of college All-Star games in January and early February, but it jumps into high gear this week with the Scouting Combine beginning in Indianapolis. Nine former Florida Gators were invited to the league’s annual showcase and will have the opportunity to impress hundreds of scouts, coaches, and executives ahead of the 2023 draft.
This year, 319 college football players were invited to attend the Combine, slightly down from previous seasons. Florida held strong, though, with those nine former Gators tying for third among all programs behind — shockingly — Alabama (13) and Georgia (12).
It is quite a surprise to see a mediocre 6-7 UF squad landing that many players in Indy, and it speaks to the sense of disappointment and underachievement that has settled in Gainesville the past couple of seasons. Historically, Florida is always among the leaders in Combine invites, first-round draft picks, and overall draft picks, but you’d expect back-to-back losing seasons to have had an impact. The NFL disagrees.
All nine Gators in Indy have a decent shot at being selected in the draft, and we have insights on what they’ll hope to accomplish and where they are projected to be drafted.
But, of course, we have to start with the player that has had everyone abuzz for the past week if not longer.
Projected Draft Slot: Early 1st round
Anthony Richardson’s decision to declare early for this year’s draft was met with mixed reviews back in December. But he will ensure that for the fourth straight year, and the 10th of the last 11, a former Gator will be selected in the first round.
Back in December, I wrote that Richardson was going to be a lock for a top-15 spot in the first round and might slide into the top five. After weeks of evaluations like these, I’m more confident than ever in that prediction.
Anthony Richardson…crazy upside. pic.twitter.com/bATIx5PSZP— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) February 24, 2023
please give this man a decent OL & a fun OC pic.twitter.com/9MNW4SxyT5— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) February 26, 2023
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. To win, to have sustained success, you have to have a special player at the position. Richardson’s immense physical gifts mean he has a chance to be a superstar in the league. If you are a team looking for a quarterback, drafting Richardson and having him live up to his potential will transform you into a Super Bowl contender, just like hitting on Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow did for the Chiefs and Bengals, respectively.
I covered Richardson’s flaws in that same post two months ago and am not downplaying them now. He has a lot of work to do to live up to the hype. But after going back and watching most of his play this past season, many are seeing that he’s not as raw as originally thought.
“Anthony Richardson is further along than people think.” pic.twitter.com/f0HoOkqFUz— Green Light with Chris Long (@greenlight) February 20, 2023
Great thread here on some of the hidden things Richardson did this season reading and understanding coverage and concepts. Of course, these highlights are from his best game against Tennessee and were too often missing in other games.
This is what I mean by understanding NFL route concepts (mesh). Tenn runs an inverted zone and Anthony Richardson just reads the triangle, once the DB drops down to take away the crossers, he just hits the hitch right behind it. Just shows anticipation and an understanding of… https://t.co/hey9eLt7Tn pic.twitter.com/VnlEE8TSV6— CLew ⚾️ (@droppedballspod) February 24, 2023
Richardson’s raw Combine numbers are going to be among the best ever for a quarterback. I believe his 40-time will be in the 4.4s. With his 6’5”, 235-pound frame, that could be the most impressive combination we’ve ever seen by a QB.
These are the fastest 40 times at the combine by QB's, along with their height and weight. Have to imagine Anthony Richardson finds himself on this list soon enough #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/88gaTRDalX— CFBNumbers (@CFBNumbers) February 27, 2023
Richardson’s biggest test — as is the case for most prospects — will come in his individual meetings with teams. Drilling down into his football acumen and personality, evaluators will be looking for reasons to dismiss his physical gifts. If Richardson can shine at the white board and impress in conversation, he’ll reinforce the notion that he has the greatest upside of any quarterback in this class.
Watched some games on #Anthony Richardson of U of Florida. Omg , arm strength, size, mobility are big time. Needs to be more consistent throwing the football but that can be fixed easily. Decision making is good but not great. GREAT UPSIDE.— Phil Simms (@PhilSimmsQB) February 27, 2023
And if early returns are any indication, Richardson is impressing many.
Anthony Richardson is said to be crushing the interview process at the Combine— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 2, 2023
"I talked to a handful of scouts last night ... Every single one of them said 'Anthony Richardson is the best QB interview they've had this year.'" — @nfldraftscout pic.twitter.com/MbZ3CAMBF5
Projected Draft Slot: Mid-to-late 1st round
Torrence was an NFL player before transferring to Gainesville last spring, but he likely secured his first-round status by going up against SEC competition and earning All-American honors.
O'Cyrus Torrence & I discussed his jump from the Sun Belt to the SEC with Torrence providing really good insight on how being around better competition pushed him to reach a new level as a player.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 27, 2023
Film room: https://t.co/IhvsWgN05f pic.twitter.com/8U9TlCIml1
Torrence might be the best run blocker in this class — and, oh, by the way, he also did not allow a sack at Louisiana or Florida. He’s one of the strongest players in the class and moves well for a lineman of his size. Coming off a good week at the Senior Bowl, he won’t have to do much this weekend to secure his place in the first round.
O'Cyrus Torrence will be a big winner at the combine pic.twitter.com/OkrWu6GsC0— John “Supi” Supowitz (@ImThatSupi) February 23, 2023
Torrence will be a day one starter in the league and barring injuries, he will play on Sundays for a long time.
Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence is an elite guard prospect. He’s an outstanding run and pass blocker, his strength is off the charts, he’s the full package. He’s a top 20 prospect in this draft and is a day one starter in the NFL. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/wvf7fhMus3— NFL DRAFT TA (@NFLDraftTA) February 24, 2023
Projected Draft Slot: 3rd/4th
Dexter’s collegiate career in Gainesville is certainly underrated. In the midst of so much defensive chaos and turmoil over the past three seasons, he was one of the best Florida defenders on the field just about every time out. And yet, at the same time, it does feel like the five-star never quite reached the elite expectations placed upon him.
As Dexter turns the page and enters the NFL, his combination of size and length along the interior defensive line makes him intriguing. The thought was that if he flashed with speed and quickness in Indianapolis, he could creep up into the second round.
day 2. take a chance on gervon dexter. explosive. good hands. instinctive.— Kyron Samuels (@kyronsamuels) February 17, 2023
strength & conditioning (always w/ DT’s) can improve & i don’t think he’s a guy you should over reach for, but there’s something to mold here for sure. needs the right fit. pic.twitter.com/eH37Vy33Ba
His athletic performance certainly wowed potential future Hall of Famer Calais Campbell.
Calais Campbell on NFL Network right now, “That Dexter kid from Florida? Whew. Big and athletic, can MOVE. Very impressive, he made a fan out of me today.”@GervonDexter is impressing fans, media, players, and most importantly NFL teams.— Brandon Olsen (@WNS_Brandon) March 2, 2023
Dexter will also need to dispel the idea that his motor does not run hard all the time — something that probably takes more than impressing in shorts. Even so, his ability to take on double teams inside, set the edge outside, and penetrate and make plays behind the line of scrimmage mean he shouldn’t get past day two.
Rashad Torrence II
Projected Draft Slot: 4th-7th
Torrence was the most surprising Gator to declare for the draft. With a couple of years of eligibility left, he had a chance to return to Gainesville and improve on some of the inconsistent tackling and coverage that plagued his career.
That said, he was Florida’s most productive safety, playing bigger than his size in attacking downhill from the deep safety spot. A strong 40 and some impressive agility in Indy will help him secure a draft spot.
Projected Draft Slot: 4th-UDFA
If you watched Florida’s defense at any point in the past few years, you fell in love with Ventrell Miller. And you’re also aware of just how snakebitten he’s been with injuries.
After coming back for a sixth season, Miller again flashed on the field as one of the better run defenders and surer tacklers to ever play in Gainesville. But he once again couldn’t finish out a season, succumbing to his body’s limitations. He had bone graft surgery on his right foot just before Christmas.
As my friend Cameron Wolfe reports, Miller will be at the Combine to meet with teams but obviously won’t work out. He’ll have to display his strong leadership skills and heart, while assuring coaches and scouts his body can hold up to the professional game.
Florida’s Pro Day later in March will be crucial for Miller. If he can get on the field, show off his lateral speed and quickness, he’ll convince a team to take a chance on him. But given his injury history, it’s likely he’s a day three pick and might even slide all the way out of the draft.
Brenton Cox, Jr.
Projected Draft Slot: 4th-7th
It’s a little weird for Florida to tout Cox as one of its nine at the Combine considering his dismissal from the program halfway through last season. But whatever the issues were, it’s the right thing to do. Let bygones be and do whatever it takes to help the young man have a successful future.
There is no doubt Cox is an immense talent as an edge rusher. There weren’t many in the country more explosive off the edge than him the past two seasons.
Now, finishing the play? Well, that was a different story.
Brenton Cox needs to finish this play, but Jayden Daniels is quite slippery and the quickness with the arm-over to get the clean win should be noted. Also, appreciate nose tackle Gervon Dexter not giving up on the play. pic.twitter.com/kI7ast4Mwi— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) February 24, 2023
That was just one of dozens of would-be sacks and game-changing plays that slipped through Cox’s hands over the past couple of seasons. If he can clean that up and show the ability to not just get to quarterbacks and running backs but to get them to the ground consistently, he can be an impact defender in the NFL. The Shrine Bowl was a start.
Great sack by Brenton Coxpic.twitter.com/jU3Z5apq1R— The Pick Is In (@ThePickIsInBR) February 3, 2023
Cox will also have to answer for his dismissal and take ownership of why he couldn’t stick at either Georgia or Florida.
Trey Dean III
Projected Draft Slot: 5th-UDFA
As a recruit, Dean seemed destined to be the next great defensive back in Florida’s DBU legacy, but as a Gator, he could never quite live up to the hype. He enters the Combine with many of those same issues preventing him from moving up draft boards despite his obvious physical talents.
Dean moved all around the defensive backfield in Gainesville, partly due to his versatility and partly due to not being able to lock down a starting position over others. At times, missed tackles made him a liability at safety. At others, inconsistency in coverage hindered him at corner and nickel.
That ability to play anywhere in the defensive backfield could help him in the draft process. Perhaps more importantly, Dean’s size and strength make him a candidate to fill more of the hybrid box safety role that is common across the NFL.
Trey Dean III clips vs. Georgia— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) January 25, 2023
My second favorite safety in the class right now. pic.twitter.com/4xZ1kJsjsc
He had a strong week in Las Vegas at the Shrine Bowl, earning All-West practice honors at safety and then taking home the defensive MVP of the game.
Dean showed off his speed, strength, and athleticism all week. He’s hoping to build off numbers like these at the Combine.
Trey Dean (@__TD3) was in the 99th percentile of BreakAways database for "hip flip time" - a metric that captures how "smooth" and "oily" a DB's hips are. #ShrineBowl #PathToTheDraft pic.twitter.com/Hpux5XzzQG— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) February 22, 2023
Dean is going to shine during testing and could even threaten the record for most reps on the bench press by a defensive back. With a great showing during his workouts and interviews, he could sneak into the fourth round — although I’d expect a fifth or sixth round grade.
Sending GOD My Wishes, Still Got Some Pending⏳ See Y’all in Indy pic.twitter.com/oqhglKuaPh— Trey Dean (@__TD3) February 20, 2023
Projected Draft Slot: 5th-UDFA
Gouraige will be looking to showcase his quick feet and lateral quickness in Combine drills and testing. With a good performance, he can secure a draft spot on the third day of the draft.
Projected Draft Slot: 6th/7th/UDFA
Shorter could be one of the bigger winners at the Combine this weekend. After a strong showing at the Shrine Bowl, he’ll have more eyes looking to see if his combination of speed and size can play in the league.
If Shorter can run a good 40 and show off great hands, he’s going to climb up draft boards from late-round project to mid-round sleeper.
Justin Shorter should be your new crush for late round diamond in the rough.— Jake Robertson (@GloryDaySports) February 24, 2023
17.7 Average depth of target (2nd in the power 5)
0 drops all last season from maybe the biggest arm in the nation.
Played in an anemic passing game last season.… https://t.co/pIlNQdodr1 pic.twitter.com/G0dUpcyTaG
Times/Days for Workouts
Thursday, March 2 (3 p.m.): DL/LB
Gervin Dexter, Brenton Cox, Jr.
Friday, March 3 (3 p.m.): DB/ST
Rashad Torrence II, Trey Dean III
Saturday, March 4 (1 p.m.): QB/WR/TE
Anthony Richardson, Justin Shorter
Sunday, March 5 (1 p.m.): RB, OL
O’Cyrus Torrence, Richard Gouraige