The only thing more prevalent on the Internet right now than NFL mock drafts are jokes about blue checkmarks. There are hundreds — thousands? — of mocks out there. The most prolific NFL draft pundits are on mock draft 7.0 by now, and every top prospect has been projected to just about every NFL team.
That said, I’m joining the party with my own mock draft, one specific to the Gators and the 11 former players hoping to hear their names announced on the draft stage in Kansas City starting Thursday. With each player, I’ll offer a best fit prediction as well.
After covering the NFL Scouting Combine and Florida’s Pro Day, I have had the opportunity to see all 11 in action in front of hordes of scouts, coaches, and general managers. I’ve spoken to some of those talent evaluators as well as the reporters and analysts I work with.
I think a realistic over/under on Gators draft picks is 5.5. Anthony Richardson, Cyrus O’Torrence, and Gervon Dexter are locks — and likely in the first three rounds Thursday and Friday. In a worst-case scenario, those three are the only former Gators selected, matching the same number of picks used on Florida players in the 2022 draft. Best-case, the Florida contingent might come close to equaling the most Gators ever taken in one draft — nine, last done in 2010.
Richardson will become the fifth Florida quarterback drafted in the first round, following in the footsteps of Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman, John Reaves, and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier was the highest selection at third overall, and there is some thought Richardson could match that if a team trades up to grab him.
The consensus is that Richardson is headed to the Indianapolis Colts with either the fourth pick or via trade at number three. Richardson visited Indy two weeks ago and then met with the team virtually again last week. He’s also worked out with Colts current projected starter Gardner Minshew in the run-up to the draft.
One team that could slide in front of the Colts? The Tennessee Titans. They hosted Richardson and followed up with a virtual visit as well. Imagine AR and Derrick Henry in the same backfield!
The Seahawks, Raiders, Falcons, and Ravens have all shown extensive interest in Richardson as well.
BEST FIT: Baltimore
The Ravens are one of the most stable, well-run franchises in the NFL. Under John Harbaugh, they’ve made the playoffs in 10 of 15 seasons including four of the past five, and were Super Bowl 47 champs.
If they feel they cannot get a deal done with Lamar Jackson, they should move on and use the extra draft capital to come up and get Richardson. Harbaugh proved with Jackson that he’ll build an offense completely around the talents of his quarterback. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s recent track record speaks for itself, as he molded Stetson Bennett from a walk-on into a Heisman finalist and two-time national champion.
On paper, the Colts are a pretty good fit, too. New head coach Shane Steichen developed Jalen Hurts into an MVP contender with an offense built around a physical running attack. He could do the same with Richardson, but I worry about a franchise that has only made the playoffs twice in eight seasons.
Ultimately, I trust the Ravens more with Richardson’s growth and development. But I also think it’s going to be Indy landing him.
PROJECTED PICK: Third overall to the Colts
I wouldn’t say Torrence is sliding, but I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in mocks with him falling into the second round. As I’ve written for months, that’s more about perceived positional value than anything Torrence has done in workouts.
He should be the first guard off the board and will be a day one starter. But as teams value skill positions more and more, it’s looking like he isn’t going to join Richardson in the first round.
BEST FIT: Tennessee
Fellow Gator and current Tennessee general manager Ran Carthon and the Titans took Torrence out to dinner the night before Florida’s Pro Day. They know their power-rushing attack is a perfect fit for Torrence’s mauling style.
Tennessee’s offensive line is in shambles after consistently being one of the best in the league. They need to rebuild it in order to get the most out of the remaining years of Derrick Henry’s prime. I don’t think they’ll reach for a guard with their first round pick at No. 11, but if they trade down in the first round or if Torrence slides, he could be an option at No. 41.
PROJECTED PICK: Second round, 32nd overall to the Steelers
Dexter’s range is anywhere from mid-second round through the third round as one of the 10 best interior defensive linemen in the draft.
He has been one of the busiest draft prospects, with reported visits with Cleveland, Buffalo, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
BEST FIT: Kansas City
Frankly, who isn’t a great fit for the Super Bowl champs, right? Playing for Andy Reid and alongside Patrick Mahomes means you’re going to win a lot.
But the reason I’d love to see Dexter in KC is because of what he could learn from Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones. Lining up next to one of the most dominant defenders in football wouldn’t be a bad way to start a career.
Dexter is 6’6” and 310 pounds, the same height and weight Jones measured at coming out of Mississippi State. And Dexter has bested Jones’s numbers in the 40, vertical jump, and broad jump.
Sadly, defensive tackle isn’t a priority for the Chiefs, so I don’t see him landing there.
PROJECTED PICK: Third round, 64th overall to Chicago
Miller is on track in his recovery from foot surgery and is expected to be ready for rookie minicamps in May. He’s reportedly met with Seattle, Denver, and Jacksonville, among others.
Because he’s been unable to work out, Miller’s draft stock rests solely on the impressive tape compiled at Florida. He’s a run-stopping thumper despite being undersized. Miller’s heart is what will get him drafted.
BEST FIT: Tampa
For the same reasons as Dexter to KC, I’d love to see Miller end up in Tampa. Lavonte David has been one of the best off-ball linebackers in the game for a decade and he’s nearing the end of his career. Learning from him would speed Miller’s transition to the NFL.
Playing behind Vita Vea, the Bucs’ massive and dominant nose tackle, would free Miller to play fast and free against the run and provide space for his effective gap blitzing.
PROJECTED PICK: Sixth round, 181st overall to Tampa
Brenton Cox, Jr.
Cox has an NFL body and has plenty of NFL plays on his game tape. Unfortunately for him, the vast majority of that game tape shows massive inconsistency and disappointment.
Cox returning to Gainesville for Florida’s Pro Day was a huge factor in helping teams get over his dismissal from both the Gators and Georgia. But in the end, it’s the reason his draft prospects are so cloudy.
I think his potential and five-star pedigree will convince someone to give him a chance.
BEST FIT: Miami
Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio uses a 3-4 front that allows the outside linebackers to attack off the edge. That’s Cox’s strength, and as a rotational pass rusher in Miami, he could find a role behind Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips.
He’s a high-risk, high-reward pick — and the kind of player a team like Miami should take a chance on.
PROJECTED PICK: Seventh round, 238th overall to Miami
There isn’t a lot of buzz around Shorter, but I think at the end of the day he’ll find his way into the draft. He has enough flash on tape, combined with his frame and good speed, to find a home.
BEST FIT: Los Angeles Chargers
My pattern for these fits is pretty easy to decipher. Pair up with a star player similar in size, learn as much as you can from him, develop and find your own path. Mike Williams is more than just a big receiver who is a deep threat. Shorter has to prove he can be that as well.
That said, I keep coming back to my original comp for Shorter in Allen Lazard. The former Packer — now a New York Jet, seemingly as part of the enticement for landing Aaron Rodgers — measured and tested almost identically to Shorter coming into the league. I think Green Bay uses a late-round pick in hopes of replacing Lazard.
PROJECTED PICK: Seventh round, 242nd overall to Green Bay
Everyone needs tackles. Gouraige had a nice senior season with enough good tape against some of the best pass rushers in the SEC to find himself a home on day three of the draft.
BEST FIT: San Francisco
Back in 2015, the 49ers selected a raw Florida tackle in the seventh round. Eight years later, Trent Brown has made a lot of money, made a Pro Bowl, and won a Super Bowl. I think Gouraige would take that.
PROJECTED PICK: Seventh round, 253rd overall to San Francisco
Trey Dean III
Dean’s physical gifts — well, apart from the one thing — are immense, but the production just never lived up to the expectations. Ultimately, that inconsistency is likely to keep him out of the draft. His disappointing 40 time won’t help either, obviously.
There is still a chance someone takes a flyer on him late, but I’d expect a team to make him a preferred undrafted free agent signing with a decent signing bonus and a chance to make a roster as a special-teams ace and backup box safety.
Rashad Torrence II
Torrence’s awful 40 times really hurt his draft chances. His impressive tape — especially from 2021 — could entice a team to select him in the final round. More likely, he’ll get a chance to latch on as an undrafted free agent.
Burney made a good impression at Florida’s Pro Day, but it probably wasn’t enough to climb into the draft. He’ll get a camp invite and will need to earn his way into the league on special teams.
Pouncey is not going to be drafted and is a long shot to get signed as an undrafted free agent.