GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The NFL draft is more than four months away and draft-eligible juniors still have a month to decide whether to stay or go, but draft talk is already buzzing with the college football season nearing its end.
And the Florida Gators have their share of players who could hear their names called when the three-day draft takes place from April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.
Here’s an early look at where some of the Gators’ top prospects stand, according to WalterFootball.com. Players are listed alphabetically by last name.
Defensive tackle Taven Bryan
Taven Bryan, a redshirt junior, announced Monday on Twitter his intentions to declare for the NFL draft. WalterFootball has Bryan ranked as the fourth-best defensive tackle/3-4 defensive end and has him going 30th overall to the New England Patriots in its most updated mock draft.
“In speaking with some scouting sources, Bryan has drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. Some announcers have compared the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder Bryan to J.J. Watt, and in terms of style of play Bryan is reminiscent of Watt when Bryan is playing well, but Bryan is not consistently dominant to deserve a comparison to Watt,” the outlet writes.
“Bryan has a tremendous get-off with serious explosion off the snap. He also has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. With his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, and he would be a perfect fit as a five-technique.”
Wide receiver Antonio Callaway
Antonio Callaway did not play for the Gators during his junior season after being suspended as part of the nine-player credit card fraud scandal during the preseason. He signed with an agent last week and is preparing for the draft. WalterFootball has Callaway ranked as the No. 23 overall receiver in the draft class and going 47th overall to the Dallas Cowboys. Off-the-field issues are the main concern with him.
“While he loves football, he has a lot of issues in terms of hanging out with bad influences, and teams are concerned about him consistently failing drug tests in the NFL. Callaway has been suspended repeatedly by Florida, and he hurt his team by earning another suspension to start the 2017 season.
“Scouts across the league say that Callaway has first-round talent. They’ve even compared him to Antonio Brown in terms of his skill set and what he can do as a receiver, but teams think that Callaway will fall into the mid-rounds because his off-the-field issues are too serious to draft any earlier. They don’t have any confidence that he will change and avoid suspensions in the NFL.”
Defensive back Duke Dawson
In four years at Florida, Duke Dawson showcased his versatility in the secondary. He played as a backup safety for most of his freshman season before being groomed as a nickel corner as a sophomore and junior. He alternated between corner and nickel as a senior.
WalterFootball ranks Dawson as the No. 14 overall corner in the class and projects him to play at nickel in the NFL.
“He is good when plays are in front of him, plus has instincts and a good concept of route combinations. Dawson transitions well and owns above-average speed to carry verticals. However, he is tight and struggles to open his hips. Sources have told me they are grading Dawson as a third- or fourth-rounder. Dawson can be a feast-or-famine defender in that he makes some big plays and gives up some plays.”
Offensive lineman Martez Ivey
Martez Ivey earned second-team All-SEC accolades each of the last two seasons while playing both left tackle and left guard. Ivey, a junior, has not formally declared for the NFL draft and could potentially improve his draft stock by coming back for his senior season.
WalterFootball has Ivey ranked No. 27 at offensive tackle and No. 23 at offensive guard. The outlet projects Ivey to be drafted in the fourth round by the Miami Dolphins.
“Many think that Ivey will have to move back to guard, the position that he played as a sophomore and freshman. They don’t think that Ivey can play tackle in the NFL, with one source saying that Ivey’s feet are terrible to be an edge protector. Ivey should definitely return for his senior year to get stronger and improve his technique before going to the NFL.”
Defensive end CeCe Jefferson
CeCe Jefferson has not yet declared for the NFL draft, but his name has swirled around as a possibility. His stats over three seasons (106 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks in 37 games) are good, but his 6-1, 242-pound frame is hard to project into an NFL role. WalterFootball ranks Jefferson as the 20th-best defensive end/3-4 edge-rushing linebacker in the class and projects him as a third-to-fifth round pick.
Kicker Eddy Pineiro
Eddy Pineiro has taken over the Florida record book in his two seasons in Gainesville. He owns the school record with an 88.4-percent field-goal percentage (38 of 43) and is one of two players in program history to have two separate strings of at least 13 consecutive made field goals.
He’s ranked as the second-best kicker in the draft class behind Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, should he declare.
Punter Johnny Townsend
Like Pineiro, Johnny Townsend has his name etched throughout the Gators record book. He is WalterFootball’s top-ranked punter in the 2018 draft class.
Safety Nick Washington
Nick Washington’s final season ended earlier than expected after he re-injured his shoulder against LSU. However, the fifth-year senior is still ranked as the No. 25 safety in the draft class by WalterFootball. He is projected to be a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.