GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor still isn’t ready to announce his decision for the NFL Draft.
He wants to do it the right way, he said.
“Not yet. I want to go back home for Christmas, talk with my family and then make a decision,” he said Friday after practice as the Gators prepare for the Outback Bowl.
What would potentially keep him in Gainesville for his senior season?
“Um, if it’s better for me,” he said simply.
Tabor, fellow junior cornerback Quincy Wilson and redshirt junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley all seem likely to declare for the NFL Draft at some point, though none of the Gators have made any formal announcements yet.
The draft takes place April 27-29 in Philadelphia, and the deadline for players to declare is Jan. 18.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay released a mock draft this week in which he projects Tabor as the 18th overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, Brantley as the 23rd overall selection to the Denver Broncos, Gators senior linebacker Jarrad Davis as the 24th pick to the Detroit Lions and Wilson as the 27th selection to the Atlanta Falcons.
“I mean, I hope that’s the way it (goes), but the people who really decide that are the GMs, the owners and stuff like that,” Tabor said.
Asked about his decision-making process, he said he doesn’t want to rush into anything or slight the people who helped mold him along the way.
“Just doing it the right way,” he said. “Some guys just, they’re so ready to leave school or they’re just (saying goodbye) and forget everything everybody has done for you and helped you with at the school. I don’t want to do that. If I decide to come out then I would give my thanks to everybody, my tutors, my teachers, my advisers, my coaches, the whole Gator Nation because sometimes people forget when you were here people were helping you. You weren’t just doing it yourself.”
Tabor said the NFL Draft is not a distraction with the Gators’ Outback Bowl matchup with Iowa coming up Jan. 2 because he is excited for any opportunity to play football. For that matter, he was excited to be back at practice, he added.
But with a handful of guys on the team facing decisions about their future — add in redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone, junior left tackle David Sharpe and possibly others — along with the seniors wondering where they will end up, the NFL Draft topic does come up around the team, Tabor acknowledged.
“I mean, we love football and don’t get me wrong, all of our end goals are to play in the NFL,” he said. “We have great players and stuff. I mean, that’s a childhood dream. I’d be lying to you if I said we weren’t talking about it. Yeah, it comes up.”
Sharpe was one of the offensive players made available Thursday after practice and he said he too is still weighing his options.
“I’m still thinking about it. I’m not sure right now,” Sharpe said. “Just talking with my family about it. Making that decision, it’s a big step.”
Back to the cornerbacks, if Tabor and Wilson do both get taken in the first round, that would mean Florida would have three corners and four defensive backs overall taken in the first round the last two years.
Corner Vernon Hargreaves III was the 11th overall selection in the 2016 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and safety Keanu Neal went 17th overall to the Falcons.
Tabor and Wilson, meanwhile, combined for 7 interceptions and 2 touchdowns this fall while carrying on the tradition of strong cornerback play for the Gators.
Tabor had the bigger national profile entering the season, but Wilson vaulted his draft stock with a terrific junior campaign.
“He’s always been good. We’ve always been fighting. I feel like he’s always been good and we always (knew) what we can do,” Tabor said. “We feel like we’re the best two in the country, 1A 1B. It depends who you like more. That’s really what it comes down to.”