Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan didn’t become a full-time starter until his fourth year with the Gators, but that was enough to vault him into the first round of the NFL draft.
Bryan said during Florida’s pro day last month that based on the feedback he had received and his tape that he expected to be a first-round pick, and that came to fruition Thursday night when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Bryan’s selection marks six straight years the Gators have had a defensive player taken in the first round, and he becomes the 24th Florida draft pick since 2015 with more expected to follow this week.
“It was nerve-wracking, definitely. You’re sitting in there, you’re seeing people go, you’re just kind of waiting, you’re waiting for a call,” Bryan said in a video posted by the Jaguars. “… It was a crazy moment. I almost teared up, and I’m not a big crier or anything like that. It was definitely surreal. I’m very happy about it.”
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) April 27, 2018
After rotating in behind future NFL draft pick Caleb Brantley, Bryan emerged as a redshirt junior in 2017, recording 40 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries. He received second-team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press and was a consistent highlight on a team that overall struggled its way to a 4-7 finish.
Since last summer, Bryan has received comparisons to Houston Texas star J.J. Watt, and he furthered that at the NFL combine when he measured in at 6-foot-5, 291 pounds, posted a 4.98 40-yard dash time and put up 30 reps on the bench press.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 4, 2018
Bryan is the son of a Navy SEAL who grew up in Casper, Wyo., more interested in other outdoor hobbies than in growing up with NFL dreams, but he realized his potential along the way and cashed in over his final season at Florida to set himself up for this opportunity.
As for the Gators’ streak of landing defensive players in the first round of the draft, Bryan follows linebacker Jarrad Davis (2017), cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal (2016), defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (2015), defensive tackle Dominique Easley (2014) and defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam (2013).
Polarizing Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, defensive back Duke Dawson, safety Marcell Harris, kicker Eddy Pineiro and punter Johnny Townsend are other Gators who could hear their name called this week.