TAMPA, Fla. — While there is popular thought as to what Florida’s draft-eligible juniors will do after this season, none have publicly made their plans known yet.
So throughout this week, SEC Country will take a look at some of those players and weigh in on whether they should declare for the NFL draft or return for their senior season.
We start with junior cornerback Quincy Wilson.
Wilson may have come into the season in the shadow of teammate and fellow junior cornerback Jalen Tabor, but he boosted his national profile plenty in the fall.
He racked up 3 interceptions — all in the first half of the season — returned 1 for a touchdown and tallied 6 pass breakups.
Those are nice stats, but they don’t tell the whole story.
According to Pro Football Focus’ detailed analysis, Wilson has played 735 snaps — most among Florida defensive players — and allowed only 16 catches on 46 targets for a 34.8 percent opponents’ completion rate. That ranked first in the SEC and fifth nationally through the end of the regular season.
He personified the “shutdown corner” label and was one of the true stars of a good Gators defense.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has Wilson projected as the No. 25 overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft, nine spots after Tabor.
McShay writes: “I haven’t watched as much tape on Wilson as I have on his teammate Tabor, but some scouts I’ve talked to think Wilson’s ceiling is higher. At 6-foot-1, he has a good length/speed combination, and he’s experienced, with 38 games played including 23 starts.”
Meanwhile, CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com has Wilson No. 41 on its big board (with Tabor No. 6).
That seems low given the priority placed on cornerbacks in recent NFL drafts — five were first-round picks last year, four in 2015 and five in 2014 — and Wilson’s stature at the position.
Wilson doesn’t have much more to prove at the college level, and if he were to return to a younger, less experienced Florida defense next year, opposing teams would have even more incentive to avoid him in the passing game.
Even if he falls to the second round, that’s a significant investment by an NFL franchise that will give Wilson every opportunity to succeed.
Of course, he has the opportunity to further impress teams at the NFL Scouting Combine and rise up the rankings between now and the draft in late April.
One incentive to return might be to spend a season together with his younger brother, Marco Wilson, who will join the Gators as a freshman in 2017. But that would only limit the younger Wilson’s opportunities to get on the field next fall, and the expectation is that the elder Wilson is ready to launch his professional career.
As well he should. He’s ready for the challenge.