The Florida Gators lead the SEC in NFL first-round picks, and they’ll increase that number Thursday on the opening night of the draft.
All-America corner Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal will be in attendance, and it’s looking like both defensive backs could go in the first round.
UF may have as many as nine players selected in this year’s draft, which runs through Saturday.
“We got a whole chunk of them that will get drafted here over the weekend, and rightfully so,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday at the Tampa Gator Club. “This group of guys had so much to do with investing in something and showing that we can. We got some great leadership from them. To see these guys be able to fulfill their dreams, I love this time of year.
“These are guys now that we’re going to see play on Sundays, which is exciting for all Gator fans and exciting for us. I’m just so proud of how they committed to help us get a little success last season.”
Ten of the 12 total analysts for NFL.com and CBSSports.com expect Hargreaves to be taken No. 9 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his hometown team.
“That would be awesome for him,” McElwain said of Hargreaves going to the Bucs. “I think it’s just great. And yet, wherever he goes I know he’s going to be successful. He’s a talented, talented guy and did a lot for our football program.”
Neal has been rising up draft boards this month and is viewed by many as the top safety prospect. NFL insider Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted an interesting tidbit Wednesday.
Player who could be selected way, way higher than anyone in media is projecting and is in play in first round? Florida Jr S Keanu Neal.
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 27, 2016
Gators defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard may sneak into the late first round, but all analysts now project him as an early second-round pick. Chad Reuter of NFL.com did a mock draft for every round, and he had five more UF selections in addition to Hargreaves, Neal and Bullard.
Antonio Morrison, LB: 3rd round
Demarcus Robinson, WR: 5th round
Kelvin Taylor, RB: 6th round
Alex McCalister, DE: 6th round
Jake McGee, TE: 7th round
Defensive back Brian Poole, who had an impressive Pro Day performance, could also be a late-round pick.
Here’s a list of the recent mock drafts we reviewed:
- Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
- Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
- Charles Davis, NFL.com
- Lance Zierlen, NFL.com
- Charley Casserly, NFL.com
- Chad Reuter, NFL.com
- Curtis Conway, NFL.com
- Rob Rang, CBSSports.com
- Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com
- Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
- Will Brinson, CBSSports.com
- Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
- Don Banks, SI.com
- Chris Burke, SI.com
- Doug Farrar, SI.com
- Greg Bedard, SI.com
- Dan Kadar, SBNation.com
- Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com
Here’s where analysts project Hargreaves to land:
- No. 9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jeremiah, Brooks, C. Davis, Casserly, Reuter, Conway, Rang, Brugler, Brinson, Dubin, Farrar, Bedard, Kadar)
- No. 13 Miami Dolphins (Banks, Burke)
- No. 14 Oakland Raiders (Zierlen, Cherepinsky)
- No. 25 Pittsburgh Steelers (Prisco)
Here’s where analysts project Neal to land:
- No. 17 Atlanta Falcons (Rang)
- No. 29 Arizona Cardinals (Brugler, Dubin)
- No. 39 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Cherepinsky)
- No. 50 Atlanta Falcons (Reuter, Kadar)