The hard work and sacrifice of several former Florida Gators will come to fruition over the next four days. The 2019 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday with the first round and the following six rounds will take place through Sunday.
A long list of Gators entered this year’s draft, including five players who decided to leave early. With so many eligible players, Florida has a chance to have one of its strongest showings in recent history.
Offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor is Florida’s best bet to hear his name called on opening night. He is nearly a consensus first-round pick by the experts.
He led a veteran front for the Gators in 2018 and earned high praise following his junior season. While he helped himself on the field throughout his career, it’s his potential that leaves coaches and scouts salivating.
Taylor came to Florida as a moldable three-star recruit and left as a long, lean NFL caliber talent. At 6’5, 312 pounds, he’s got the prototypical body teams are looking for in a tackle. That could make him the very first lineman off the board, with many expecting the Jacksonville Jaguars to take him at No.7 overall.
Coming out of Florida, Jawaan Taylor is a plug and play mauler who can immediately start at the next level. Worthy of a top 10 pick to protect a franchise QB? pic.twitter.com/7uqym66pbj
— ESPN Player (@espnplayer) April 25, 2019
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson might also slip into the first round, according to some mock drafts. But chances are he will have to wait until Friday for the second and third round show.
He spent his last season at the nickel in Todd Grantham’s defense, but one of his biggest upsides is his versatility. With his talent and freaky athleticism, he could easily transition back to safety and become a key contributor to an NFL secondary.
Look out for two other Gators’ defenders on Friday as well.
Jachai Polite has had a tough few months since announcing his intention to come out. A less than stellar Combine performance paired with poor interviews with teams tanked his stock. Before that, he was expected to be one of the top defensive ends in the class.
The talent is there. He proved that on the field all season, but he’s going to have to wait on someone willing to take a chance.
Here are Jachai Polite's sacks vs Power 5 opponents in 2018 (includes 9 of his 11 total sacks) pic.twitter.com/iz5e2iC8d8
— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) April 22, 2019
Linebacker Vosean Joseph led Florida in tackles as a junior with 93. He’s a hard hitter and another great athlete, but still has some things to work on before he’s ready to play in the league. Sometimes he is just a bit too aggressive, leading to some inconsistencies and him getting caught out of position.
Jordan Scarlett is the bruising running back so many teams are looking for, but missing the 2017 season due to off the field issues left him with more to prove. More than he could prove in his first and only season back with the team. It might mean settling for a lower pick than he hoped for.
Behind him, there are still some questions as to where the rest will land.
Offensive lineman Martez Ivey and defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson leave Florida in similar situations. Both stepped on campus as highly touted recruits, but just didn’t quite develop the way they were expected.
They still have NFL potential and could find a path into the later rounds. If not, the journey of undrafted free agency will begin.