NFL Draft Preview: A Dozen Florida Gators Look To Have Life Changed This Weekend

Photo Courtesy: Gators Football

The 2021 NFL Draft is set to kick off tonight with former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer on the clock with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Everyone knows that team will be taking Trevor Lawrence. The New York Jets will grab BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. So the draft really begins at pick number three and it's pick four with the Atlanta Falcons, that Gator fans should be on alert.

Here is the full order of the entire seven round draft.

In total, the Gators have 12 guys looking to hear their names called and lives changed this weekend. Here is a breakdown of them all and where they could likely see themselves drafted.

Kyle Pitts Tight End

Arguably the star of the NFL Draft and the most sure thing next to Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Pitts has become a media darling as he prepares to take the league by storm. He did much the same in Gainesville. After being used sparingly as a freshman (and at receiver that year) he began to flash his potential as a sophomore. Then as a junior, Pitts set then reset then broke and set again nearly every tight end record the Florida Gators had ever written down in a book. Now he has a chance to set another record, as the highest drafted tight end in program history.

If it wasn’t such a strong quarterback class, Pitts could arguably go in the Top 3. Since the passer is the most important position in the game though, Pitts will likely slide some as teams take a run on QB’s. The first three teams picking are all taking quarterbacks. If the Atlanta Falcons do the same at No. 4 overall, it’s likely Pitts slips to the Miami Dolphins at six (the Bengals need an offensive lineman) or even to the Carolina Panthers at eight. But don’t expect him to make it out of the Top 10. He’s a future All-Pro and every team wants him.

Kadarius Toney Wide Receiver

Toney is a testament to making the right business decision. He could have left after the 2019 season, with the exodus of senior receivers, and relied purely on his natural talent during workouts to get him drafted. Hindsight shows that would’ve been difficult to do in a visual draft offseason like 2020. Furthermore, Toney returned and lit up the Gators offense. He combined all of his God-given, dear God did he just do that, skill with polished technique and improved route running to become a first round steal.

Most mock drafts have Toney going in the mid-first round, somewhere in the late teens like say to the Washington Football Team at No. 19 overall. He could fall into Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars lap at No. 25 but that team is in desperate need of a secondary players. If Toney goes toward the bottom of the first round, we could see the New Orleans Saints grabbing him at No. 28 to replace Alvin Kamara. If he slips into the second round, keep an eye on the San Francisco 49ers at No. 43 overall. Kyle Shanahan loves to get guys who can play in space.

Stone Forsythe Offensive Lineman

Forsythe evolved from one of the Gators liabilities to a stout protector on the left side of the line. He helped give Kyle Trask ample time to break multiple Gator passing records. Forsythe, like many offensive lineman, really saw his draft status made or broken during the offseason draft evaluations and meetings. It’s hard to stand out as a lineman during games because if your name is being called, you did something wrong. But as scouts went back and watched tape, then saw him perform extremely well as a slimmed down lineman during Florida’s Pro Day, Forsythe began shooting up draft boards.

This is one of the best quarterback classes in generations and was an offseason of multiple notable QB trades. That also means there are about to be a ton of teams in the market to protect their huge investments. A solid left side lineman is necessary. As such, don’t be surprised to see Forsythe become a Day Two (second and third round) guy.

Kyle Trask Quarterback

Kyle Trask bided his time and became the best story in college football last season; a former two-star bench rider who became a Heisman finalist. In the process he broke Danny Wuerffel’s records for touchdowns in a season, threw for over 4,000 plus yards and had the Gators on the precipice of beating Alabama in the SEC Championship. He exhibited excellent pocket awareness and accuracy, completing 69% of his passes.

Trask was the perfect QB for the perfect time for the Gators. What’s going to hurt him as team’s get ready to pull the trigger is his immobility. It was a running joke while at Florida, with even Trask himself buying into the ironic nickname, “Traskon”—a play on Lamar Jackson’s name. Trask isn’t mobile and performs better in the pocket which was the perfect pro prospect until about six years ago. Now, as the NFL game evolves to mirror the college game, you have to have a mobile QB or a Tom Brady. That being said, a landing spot like Tampa Bay could be perfect for Trask. To be able to learn under the greatest pocket passer of all time, while knowing he won’t have to play right away could give Trask time to figure out how to translate his game and skill set to the NFL in a way that will work.

Shawn Davis Safety

The hard hitting safety made a name for himself as a punisher in the open field. When Davis came downhill on a slot receiver, you braced yourself in the stands because you know you’re about to feel the hit yourself. At times, Davis can overexert himself though, focusing so much on making the hard hit that his momentum overrides technique. But his physicality will be necessary in the league and what coaches will like.

Davis also set himself apart as a ball hawk. In his last two seasons, he had five interceptions overall. They weren’t by luck either. Davis always had himself in the right position and then fought off receivers for the ball. His tenacity will be what stands out on tape and Davis could see himself going early on Day 3, probably in the 4th round.

Marco Wilson Corner

Wilson was a star corner his first two seasons, the first freshman to start in the position since Joe Haden. Wilson was handsy and physical and never scared to get in a receiver’s face, whom he could track and mirror perfectly. But it’s no secret the 2020 season was a low point for Wilson. He gave up big plays, especially at Texas A&M, incurred a horrible penalty versus LSU and never looked like himself.

But the first two years of Wilson’s tape (he missed most of his junior year with an injury) will save him, as well as his Pro Day. He was blazing in every drill and put up one of the best verticals of all time, jumping over the measuring device. Then he put up 26 reps on the bench press, showing the strength Nick Savage helped him add. Some team will grab him on Day 3, considering it a low risk to see which Marco Wilson they get; freshman or senior?

Evan McPherson Kicker

Very rarely are kickers drafted, but McPherson could be one of the exceptions. Since joining the Gators in 2018, he’s been nearly automatic. He missed only one field goal as a freshman (the stats say he missed two, but he made that kick versus Kentucky) and missed two as a sophomore. He dropped off some his junior year, going 17-22 on field goals but his range and overall accuracy will make him worth a late pick for the league’s most undependable position.

Donovan Stiner S

The safety is one of the smartest the Gators have had in their secondary in years. He’s always in the right spot because he knows the playbook backwards and forwards. The issue became his ability to make the play once there. If there’s a team that relies more on soft coverage and playing zone, Stiner could be a great value pick on Day 3.

TJ Slaton Defensive Tackle

Arguably the most athletic player on the Gators roster the last four years, Slaton can move incredibly well for his massive size. As such, he tested extremely well. His tape wasn’t outstanding, but it’s not a liability either. A team will take him to see what they can find out about the defensive tackle in camp.

Trevon Grimes WR

Arguably the sleeper of the Gators prospects, Tre Grimes is going to be a steal for some team. Mock drafts knock him for his struggles with separating off of the line and less than crisp route running. But his ability to use his size and strength to get up on 50/50 balls has been evident since the beginning. His 2020 tape shows him “mossing” corners like Patrick Surtain and Tyson Campbell, all guys that are predicted to be first and second round draft choices. He also had to share reps with three straight stacked receiving units, so he doesn’t have a ton of tape. But his tape is solid. Scouts will also smile favorably on the fact he’s spent the three years being coached by Billy Gonzales.

His special teams play will also help him come camp time with clubs. Watch for him to go early to mid-Day 3, but then make a 53-man roster and shine.

Brett Heggie OL

Much like Forsythe, Heggie benefited from Pro Day workouts. He was also bound to impress in virtual meetings, due to his knowledge of offensive line play. The biggest thing working in Heggie’s favor is his diversified resume on the offensive line. He’s played multiple positions and spent the last year at center. His versatility will make him a valuable Day 3 pick for a team who has offensive line holes.

Kyree Campbell DT

Kyree Campbell isn’t the most physically imposing defensive tackle, but he’s lithe and smart. The best part of Campbell’s resume is what the front seven looked like without him versus when he returned. Campbell may not be a game wrecker but can handle anything coach’s ask him to do on the interior.

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