Gators nearly tie school mark in NFL draft

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida came close, but the Gators fell one player short of tying the school record for most players taken in a seven-round NFL draft.

It was still an impressive showing. Eight UF players were drafted, the most since nine were taken in the 2010 draft. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam were taken in the first round, giving the Gators multiple first-round picks for the first time since 2010.

Florida’s eight selections was one shy of LSU and Alabama, which led the Southeastern Conference with nine. Georgia also had eight players picked.

Here’s a breakdown of the Gators who were drafted:

DT Sharrif Floyd

First round: No. 23 overall by Minnesota

DT Kevin Williams and NT Letroy Guion are the Vikings’ starters, but Floyd should figure prominently in the rotation. He said he’s eager to learn all he can from Williams, a 10-year vet with 434 tackles and 56.5 sacks. The knock on Floyd is that he doesn’t have long arms, but he does have a quick first step and good speed for a 300-pounder.

S Matt Elam

First round: No. 32 overall by Baltimore

Elam couldn’t step into a better situation. The Ravens lost both starting safeties from their Super Bowl championship team. They released Bernard Pollard (he later signed with Tennessee) and Ed Reed signed a free-agent contract with Houston. Despite not having ideal size (5-foot-10, 208 pounds), Elam is more similar to Pollard than Reed. Elam is physical enough to play the run but also is good enough to cover slot receivers man-to-man.

LB Jonathan Bostic

Second round: No. 18 (50th overall) by Chicago

Hey, no pressure on the rookie, right? All Bostic has to do is step in for Brian Urlacher, whom the Bears decided not to resign. No big deal. Bostic could be up for it, though. He’s got a good football IQ – he made the calls in UF’s defense the past two years – and showed this past year that he’s willing to work hard to improve. The staff told him last summer his biggest weakness was shedding blockers and he fixed that in 2012. Plus, he has the versatility to play on the outside, too.

TE Jordan Reed

Third round: No. 23 (85th overall) by Washington

Tight ends who can line up everywhere are the rage in the NFL right now, and Reed was one of the better pass-catchers in the draft. Much like former UF player Aaron Hernandez, Reed is a matchup problem for linebackers. He’s got good hands and runs well after the catch, although he carries the ball loosely. The big question will be whether he’s able to absorb an NFL offense. If he can, it’s not a stretch to see him becoming the Redskins’ top short-range target.

LB Jelani Jenkins

Fourth round: No. 7 (104th overall) by Miami

Jenkins was regarded as one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft, and he possibly could have gone higher had he been able to stay healthy in 2012. He missed time because of a broken thumb, a hamstring pull, and a broken foot, the latter of which kept him from working out at the combine. Part of the reason the Dolphins Jenkins undoubtedly had to do with dealing with New England’s tight end duo of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

RB Mike Gillislee

Fifth round: No. 31 (164th overall) by Miami

Gillislee joins a young backfield in Miami. The Dolphins have four backs already on the roster and the most experienced is Daniel Thomas, who is going into his third season. Gillislee proved in 2012 that he’s capable of being a feature back after rushing for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. Thomas is the likely starter, but Gillislee is certainly capable of beating out Jonas Gray, Lamar Miller and Marcus Thigpen for the No. 2 spot.

K Caleb Sturgis

Fifth round: No. 33 (166th overall) by Miami

The Dolphins’ decision to draft Sturgis sent a clear message to incumbent Dan Carpenter: Your job is in jeopardy. Sturgis’ strength -- his ability to hit from long range -- is what Carpenter struggled with last season. Carpenter was just 2-for-5 from 50-plus yards. Sturgis was 3-for-3 and made a school-record eight field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career.

S Josh Evans

Sixth round: No. 1 (169th overall) by Jacksonville

Evans was arguably the Gators’ most improved player in 2012 and two years under Will Muschamp’s tutelage paid off. Evans was one of five defensive backs the Jaguars drafted. He’ll likely be a special teams player at first, but the Jags’ talent-level is so poor right now that he’ll have a chance to earn playing time on defense.