As usual, the SEC was king on draft weekend. College football’s premier conference churned out 54 total draft picks, including seven first-rounders.
Despite coming off another down year, the University of Florida ended up producing quite an impressive draft class. Headlined by No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, the Gators had eight players drafted—the third-most of any school in the country. Several players also inked undrafted free agent deals immediately, bringing the number of 2015 Gators in the NFL to more than 10.
Interestingly, many of the draft picks came on the offensive side of the ball, which qualified as a surprise considering the Gators ranked 71st, 78th, 114th and 72nd in points scored in four years under Will Muschamp. While injuries certainly played a factor, it’s clear that coaching and quarterback play held back what the NFL clearly thought was a program teeming with talent. Let’s take a look at UF’s 2015 draft class.
Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars (1st round, 3rd overall)
Fowler was absolutely right when he said he didn’t expect to slip past the Jaguars. The first defensive player off the board became the highest-drafted Gator since Gerard Warren went third overall to the Cleveland Browns in 2001. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley should be able to maximize Fowler’s abilities as a playmaking edge presence in what looks like a scary front seven. Adding Fowler, sixth-round steal Michael Bennett and free-agent signee Jared Odrick to a defense that features Chris Clemons and Sen’Derrick Marks should put Andrew Luck and the rest of the AFC South on notice.
D.J. Humphries, OT, Arizona Cardinals (1st round, 24th overall)
Another Gator who turned out to be 100 percent correct in his conviction was Humphries. Following a 19-start career that featured as much production as time in the trainer’s room, the former five-star recruit entered the draft early and still became a first-round pick. The Cardinals got great value in the athletic tackle, who if he stays healthy and keeps his weight up should become a high-quality starter.
Chaz Green, OT, Dallas Cowboys (3rd round, 91st overall)
The second of four Gators offensive linemen to be drafted, Green joins a Dallas line that’s arguably the best in the NFL. Like Humphries, Green’s career in Gainesville was plagued by injuries, but he clearly has early-round talent. Capable of playing either tackle spot, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 6’5″, 314-pounder also get a look at guard. He’s just another building block up front for the Cowboys.
Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins (3rd round, 95th overall)
One of the surprises of the entire draft was seeing Jones go in the third round. Sure, he has great size (6’2″, 231) and underrated pass-catching abilities, but he was hurt throughout his collegiate career and wasn’t that productive when on the field. Washington’s selection of Brandon Scherff at No. 5 overall indicated the team wants to be more physical, so I guess the Jones pick falls in line with that philosophy. Still, there were better backs on the board at pick 95.
Max Garcia, C, Denver Broncos (4th round, 133rd overall)
It was great to see Garcia go at this spot, as he can come in and compete right away for a starting job at guard or center. The former Maryland transfer played all over the line for the Gators before settling in as the team’s starting center in 2014. He won’t wow you physically, but he plays with an edge and is a great leader and highly intelligent player. Oh, and he’ll also be reunited with former Gator Jon Halapio in Denver.
Neiron Ball, OLB, Oakland Raiders (5th round, 161st overall)
Another feel-good story of the draft was seeing Ball get drafted. He endured some scary injuries, most recently undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee, but he showed off his scintillating speed at UF’s pro day by running a 4.6 40-yard dash. Before hurting his knee, Ball was on his way to an All-SEC-type season. At the very least, the fifth-rounder should be a great special teams addition with the ability to play on third down as a coverage linebacker and blitzer.
Andre Debose, WR/KR, Oakland Raiders (7th round, 221st overall)
It certainly qualifies as a mild surprise to see Debose get drafted. He was one of the biggest disappointments of the Meyer-Muschamp eras after signing with UF as one of the top recruits in the country. In six years, he showed zero development as a receiver and sustained a few injuries. Debose’s return skills and straight-line speed are what got him drafted, so that’s where he’ll have to make his mark in order to earn a roster spot in Oakland.
Trenton Brown, OL, San Francisco 49ers (7th round, 244th overall)
The Gators saved the biggest for last. UF’s final draft pick came in the form of 6’8″, 355-pound mammoth Trenton Brown. Size is obviously the intriguing factor about the former JUCO transfer. Though his claim to fame is that he can do a 360 dunk, Brown’s lack of quickness is evident on the field. He’s not reliable and has some work-ethic concerns, but he’ll have to step up as part of an offensive line that features veterans Joe Staley, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis. Brown seems like more of a practice squad candidate, though San Francisco’s depth chart looks pretty thin.