The Florida Gators have undergone countless changes over the past few seasons trying to get back to where they were in the late 2000’s. Despite a 4-8 record last year, talent wasn’t the primary reason the team struggled so greatly: injuries absolutely decimated them. They still had four players selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including first round DT Dominique Easley. This fall the Gators will once again have their share of NFL prospects, especially in their class of juniors. So who are the top NFL Draft prospects for Florida in 2014?
On offense it’s hard to start anywhere other than QB, where redshirt junior Jeff Driskel is learning his third offensive scheme in the last four years. Despite some struggles with the varying schemes and injuries (a broken leg three games into the ’13 season), the ceiling of Driskel remains incredibly high. Simply breaking down his skill set, there’s an awful lot to like in the 6-foot 4, 230-pounder.
Driskel has good speed and can be an effective ball carrier, though he’ll be encouraged to stick more in the pocket this fall. He has good arm strength and accuracy, and a quick release with a nice and high release point. He needs to improve accuracy on his deep ball and his touch on intermediate routes, but working with new OC Kurt Roper (a disciple of legendary QB guru David Cutcliffe) is encouraging. Driskel is a prospect who’s stock could really take off this fall.
Up front there’s LT D.J. Humphries, one of the most athletic offensive line prospects in the country. The 6-foot 5, 290-pouund junior was the second ranked player nationally coming out of high school, and lived up to lofty standards his freshman year, before taking a slight step back last year, which a season-ending knee injury didn’t help. There’s an awful lot to like in Humphries skill set, and especially how it could translate to a blindside protector at the next level, as he shows very impressive feet and a good kick step in pass pro. His upside is as high as any OT prospect in the country, but the big question that will follow him will be how his knees hold up: he’s battled multiple MCL injuries to both knees in both seasons he’s been in Gainesville.
It wouldn’t be Florida unless there were some impressive defensive prospects, and this fall will be no different. Junior pass rusher Dante Fowler is the top prospect on this side of the ball, followed by DT Leon Orr.
Fowler, a junior, is an impressive pass rusher and has experience playing both DE and OLB. At 6-foot 3, 266-pounds, he’s a classic ‘tweener, not really having the size or girth to play up front in most even fronts at the next level, and also potentially not having the length to play OLB in an odd front. Despite that, he’s one heck of a ball player who has natural quick-twitch fibers and elite explosiveness. He has good lateral quickness and also shows good range. His best fit as a pro could be as a ‘Leo’ end in the sort of hybrid schemes employed by the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Orr, a senior, has progressed nicely in his four years, and it’s clear his best football is still in front of him. At 6-foot 5, 305-pounds, Orr’s skill set projects nicely to the next level at both 5-tech in a 34 and nose in an 43. He’s even got the frame to pack a few more pounds on and play 2-gap nose in an odd front.
Someone to really keep an eye on but won’t be eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft is sophomore CB Vernon Hargreaves. This kid looks like one of the most naturally gifted CBs to come along in some time, and showed it as a true frosh last year. Scouts are already salivating over his upside, and if they aren’t, they should be.