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Five Gators Selected in Bleacher Report 7-Round NFL Mock Draft

Where did five former Florida players end up in Bleacher Report lead NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller's seven round mock draft?

With the 2020 NFL Combine kicking off later this month, NFL Draft discussions are about to become a normality.

The Florida Gators are putting out, arguably, as much talent as they have in years after a successful 2019 campaign that ended in an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia. 

Eight former Gators participated in prospect all-star games following the conclusion of the season. Running back Lamical Perine, wide receivers Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland, and defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga all participated in the Senior Bowl, while wide receivers Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond, as well as punter Tommy Townsend, competed in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

Oh, and that's without mentioning projected first round cornerback C.J. Henderson, who declared early for the annual selection ceremony. 

Bleacher Report's lead NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller released his post Super Bowl seven-round mock draft on Monday, where he had five of the above Florida players selected. Let's break down each pick and team fit.

CB C.J. Henderson: Dallas Cowboys - First round, 17th overall

Miller isn't the first analyst to send Henderson to Dallas after ESPN's Mel Kiper had the same projection in late January, and won't be the last. The pick makes a lot of sense.

Below is Miller's reasoning for the selection.

As much as any team in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys will have their draft shaped by free agency. With Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones all set to become free agents, the Cowboys could be set on a path of drafting to replace high-level starters if one or more leaves on the open market.

It's fairly reasonable to expect Prescott to return. Cooper sounds like he wants to be back. This could leave Byron Jones as the odd man out as the Cowboys look at their salary-cap health in the present and for the future. Enter CJ Henderson.

A feisty, fast cornerback from Florida, Henderson has excellent ball skills and the instincts to be a major factor playing the ball in the pros. He's never going to win awards for his tackling skills, but like Deion Sanders always said, you're not paying cornerbacks to tackle.

Miller is right. Henderson will be tasked with covering an opposing team's No. 1 wide receiver early and often as he ascends into an NFL cornerback. He's polished in zone and off-man coverages, which is what Dallas is projected to run in Mike Nolan's defensive scheme.

In three years at Florida, Henderson allowed only 52.7% of his targets in coverage to be caught, finishing the 2017 and 2019 seasons at 54.1% and 2018 at 50%, per Pro Football Focus. Along the way, Henderson compiled six interceptions, 20 defended passes, two forced fumbles, 66 tackles, four sacks, and eight tackles for loss.

Considering the Cowboys' need for secondary help was drastic before the idea of losing Jones came about, Henderson and several other cornerbacks will be slotted to Dallas in the first round over the next couple of months.

OLB Jonathan Greenard: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Third round, 76th overall

After transferring to Florida as a graduate student in 2019, Greenard led the SEC with 10 sacks and pressured the quarterback 46 times (per PFF) - a year removed from a broken wrist that limited his senior season at Louisville to nine snaps.

He switched positions at the Senior Bowl, from playing a pure edge rushing position like the BUCK rush end at Florida to strong-side linebacker in the Cincinnati Bengals, who coached Greenard and his fellow Gators' South team, 4-3 under defensive front.

Greenard did well at the new position, where he would still stand hovering the line of scrimmage, but would sometimes drop back into coverage instead of just setting the edge in the run game and rushing the passer. He held his own covering the flats in team practice, and blanketed Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney in several one-on-one reps.

An AFC defensive coach told AllGators during the Senior Bowl that they liked Greenard's fit at the position, given his athleticism. However, in Miller's mock, Greenard lands with the NFC's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. who saw improvement in their pass rush last year compared to several years prior, but still need more production.

In Tampa Bay, which deploys a 3-4 base, would line Greenard as an edge rushing outside linebacker, similar to his standing rushes at Florida.

WR Van Jefferson: Dallas Cowboys - Third round, 82nd overall

Van Jefferson makes his jump to being projected as a day two pick, after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

This wide receiver class is historically deep and talented. Teams will find legitimate, capable receivers late into day three of the draft in 2020. For Jefferson, who isn't the most athletic prospect and will be 24 on opening day, making the jump into the third round is a pretty big deal.

Jefferson is the type of day two pick that ends up out-performing prospects at the same position who went higher than him, typically for their traits. Whereas, Jefferson is a student of the game and is smart enough to step in and contribute on day one for an NFL team.

He finished his two-year career at Florida with 84 receptions for 1160 yards and 12 touchdowns, following his transfer from Ole Miss.

Joining Henderson in Dallas in this projection, Jefferson would fill in nicely as a No. 3 receiver in the Cowboys' offense for quarterback Dak Prescott. This mock assumes, as Miller said above, that the Cowboys find a way to keep Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, so Jefferson would step in for pending free agent Randall Cobb with Cooper and Michael Gallup.

DE Jabari Zuniga: New York Giants - Fourth round, 107th overall

After an injury-riddled redshirt senior season, Zuniga is likely to fall down draft boards compared to his preseason hype.

Zuniga participated in the Senior Bowl as well, taking reps at defensive end and inside at tackle. He flashed in moments, showing off some speed and power in one-on-one drills, but also had moments where he got beat by the offensive lineman. 

However, the Senior Bowl allowed teams to see him up close in pads for one last time before the NFL Draft and he was healthy the entire week, which was a positive.

In terms of fit, Zuniga would make a lot of sense in New York, as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize versatile defensive linemen like Zuniga in his Bill Belichick-inspired scheme.

RB Lamical Perine: Los Angeles Rams - Fifth round, 174th overall

The Los Angeles Rams traded up to select former Memphis running back Darrell Henderson in last year's draft, only for Henderson to see 39 carries for 147 yards and four receptions for 37 yards as a rookie. 

Given the emergence of Malcolm Brown, who rushed for 255 yards and five touchdowns as a No. 2 RB behind Todd Gurley, Henderson may not get a chance to live up to his draft status unless an injury allows him to move up the depth chart. 

With that being said, there wouldn't be much room for Perine in the Rams' running back room, so the fit isn't ideal. However, unless Perine turns in a great NFL Combine performance, he could find himself being selected on day three as a balanced committee back to start his career.

Teams that would make sense include the Buffalo Bills (as Frank Gore isn't getting any younger and Perine could form a duo with Devin Singletary), Baltimore Ravens to pair with Mark Ingram, and Philadelphia Eagles to potentially replace Jordan Howard.