The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone. Rookies are back out on the practice field with their newfound teams, and college programs have kickstarted their offseason programs to train the next slew of athletes to take their game to the next level.
This year, the Florida Gators sent 11 players to the NFL; eight via the NFL Draft and three via undrafted free agency. While Florida has sent plenty of talent to their next occupation, there's plenty of reason to anticipate more movement as the year moves forward.
This can be said for at least several Florida athletes who look to test their fate in the 2022 NFL Draft. But who among the many have the best chances of being selected?
Jones is a pure projection. Slated to become the Gators' full-time starting quarterback for the first time in his collegiate career this season, he's already receiving a lot of national buzz. With a blend of size, athleticism, and a powerful arm, Jones has the makings of a quick-riser in terms of the NFL Draft and the scouts will certainly keep a watchful eye on him as the season moves forward.
Over the past three seasons with Florida, Jones has played in a total of 24 games, completing 55 out of 86 (64%) of his passes for 613 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also thrown one interception. But, what has stood out over the years has been his ability to make plays with his legs.
Jones has attempted a total of 92 rushes for 514 yards and six touchdowns. His dynamic play-making ability will vault him up the rankings, granted he has a successful season this fall.
Elam will likely be the highest-selected Gators player in 2022, depending on how Jones does this season. He has the makings of a true shut-down cornerback in the NFL if he should play to his potential. While Elam did not necessarily shoot up the charts in 2020 due in large part because of the play around him, he still has shown plenty of ability in the past to make up for it.
The expectations surrounding Elam are at an all-time high. He will be expected to shut down any top-dog receiver that ventures to his side of the gridiron, and for good reason. Over the past two seasons, Elam has played in a total of 20 games, making four interceptions, 49 tackles, 15 pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Last season was his first year as a full-time starter.
At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Elam has plenty of size and length to match up against any receiver that lines up across from him. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed 33 catches from 77 targets for 434 yards over his career. He's exactly the prototype to play in the NFL and should become a hot name in a short time.
The Gators have a knack for sending receivers to the NFL. Over the past two seasons, Florida has sent six receivers to the NFL via the NFL Draft or undrafted free agency. They've also had a receiver selected in either the first or second round over the past two seasons.
Copeland could be the next to see his work pay off, even if he hasn't been the most productive player in college football over the course of his career.
Now in his fourth season with the Gators, Copeland finally has an opportunity to showcase his talents as the team's unquestioned starter at receiver, and should see plenty of targets from Jones as a result. At 6-foot, 203 pounds, Copeland possess the size and speed necessary to make an impact at the next level.
Over the course of his career, Copeland has tallied 45 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns.
Carter ought to be the next big-man defender to come out of the University of Florida and into the NFL. After opting to return to the program for his final season in pursuit of his degree, he's slated to make a major and immediate impact on the Florida defensive line as its unquestioned leader upfront.
After playing multiple positions throughout his first three years at the university (Carter redshirted his first year at Florida in 2017), the defensive lineman is ready to settle into his natural position as a strongside defensive end, proficient against the run and pass.
At 6-foot-4, 277 pounds, Carter offers plenty of upside for any versatile front in the NFL. Last season was his most productive year, playing the majority of it on the outside while spending time inside during the earlier portion of the year.
He would account for 35 tackles (14 solos), nine tackles for loss and five sacks on the year. He has a total of 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in three years combined. Don't be surprised to see Carter as one of the first names to come off the board for the Gators in 2022.
A transfer from Auburn, Newkirk has a real shot of being selected following a successful season at Florida in 2021. He offers plenty of upside athletically and has a knack for penetrating an offensive line. While he has played in just 19 games over the past three seasons, he has plenty of experience with not only the Tigers but in junior college too.
Over the past three seasons, he's accounted for 40 tackles (12 solo), five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
He has a long way to go, but his athletic profile matches nicely with what the NFL looks for, and as a starter on the Florida defensive line this season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him selected.
A former five-star pass rusher, Cox transferred to the University of Florida just two seasons ago. After spending a year with the practice team due to transfer rules, Cox would finally make his way to the gridiron at Florida as the team's starting BUCK, replacing Jonathan Greenard (Houston Texans) from just a season ago.
Cox possesses everything you would want in an NFL pass rusher from the physical standpoint. He's listed at 6-foot-4, 252 pounds and carries his weight incredibly well. Talented with the speed and power to rush off the edge, Cox is in store for a real breakout season at Florida this year.
Donning the No. 1 jersey with the Gators, his talent level speaks for itself. While he managed just 3.5 sacks last season, that stat didn't truly showcase his abilities, as he led the team in QB hurries with 18.
Look for Cox to be a big name to watch as the 2022 NFL Draft inches closer over the next year.
While he may not be the most explosive running back, the NFL is always looking for talent at the position, especially from a respected program such as Florida. Over the past three seasons, Pierce has rushed for a respectable 1,232 yards on 229 carries (5.4 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns.
He has played primarily as a rotational piece for the Gators, though he received more of a workload last season as one of the lead tailbacks. While his receiving ability leaves much to be desired, he fits well in a scheme that utilizes heavy power-run principles that allow him to showcase his strength.
At 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, Pierce's role in the NFL would likely be as a goalline, short-yardage back, but it would largely depend on his athletic testing during his pro day or the NFL combine. Regardless, don't be surprised to see Pierce in the NFL in a short time.
Reese, returning as a sixth-year student, transferred to UF last summer and quickly transitioned into a member of the starting lineup after spending four seasons with Mississippi State. A Dan Mullen disciple, Reese fit exactly what the team was looking for and played well overall during his first season with the team.
This year, Reese will likely transition to left guard, making way for Joshua Braun at the right guard position, but his versatility allows him to play multiple positions inside, including center.
Regardless, Reese at 6-foot-6, 350 pounds, should make for an intriguing player at the next level. His ability to be drafted will depend on not only his play this season, but also his athletic testing.
Miller was an unquestioned leader for the Florida defense last season and will look to continue that this year as he uses his last year of eligibility. His return should bring a presence to the middle of the Florida defense.
He presents an intriguing player entering his potential final season with the team. Over the course of three seasons, he's accounted for 87 solo tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. His speed inside is unquestioned, but his sideline-to-sideline ability could use some work.
Miller's ceiling as an NFL player has yet to be known, but an impressive season this year coupled with a standout performance in athletic testing should do him well moving forward.