While the Florida Gators were scheduled to only be through four games by this point, NFL squads are onto Week 7. While some of those teams have playoff aspirations, others are looking towards the 2021 NFL Draft.
Much like this past offseason, the Gators should be well represented in this year's draft, at least based on the team's first three games.
Based on our analysis of each draft-eligible player and experience covering the draft in the past, where does Sports Illustrated-AllGators value Florida's 2021 NFL Draft prospects early in the process? As the season goes on, prospects are sure to move up and down NFL teams boards, and there is plenty of time for more UF prospects to emerge.
Note: Underclassmen or players with eligibility remaining beyond the season included in the rankings are a projection, based on their resumé as a prospect.
AllGators' Early UF 2021 NFL Draft Rankings
1. TE Kyle Pitts (Jr.) - First round
Pitts was in contention for 2021's tight end No. 1 label entering his junior season, namely with Penn State's Pat Freiermuth and Miami's Brevin Jordan. A member of the Big 10, Friermuth has yet to start his junior season and Jordan has been productive but not special, furthermore dealing with injuries, while Pitts has been nothing short of a star.
Hauling in 17 receptions for 274 yards and seven touchdowns, Pitts has been the most dominant weapon in Florida's No. 11 nationally-ranked passing offense. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end looks like a wide receiver when running routes, excelling with sharp footwork for his size and great physicality to beat press defenders. Possessing such a long and strong frame, Pitts can out-jump and out-muscle just about any defensive back or linebacker for a ball in the air.
Pitts has also improved as a blocker as he's gotten stronger and more experienced. He's not great in that department, as he could stand to improve his lower-body technique to sustain blocks against bigger edge defenders, but Pitts is more than willing to attack blocks and is aggressive through the whistle which is what you want to see.
At the end of the day, though, Pitts' bread and butter is catching passes and being a mismatch. That's what the NFL is looking for in the modern-era tight end, and at this rate, Pitts is clearly the best of the upcoming bunch. While he's a true junior, he's a candidate to declare early as a first-round prospect.
2. QB Kyle Trask (r-Sr.) - Second round
Entering his first season as the opening day starter since he was a freshman in high school, 2020 serves as the prove-it year for Kyle Trask.
So far, so good. Great, even.
Trask has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation this season, and while he has the help of a deep arsenal of weapons, he's shown ample improvement himself after his breakout 2019 campaign.
Through three games, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound signal-caller has completed 71.8% of his 103 passes for 996 yards (9.7 yards per attempt), throwing 14 touchdowns compared to just one interception. Trask has had a couple of near-picks, but in general, his decision-making has improved from a year ago which has led to more efficiency as well as higher confidence. Trask has shown more mobility within the pocket and rolling out to evade pressure and extend throws, and while he'll never be a true dual-threat, mobility as a passer is more important than being a rusher.
2021 should bear a packed quarterback class with Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields, and North Dakota State's Trey Lance namely projected to go in the first round. If Trask keeps up his strong play through the remainder of the 2020 season, especially against the daunting Georgia Bulldogs defense on Nov. 7, he could enter that conversation.
3. DL Zachary Carter (r-Jr.) - Early day three
His box score won't blow you away, but Carter's weight gain, transition to a bigger role at defensive tackle, and ability to pressure the quarterback will have the NFL's attention when he declares. As a redshirt junior, he's eligible.
Carter, 6-foot-4, jumped from 264-pounds a season ago to 290-pounds this year, cutting down his body fat drastically in his time at UF. A lengthy defensive lineman with positional versatility, solid athleticism, and explosion off the snap, Carter could add more weight to be a three-down defensive tackle at the next level, or work on the edge as teams see fit.
Carter has tallied 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, and 10 quarterback pressures (per Pro Football Focus). He had a lackluster outing against Texas A&M along with the rest of UF's defense, and will be expected to have better showing against tougher offensive lines this season in order to improve his stock. However, Carter's disruption has been one of the few bright spots of Florida's defense throughout the year.
4. WR Kadarius Toney (Sr.) - Early day three
Toney has been one of Florida's most improved players from a year ago and should be climbing his way up draft boards already given so. Starting at slot receiver, Toney has been Trask's No. 1 true receiver this year with 18 catches for 237 yards (13.2 yards per reception) and four scores.
The 6-foot, 193-pound Toney has grown from previous roster listings during his UF career and his current size is just fine for an NFL slot receiver. Teams will be rightfully tempted to motion Toney into the backfield for carries or even Wildcat quarterback snaps given his elusiveness and contact balance with the ball in his hands, but he's proven he can beat man coverage and play the receiver position this season.
Pitts may headline Florida's pass-catching arsenal, but Toney isn't far behind. While the majority of the SEC has played one more game than UF this season, Toney ranks tied for third in the conference in touchdown receptions and 16th in receiving yards.
5. OL Brett Heggie (r-Sr.) - Day three
After battling injuries to begin his career, Heggie has been healthy for all but one game dating back to the start of last season and has shown off the versatility that scouts look for from interior offensive linemen.
Last season, the 6-foot-5, 321-pound lineman spent 415 snaps at left guard and 351 at right guard, but moved to center for his final season of eligibility and got off to a hot start. Heggie earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Ole Miss and has been one of Florida's best pass-protectors, giving up just three pressures on 121 pass-blocking snaps.
With 31 appearances (22 starts) under his belt and counting, knowledge of three positions, and ideal size, Heggie has made himself some NFL money in his fifth season as a Gator so far.
6. Safety Shawn Davis (Sr.) - Day three
Florida's secondary has been a mess to begin the 2020 season but Davis hasn't been the problem. He was ejected ten snaps into the season-opener for targeting, and has 20 tackles, a defended pass, and a forced fumble in the two games since.
Davis is a twitchy downhill defender at 6-foot, 206-pounds who has also shown solid range in coverage as a two-high safety. He's not a consistent singe-high free safety prospect but he can get the job done in Cover 3 with additional deep help from cornerbacks. Davis isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and deliver a blow, which leads to some big hits but also some misses that could be corrected with improved technique.
As the 2020 season goes on, Davis can improve his stock by creating more turnovers through the air - he had three interceptions a year ago - and cleaning up his missed tackles. While redshirt sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson was expected to lead Florida's secondary and become a legitimate prospect this year, he has disappointed while Davis has surged ahead.
7. DT T.J. Slaton (Sr.) - Mid/late day three
Slaton has made some plays at the line or in the backfield that grab your attention this season. You could argue he's had a similar amount of reps where he gets pushed around and washed out of the play.
Taking on the starting nose tackle job this season, Slaton has averaged just over 51 snaps per game compared to 24 a year ago. As the heat beat down in College Station in Week 3, Florida's run defense was worn out and gashed, allowing 160 rushing yards in the second half while Slaton and the starters were subbed at tough times for necessary breathers.
Where this is going: Slaton is a big guy at 6-foot-5, 340-pounds and is being used a lot due to Florida's lack of defensive line depth, which is hurting his play. When he's fresh, Slaton can make an impact, as seen by his eight tackles, half a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and six pressures. However, he's best served as an early-down player who can take on double-teams and make an impact in the backfield. NFL teams will love his physical profile, and he has a chance to be drafted in such a role.