It's been a long four months of debating which team will select Kyle Pitts in the top ten picks, why Kyle Trask is an underrated quarterback in this year's class, and Marco Wilson's potential after his electric pro day performance.
But alas, the NFL Draft is finally here ladies and gentlemen. Or at least, close enough - set to begin 35 hours after this Florida Gators-centric mock draft was posted.
For credibility purposes, this mock draft was created in coordination with the full two-round mock draft that I posted on AllBucs.com on Monday. Pitts and Kadarius Toney can be found on the same teams with the same pick as my original mock draft, while the remaining selections in this mock correspond with each team's needs after their first two rounds in the full mock.
My final Gators-only mock draft has nine former Florida players featured, which would be tied for the second-most in school history (ten in 1978).
First round, fourth overall: TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
Consistent with my previous Gators mock draft, I believe Kyle Pitts will be the first non-quarterback to come off the board on Thursday night.
I understand the Falcons could go a few different ways here. They're "open to moving" out of the fourth pick, they could take a quarterback, they could even surprise everyone and upgrade their offensive line with Penei Sewell - new head coach Arthur Smith comes from Tennessee and found a lot of success running the ball with Derrick Henry and a strong line, keep in mind.
However, Pitts could help extend 35-year-old quarterback Matt Ryan's career by several years, considering Ryan is still playing pretty well entering his fourteenth season. Pitts is going to be a passer's best friend at the next level like he was Kyle Trask's over the past two seasons.
Add in that the Falcons are reportedly listening to trade calls regarding star wide receiver Julio Jones, and Pitts emerges as obvious choice.
First round, 21st overall: WR Kadarius Toney, Indianapolis Colts
I'm expecting Kadarius Toney to hear his name called anywhere between the No. 19 and No. 29 pick as a part of the first-round run on wide receivers. Although Toney is frequently joined by Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, Ole Miss' Elijah Moore, LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr., and Purdue's Rondale Moore in the same range, I think Toney's pro day results on top of the growth he displayed in 2020 could push him up the board.
Think about it. A year ago when Toney toyed with the idea of declaring early, he couldn't run much more than a screen route and may have been better served to enter the league as a running back. He's now one of the most electrifying underneath-to-intermediate receivers in his class, and his 40-yard dash, 20-yard split, vertical and broad jump all rank in the 86th percentile or higher among all-time receivers. Most of his results are better than the prospects above, and they indicate that Toney can continue to grow as a complete receiver.
The Colts need to add multiple playmakers to their offense after taking a chance on reviving quarterback Carson Wentz's career. Toney is a yards after the catch weapon that Wentz could benefit from on quick passes, who also adds a pre-snap motion and rushing experience to get the ball in his hands and expand the playbook.
Third round, 94th overall: OT Stone Forsythe, Baltimore Ravens
Stone Forsythe has to have enjoyed his meteoric rise in draft rankings over the past month or so after admitting after UF's pro day that he understood he was underrated. Before pro day, Forsythe was nowhere to be found in mock drafts, and now, he comes in as the consensus No. 110 overall prospect in this year's class at NFL Mock Draft Database and No. 119 on The Athletic's consensus board.
Baltimore traded starting tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City last week but might be comfortable with 2019 First Team All-Pro Ronnie Stanley returning from injury and Tyre Phillips (a protégé of Florida offensive line coach John Hevesy's at Mississippi State) coming off of eight starts as a rookie.
Still, a new swing tackle is a big need for the Ravens and Forsythe can fill that role. Should Phillips struggle or an injury force Forsythe into the starting lineup, I'm confident he can hold his own at least as a pass protector. The swing role should allow Forsythe to continue developing his skills as a run blocker at a controlled pace.
Third round, 95th overall: QB Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the biggest changes in this mock compared to my previous ones is that Kyle Trask is no longer one of the top three Gators selected.
In fairness, it's really hard to accurately predict the draft this late and chances are I could be wrong. However, I couldn't find Trask a home in my two-round mock draft from Monday after it took 16 picks for the top five quarterbacks to come off the board. Trask did not present an upgrade for any remaining teams that could have selected a quarterback in the first two rounds, those teams instead immersed in runs on different positions.
So, Trask falls into the backup QB territory of the NFL Draft and presents the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with great value in the late third round. I'm not really buying that Texas A&M's Kellen Mond or Stanford's Davis Mills will be selected as high as some analysts peg them and instead I think they'll be taken in this range, too.
The Buccaneers have yet to re-sign their primary backup from a year ago in Blaine Gabbert, and Trask presents a much cheaper alternative to serve as No. 2 behind Tom Brady. Brady will be 44 before the season begins, meaning Trask can be viewed as a potential quarterback of the future once the seven-time Super Bowl champ retires.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht described the type of quarterback prospect Tampa Bay would covet in the draft last week, and Trask met the criteria.
Fifth round, 164th overall: DT T.J. Slaton, Chicago Bears
I think there's a very specific role for T.J. Slaton at the next level. Slaton's huge frame comes with impressive athleticism for his size, and I don't think it would be wise for a team to try to trim him down. Instead, I would slot Slaton 20 or so snaps per game in a late-down role and watch him thrive.
Slaton is a threatening pass rusher who can push the pocket and eat up double teams to free up edge rushers and create sacks. At 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, Slaton isn't easy to run against when he's playing in the middle of the defensive line, but he's a stronger pass rusher than run-stopper, which would delegate his snaos to second and third downs.
The Bears could desperately use pass rush help to take some of the responsibility off of Khalil Mack's shoulders, which can come in the form of an upgrade at No. 2 edge rusher and by adding talent to the defensive line rotation. I'd expect the Bears to take an edge rusher before the fifth round, while Slaton presemts a nice value here in the fifth.
Fifth round, 171st overall: CB Marco Wilson, Baltimore Ravens
Marco Wilson posted the fifth-best vertical jump and sixth-best broad jump by a cornerback ever at Florida's pro day. His 40-yard-dash, 10 and 20-yard splits, 3-cone drill and bench press results all rank in the top 20 percent of all-time cornerbacks as well.
Sure, Wilson's tape in 2020 was pretty disappointing. It was hard to expect him to be drafted a month ago after his career fall-off at Florida, especially as his career trended the wrong way after a major knee injury. But Wilson is a rare athlete and teams don't often pass those types of players up unless they have significant character concerns - Wilson may have enraged the Florida fanbase by throwing a shoe, but NFL teams will forgive him for that incident. He's getting drafted.
The Ravens run a lot of nickel and dime packages defensively and are the type of team that could covet Wilson's athleticism as well as his experience both outside and in the slot. Baltimore wouldn't need to rush Wilson onto the field other than for special teams purposes and has a strong history of developing defensive backs. This feels like an ideal fit.
Sixth round, 200th overall: WR Trevon Grimes, Las Vegas Raiders
Trevon Grimes' pro day results felt disappointing compared to the athletic standard he set on the field over the past three seasons, and when you compare his results to the unprecedented number of 4.3-range-or-better 40-yard-dashes and other inflated outcomes in this draft class.
It's worth remembering, however, that Grimes is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. His results may be slightly below-average-to-average among receivers in general, but percentiles aren't weighted for size. Grimes' numbers are being compared to receivers of all body types, even sub-6-foot speedsters. A 4.5-flat for a true boundary receiver is typically pretty impressive.
Grimes offers the Raiders a big-play threat at the boundary at a nice value due to the receiving talent with absurd testing numbers and production that litter the first two days of the draft. Grimes has the potential to develop into a red-zone threat for QB Derek Carr, rounding out a pretty exciting offense featuring receiver Henry Ruggs, tight end Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs.
Sixth round, 212th overall: iOL Brett Heggie, Houston Texans
NFL Network analyst Charles Davis wrote last week that Brett Heggie resembles Los Angeles Chargers lineman Corey Linsley, a former day three draft pick who became the league's highest-paid center this offseason. Heggie dealt with injuries earlier in his UF career but bounced back with a strong final two seasons, not allowing a sack in 2020 (per PFF) after making a transition to center late in fall camp.
The Texans have failed to build an adequate offensive line over the past several years, and are also stuck with only one top-100 pick in this year's draft. Houston will have to rely on day three options, hopefully multiple, to mend its line and Heggie could be one of the team's best bets.
Seventh round, 232nd overall: K Evan McPherson, Tennessee Titans
There are several teams in need of a kicker right now, and after the salary cap was reduced for the 2020 season I would imagine that teams will opt for rookies that bring about minimal cap hits. McPherson is widely considered to have the strongest leg in the draft and has reportedly met with at least 16 teams - half of the NFL.
The Titans did not retain Stephen Gostkowski this offseason and would begin the 2021 season with zero experience at kicker if it started today. Tucker McCann, the only kicker on Tennessee's roster currently, has not attempted a regular season kick before. McPherson (or any kicker that Tennessee covets) would be a logical selection in the final round of the draft.