In a recent 2021 NFL Mock Draft conducted by CBS Sports analyst Josh Edwards, the Florida Gators are represented twice in the first round, but not necessarily the pair of players one may expect.
Gators tight end Kyle Pitts, of course, goes in the first round at pick No. 8. No one should be surprised to see Pitts taken in the top 10, and there are some rumbles that he could be taken in the top 5 due to his playmaking ability as an offensive weapon.
But, the biggest surprise, at least based on his entire career, was receiver Kadarius Toney, who was taken by the Green Bay Packers (pick No. 31) in Edwards' projected mock draft. Many have presumed quarterback Kyle Trask as an option for the first round to go along with Pitts in the past.
Here is what Edwards had to say about the selection:
Green Bay could theoretically win the Super Bowl with just Davante Adams at wide receiver but it is not ideal. The Packers have given time to its other players at the position and it has not worked. It is time to move on and add another reliable weapon.
Toney, a senior in 2020, declared for the 2021 NFL Draft shortly following the team's 52-46 loss against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game. Toney was an instrumental part of the highly-productive Florida offense, accounting for 70 receptions for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year.
Entering the season, it was not known how productive Toney would be. He was used sparingly throughout his first three years of his career, oftentimes as an offensive weapon more so than a wide receiver. For reference, Toney hauled in just 50 receptions for 546 yards and two touchdowns in his first three years before opting to return to Florida for his senior season.
His return was proved to be a smart decision. Prior to this season, many projected Toney as a late-round selection at best, and an undrafted free agent at worst. It's safe to say that his returning, becoming more of a complete receiver, was likely the best decision he's made in his career thus far.
"I think he’s always been such a dynamic playmaker," Gators head coach Dan Mullen said in December of last year. "You put the ball in his hands and exciting things happen. But if you watch what he’s been able to do, his ability to understand the routes, be a great route-runner. He understands he has freedom within a lot of different routes at that position.
"We give that position a little bit more freedom even than other positions within the route running, and he understands though the freedom that he has and doesn’t just freelance it, but he understands the defensive coverages and the looks that he has, and he has a great feeling of how to attack those different coverages and looks, and how to win versus the different coverage people are playing against him."
What sets Toney apart from other receivers is absolutely his lateral quickness, and ability to make a man miss with ease. His special abilities as a football player, combined with his improve route-running and receiver ability make him an intriguing option in the latter portion of the first round in this year's draft.
Pairing Toney with Davante Adams, Alan Lazard and the weapons among the Packers' offense would be interesting. Combined with an aging Aaron Rodgers, and it would add another dynamic piece to an offense that's slated to play in the NFC Championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tomorrow.
What do you think? Will Kadarius Toney end up in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in April?