With the 2020 NFL Draft finally wrapped up, the Gators made their mark in more ways than one after three former Gators receivers had their names scroll under the classic ESPN BottomLine.
Van Jefferson (second round), Freddie Swain (sixth round), and Tyrie Cleveland (seventh round) were all selected over the past three days, making them the first trio of Gators receivers to enter the NFL via the NFL Draft since 1978 when Florida receivers Wes Chandler, Terry LeCount, and Derrick Gaffney were selected.
Jefferson was Florida's highest-selected receiver since Percy Harvin landed in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
It is the first time in team history, period, that three Gators receivers were selected in the first seven rounds of the draft (the NFL shortened the draft to seven rounds in 1994).
By virtue of three Gators receivers getting selected this year, they assisted in tying an NFL record for the most receivers selected in the NFL Draft modern era with 36, according to ESPN's Stats and Information. The Gators would lead the pack among all colleges with three selected, the only team to have as many through seven rounds this year.
Entering the draft, there was a perception regarding Gators receivers and a difference in opinion regarding when each could be selected, if at all. Jefferson was a consensus pick to be selected, however, the other two - Swain and Cleveland - were not as highly thought of by the general public and some NFL Draft pundits.
However, with three being selected yesterday, and, according to the Associated Press' Mark Long, one signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars immediately following the draft in Josh Hammond, the misconceived notion regarding repetitions hindering their draft status seems to have been debunked.
Last season, Gators head coach Dan Mullen talked about the team's philosophy when it came to offensive touches, typically in a Mullen-led offense, a team will not have a true number one guy who receives all of the touches. Last season, Jefferson led all Gators receivers with 49 receptions, followed by Swain with 38, Hammond (27), and Cleveland (25). Yet all four are on NFL teams today or will be soon in Hammond's case.
“Look, they know they're going to get the opportunity to get the ball," Mullen said last season. "There's a lot of places where just one guy touches the ball. I'm sure those programs tell everybody, 'You're the one guy.' Then the kid shows up and they're not the one guy. You've got to wait a couple of years to be the one guy.
"I think guys look at our program and say, 'Hey, you're going to play, you're going to have the opportunity, multiple guys to go get experience. Multiple guys carrying the ball, catching the ball. We're going to spread it around to whoever is there.' It makes it a lot of fun to play in an offense like that where you know you're getting touches."
This philosophy works two-fold. Not only does it make the recruits happy to a degree, but it also allows the team to get more out of each player, and in essence, out of the offense itself by creating favorable matchups depending on the receiver type.
Now, Jefferson is on the Los Angeles Rams, Swain to the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland to the Denver Broncos, and Hammond to the Jacksonville Jaguars. All three receivers, while not highly featured, played enough and enjoyed success thanks in part to how Mullen ran his ship in Gainesville.
The recipe appears to be working, and more recruits should take notice before casting aside the Gators due to misconceived notions.