Gators in the NFL Draft: Greenard's Stock Is Soaring, and Other Updates
As Florida prepares for its upcoming, unannounced bowl game, the Gators also have several key contributors preparing for life after college and a transition to the NFL.
No contributor has enjoyed as productive of a 2019 season as defensive end Jonathan Greenard. The graduate transfer has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the nation while donning orange and blue, tallying nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 41 quarterback pressures, an interception, two forced fumbles, and three batted passes.
That production will pay dividends. A year ago, coming off of a broken wrist and preparing to transfer for his final season in college football, Greenard was an NFL Draft afterthought.
Today, Greenard is considered one of the better edge rushing prospects in the 2020 draft class. Jordan Reid, a Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network, currently views Greenard as the No. 62 overall prospect for the upcoming selection ceremony.
And if Greenard blows up the 2020 Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, he could find himself in first round conversation.
"It's without question his well-roundedness as a pass rusher," Reid said of Greenard's most dominant trait.
"Early on in his career, even dating back to his career at Louisville, he got by simply because he was a superior athlete than opposing blockers," Reid continued. "Now, he's showing a diverse skill set that involves everything from inside counters to a spin move, which he has developed this season. Those type of tools already being in his arsenal is one area that he has an upper-hand on over some other notable names in a class full of talented edge rushers."
Wow. That's some high praise for a pass rusher coming out of college. Typically, edge rushers have plenty left to develop on the pass rushing front as they ascend to the NFL, but Greenard has polished his game up during his time at Florida and it's rapidly pushing him up draft boards.
"The two biggest traits that he's improved upon the most are his explosion off of the ball and finishing plays after causing disruption," said Reid. "Greenard has always been an edge rusher that could wreak havoc and get home, but many of those opportunities failed because of an inability to bring ball carriers and quarterbacks down behind the line. He seems to be much more comfortable in Florida's defensive scheme as well as they simply allow him to be himself."
Reid believes Greenard would best fit in a 3-4 defensive front as an outside linebacker at the next level, a position in which he has played at Florida within its hybrid defense. He believes that teams like the Los Angeles Rams, Tennessee Titans, and Pittsburgh Steelers would provide solid fits for Greenard.
Let's check in on the status of other projected Florida Gators NFL Draft prospects.
Cornerback C.J. Henderson: Early second round pick
Still one of the better pure cover cornerbacks in the class, Henderson had a rough routing against Florida State and has been an inconsistent tackler throughout the season, which could be poorly reflected in his draft stock. However, expect him to soar following the NFL Combine when he puts his speed on display in athletic testing drills.
On the season, Henderson has allowed a completion percentage in coverage of 54.1%, slightly worse than his 50% mark in 2018. However, that's still an elite mark, and the junior cornerback has broken up 10 passes. Teams covet cornerbacks with elite athleticism and coverage technique to man up across from elite receiving talents in today's passing NFL. Henderson will find a home that views him in that light.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks: Needs to transfer rather than declare
On Monday, quarterback Feleipe Franks announced his intentions to leave the University of Florida and explore his options to either transfer or declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. His name entered the transfer portal on Monday, but he could still be accessing his draft options.
He absolutely should choose the former. Fresh off of a dislocated ankle, Franks doesn't have the stability as a prospect to ensure he'd hear his name called. Should he transfer, preferably to a school in the Big 12, AAC, or lower-level FBS, Franks should be able to find an offense where he can produce big numbers and regain momentum as a prospect.
While he struggled with inconsistencies, Franks' game improved drastically under head coach Dan Mullen and he was going the right direction towards being an NFL prospect one day, especially given his size (6-6, 238 lbs.), arm strength, and mobility. Those three traits are the reason Josh Allen was selected No. 7 overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2018, after completing only 56.2% of his passes and tossing 21 interceptions during his career at Wyoming. Franks currently stands at 59% completion and has thrown 17 interceptions, playing in two more career games than Allen.
This isn't to say Franks is worth the seventh overall pick based on his career at Florida. I don't think Josh Allen was whatsoever. But the NFL is a copy-cat league. With a healthy, productive "prove-it" year at another school, there would be teams willing to take a chance on Franks in 2021.
Meanwhile, Gators redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Trask has already announced that he will be returning to Florida for his final season. Should he have declared, Trask certainly has the momentum to earn a Senior Bowl invite as he's already graduated, but it was ultimately the smartest decision to return after only nine career starts.
Defensive end Jabari Zuniga: Fifth round pick
It's really unfortunate to still have Zuniga listed as a fifth round pick projection because he stands far above that ranking on tape. But, aggravating ankle injuries in a crucial season will knock players down boards.
Zuniga is an explosive edge prospect, much like Greenard, but plays a lot more vertically in his pass rush that allows him to blend speed to power. Five-technique is the best position that his skillset best translates to, lining up head over the offensive tackle. Greenard is twitchy, and bursts around the edge and utilizes finesse moves while lining up wide, while Zuniga can often win with power moves.
However, Zuniga is undersized (6-4, 246 lbs.) for typical NFL strong-side ends, which could strengthen the concern over his ankle. He's expected to test well at the Combine, so he has a chance to work his way back up to where his talent deserves to be in the second-to-third round range.
RB Lamical Perine: Fifth round pick
As I've written for a while, Perine is the type of player who wins at the Senior Bowl, and running backs often do behind an all-star senior offensive linemen. Given his improvement as a receiver, Perine will stand out as a dual-threat running back and be able to play up to his 2018 standards behind far better run blocking, which has hampered his production
He's a sleeper to rise, but keep in mind that running backs are becoming devalued in the NFL Draft. But he will carve out a role as a committee back early in his NFL career, fitting with teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and offenses moving towards the RBBC method.
The wide receivers
Van Jefferson, Josh Hammond, and Freddie Swain have all accepted invites to participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl, and have a chance to boost their draft stock.
The 2020 NFL Draft is littered with talent at wide receiver, arguably one of the deepest wide receiver classes in draft history. Considering their lack of production due to the amount of talent Florida has in its passing game, it will be crucial for all three receivers to stand out in the draft process.
However, all three are considered leaders on the team, have polished their technique within Dan Mullen's spread scheme that is translating towards the NFL, and carry special teams experience.
Teams will give them all a shot, even if it comes in undrafted free agency.