The NFL Combine officially begins today in Indianapolis, and 10 Gators were invited. Let’s take a look at each Gator who will be participating. At the bottom is a breakdown of the combine schedule, detailing when each position group will arrive and what they will undergo during the process.
Sharrif Floyd, DT
Unlike the rest of his Gator teammates, Floyd is a sure-fire first-round selection. Some draft analysts even have Floyd going as the second or third overall selection in the draft because the Jacksonville Jaguars (2nd pick) and Oakland Raiders (3rd pick) have a need for a defensive tackle.
Floyd isn’t expected to fall past the top 15, and his value is based on his versatility. After making the coaches’ freshman All-SEC squad in 2010, Floyd started 11 games at defensive end in Will Muschamp’s 3-4 scheme as a sophomore. He finished with 46 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and capped the year with 1.5 sacks in a win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. As a junior, Floyd switched back to what is considered his more natural position at tackle and was a third-team All-American.
The fact Floyd can play in a three-technique on the inside or a five-technique on the edge could make him the most coveted defensive tackle in a draft that’s loaded with talent at his position, which includes Utah nose tackle Star Lotulelei. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call Monday and raved about Floyd, who he feels “dominated” Florida’s 37-26 win over Florida State this past season.
“What is most important about this kid is his explosion. He reminds me, and I’m not going to say he’s ever going to be Warren Sapp, but it’s that type of first-step explosion,” Mayock said. “He can get an edge as a pass rusher. He’s strong enough to push the pocket. He’s stout against the run, and he can run sideline to sideline.”
Matt Elam, SS
The only thing that may prevent Elam from being a first-round pick is the same thing that could make him a first-round pick: his aggressiveness. Elam, as physical and energetic as they come, was a nightmare as a blitzer, played frequently in the box to provide run support and covered slot receivers on numerous occasions. All of those things make him coveted by NFL teams, which have a higher demand for hybrid safeties nowadays. However, Elam goes for the big hit quite often and can overpursue at times. He leads with his shoulder and leaves his feet while going for the tackle.
Still, Elam is a game-changer with instincts that can’t be taught. Those won’t be ignored by the head coaches, general managers and scouts who will be in Indianapolis. Elam made plays throughout his UF career as an athletic, ball-hawking safety, and he made them in the biggest of games against Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and more. Opposing offenses had to account for where Elam was pre-snap on every given play when scanning the nation’s best defense last season.
As a sophomore, Elam was one of five Gators to start all 13 games in 2011. He led the team in tackles for loss (11), pass breakups (seven) and forced fumbles (two). As a junior, Elam had 76 tackles, 11 more for loss, four interceptions, two sacks and one forced fumble on the way to being named to the first-team All-SEC defense. He finished his career with 11 tackles, including a sack, in the Sugar Bowl.
Elam is widely seen as the top strong safety prospect in the country and could be a late first-round pick.
Jordan Reed, TE
After lining up all over the field at Florida, it didn’t take long for Reed to look like a natural at tight end. After catching 28 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore, Reed led Florida in receptions (45) and receiving yards (559) and had three touchdowns as a junior. He’s been tutored by former Gator tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has made the type of impact that Reed will look to make at the next level.
Although Reed’s blocking needs plenty of work, he’ll take advantage of the fact that NFL teams are airing it out more than ever. More and more teams are looking for “joker” tight ends — the athletic, pass-catching variety — that can cause mismatches, and Reed certainly has the skills to do that. He’s not as big or maybe even as complete as Stanford’s Zach Ertz or Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, but Reed is just as, if not more, gifted in terms of athleticism and catch-and-run abilities.
It’s yet to be seen whether Reed’s stock in the draft will be affected after reportedly being benched in the Gators’ Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville for attitude issues. Entering the combine, Reed could go late in the second round or early in the third, but good interviews and workouts could make him an early second rounder.
Jelani Jenkins, OLB
Tight ends like Reed have given way to more linebackers like Jenkins in the NFL. When it comes to linebackers, especially outside linebackers, the league isn’t as fixated on size and strength. Teams are seeking quickness and coverage ability, evidenced by the fact that three of what many considered “undersized” linebackers were taken within the first 100 picks in last year’s draft. When it comes to staying with tight ends and running backs, Jenkins is capable and runs sideline-to-sideline exceptionally well.
The big question surrounding Jenkins is whether he can stay healthy. Jenkins dealt with a slew of injuries during a redshirt junior season in which he only played nine games. He had a lingering hamstring issue and had surgeries on his right foot and hand. Jenkins had 29 tackles (five for loss), two sacks, one interception, and one punt block before deciding to forgo his senior season.
Despite his lackluster final year at Florida, and his health concerns, Jenkins is slated to be a fourth-round pick.
Xavier Nixon, LT
Consistency has always been the biggest concern with Nixon. While he graded out at more than 90 percent against Bowling Green, LSU and Florida State while shutting out first-team All-American Damontre Moore against Texas A&M, Nixon’s play was largely up and down during his Gator career. While he has great length and athleticism, his technique still struggled during his senior season.
Teams aren’t willing to gamble when drafting their quarterback’s blindside protector, but Nixon is projected to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Jon Bostic, ILB
Bostic has more to gain from the combine than most players. Bostic is a throwback middle linebacker in every sense of the word. He’s an excellent run-stuffer, and, he’s a vocal leader who brings attitude (sometimes too much) to his defense. Yet, as superb as he is as a downhill defender attacking the line of scrimmage, Bostic may have to adjust to the speed of the NFL when it comes to chasing running backs east and west. Similar to what former Gator middle linebacker Brandon Spikes did at the next level, Bostic will need to get quicker and rely on his instincts to make enough plays.
Bostic showed promise early on as a Gator. He played every game as a sophomore, making 57 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and three interceptions. Bostic had his best season as a junior, leading the team with 94 tackles, 10 behind the line of scrimmage, and three sacks. His senior year saw him go for 62 tackles, 6.5 of those for loss and three sacks.
Bostic is projected to be a mid-round pick and may be taken in the fourth round.
Mike Gillislee, RB
Everyone laughed when Gillislee proclaimed at SEC Media Days in July that his goal was to run for 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns. He fell short of those heights, but he still exceeded everyone’s expectations. As the staple of the Gators’ offense, the gritty Gillislee ran for 1,152 yards, becoming the first Florida running back since 2004 to hit the 1,000-yard mark. Gillislee had big-time efforts to lead the Gators to wins over rivals Florida State, LSU and Tennessee in his senior season.
He won’t wow the scouts with blinding speed or scary power, but Gillislee has a little bit of everything. Also intriguing to NFL personnel will be the fact that the tread on Gillislee’s tires are in good shape coming out of college, but he still proved that he can carry the load after averaging 18.8 carries a game against SEC defenses in his final year.
Gillislee is still very much a raw running back, and he has an upside that can make him a productive member of a committee in the NFL. He’s projected to go in the fourth or fifth round.
Josh Evans, FS
Entering 2012, who would’ve thought Evans would lead the Gators in tackles? Evans did just that, racking up 83 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, three INTs and three pass breakups. He had five or more tackles in 12 of 13 games.
Evans is a more-than-willing tackler against the run and has good instincts against the pass. He also had a solid showing in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 19 in St. Pete, and could be taken as high as the fifth round.
Lerentee McCray, OLB
McCray could be a steal for a team implementing a 3-4 scheme and looking for an outside pass-rusher. However, he’ll need to prove to NFL scouts that he has the tools to win more battles inside and that he can be an every-down player in the league.
Despite missing about the equivalent of two seasons due to injury, McCray played every game last season with the exception of the Missouri game, which should help ease the concern of scouts who may see him as injury-prone.
As a senior, McCray recorded 25 tackles (4.5 for loss), three sacks, and an interception. He’s projected to be taken in the fourth or fifth round.
Caleb Sturgis, K
Sturgis was as reliable a kicker as the Gators have had. As a junior, Sturgis became one of the top kickers in the nation. He was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award after connecting on 22 of 26 field-goal attempts and made every extra-point attempt (31-of-31). As a senior, Sturgis made 24 of 28 attempts. He earned All-American honors in each of his last two seasons as a Gator.
Sturgis has always shown the ability to put the ball through the uprights from far away. He hit a 55-yarder against Furman as a junior and a 56-yarder against Georgia as a sophomore (the longest kick in the SEC that year). That strong leg is also the reason Sturgis can simultaneously serve as a team’s kickoff specialist. He improved his touchback percentage on kickoffs from a low 17 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2012, which is a necessity in the NFL because of the rule changes on kickoffs.
Sturgis is projected to go in the seventh round.
2013 NFL COMBINE SCHEDULE
Overall, there were 333 players invited to participate in this year’s combine. Here’s a comprehensive look at when and what they’ll be going through at Lucas Oil Stadium:
DAY 1 ARRIVALS: Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (TE)
Wednesday, Feb. 20 — Travel to Indianapolis, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays, Orientation, Interviews
Thursday, Feb. 21 — Measurements, Medical Examinations, Media, Interviews
Friday, Feb. 22 — NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Interviews
Saturday, Feb. 23 — On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis
DAY 2 ARRIVALS: Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (RB)
Thursday, Feb. 21 — Travel to Indianapolis, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays, Orientation, Interviews
Friday, Feb. 22 — Measurements, Medical Examinations, Media, Interviews
Saturday, Feb. 23 — NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Interviews
Sunday, Feb. 24 — On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis
DAY 3 ARRIVALS: Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB)
Friday, Feb. 22 — Travel to Indianapolis, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays, Orientation, Interviews
Saturday, Feb. 23 — Measurements, Medical Examinations, Media, Interviews
Sunday, Feb. 24 — NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Interviews
Monday, Feb. 25 — On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis
DAY 4 ARRIVALS: Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB)
Saturday, Feb. 23 — Travel to Indianapolis, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays, Orientation, Interviews
Sunday, Feb. 24 — Measurements, Medical Examinations, Media, Interviews
Monday, Feb. 25 — NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Interviews
Tuesday, Feb. 26 — On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure from Indianapolis