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Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft: Should NFL teams be wary of Florida Gators receivers?

TAMPA — When it comes to selecting receivers in the NFL draft, consider the posted warning signs.

Beware of Florida Gators.

Despite jaw-dropping statistics as Florida Gators, receivers such as Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green, Reche Caldwell, Travis Taylor, Jabar Gaffney, Taylor Jacobs and Chad Jackson have gone from heroes to zeroes at the professional level.

If past is prologue, should NFL teams be wary of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy?

"I've heard the knock on Florida receivers," said Murphy, the former star at St. Petersburg's Lakewood High. "All of those guys were great in my eyes. You can't say two people are exactly the same. I think we're just a different breed, a different style of player. They were a little smaller than us."

Murphy is big (6 feet 2½, 201 pounds), fast (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and led the Florida Gators with 655 receiving yards. Harvin (5-11, 191, 4.39) had 3,781 combined rushing and receving yards and 32 touchdowns in three seasons, much of it while lined up at running back.

Harvin has been projected as a first-round pick, but his stock might be plummeting for reasons unrelated to just his alma mater.

Tuedsay, Foxsports.com, citing unnamed sources, reported Harvin tested positive for marijuana at the combine in February. Players know they are going to be tested. At a minimum, a positive result means he would begin his career subject to the league's substance abuse program.

"A couple of weeks ago, I had (Harvin) going to Tennessee at the 30th pick," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said on a national conference call. "At one point, I had him at No. 17 to the New York Jets."

Nobody doubts Harvin's talent. He has been compared to Saints running back Reggie Bush because of his versatility.

"Percy is a guy who could play running back or receiver," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "He's a guy who has multiple talent, where Reggie coming out of USC was extremely dynamic. Reggie was much more easy to cast his role in the National Football League from Day 1.

"I don't think Percy is going to have a hard time fitting into the NFL, either. But Reggie was so obviously a running back, that's probably why there's more of a gap with Percy."

Another concern with Harvin is his history of foot, ankle and leg injuries.

"He played through it in the (national) championship game," Kiper said. "He made the one big play of that game that turned the tide and helped Florida to win it. And without him, they don't beat Oklahoma.

"He's got great value. Of course, Reggie Bush was the second pick overall and this kid will be in the late first round with those same type of explosive skills and versatility. Late first round, he's got outstanding value."

Harvin disagrees that the Gators offense prevents their receivers from performing well at the next level. He cited Andre Caldwell, a third-round pick of the Bengals last year who caught 11 passes for 78 yards over the final four games.

"Our offense may not be the best, but it does show our playmaking ability," Harvin said. "Of course, it doesn't show our route-running (skills) as much as need be. But Andre Caldwell at Cincinnati proved we can be receivers. He came on strong at the end of the year, so I'm not worried about that at all."

There was a time when Gators receivers were extremely productive in the NFL. Nat Moore, Wes Chandler and Cris Collinsworth dominated at certain points in their careers.

But since the Steve Spurrier-Ron Zook-Urban Meyer era, Gators receivers have struggled making the transition from the spread offense.

Murphy is projected to go in the second round and has no off-field issues affecting his status. He also is out to prove the perceptions wrong.

"(The Gators offense) has prepared me a lot; more than people think, more than the media thinks," Murphy said. "They think playing in this offense is more hocus pocus.

"I've sat down with some NFL coaches. We go over plays and formations, and they're actually surprised with how much I do know about the game and how much it really does relate to the NFL."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft: Should NFL teams be wary of Florida Gators receivers? 04/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 10:55am]
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