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NFL draft: FIU had as many picks as FSU, USF and UCF combined

The Seminoles had a historically down class, while the Florida Gators did something they haven’t done since 1978.
The only quarterback drafted from the state was Florida International's James Morgan.
The only quarterback drafted from the state was Florida International's James Morgan. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Apr. 25, 2020|Updated Apr. 26, 2020

As quirkiness goes, the proceedings that unfolded over three days and two nights were vintage NFL draft.

Case in point: Conference USA juggernaut FIU had as many players drafted (two) as USF (none), UCF (one) and Florida State (one) combined.

Meantime, Miami was shut out in the first three rounds for only the fourth time in the last 34 years (and second year in a row), and FIU boasted the only in-state quarterback — 6-foot-4 pocket passer James Morgan — to be selected.

Entering this draft, Florida State had produced 246 picks in the common draft era (since 1967), according to ESPN. FIU had produced eight.

Morgan, who had trained for the draft locally with former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback John Kaleo, was projected as a possible development prospect under Tom Brady. He met with Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and impressed other members of the staff at the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. But the Jets plucked him in the fourth round (No. 125 overall pick).

Related: As Bucs eye a developmental quarterback in NFL draft, one player stands out

Three picks later, UCF receiver Gabriel Davis, who set a team record with 1,241 receiving yards last year, went to the Bills.

Florida Atlantic also had a player drafted before the first Hurricane, with tight end Harrison Bryant going to the Browns in the fourth round.

Shaquille Quarterman started every game in his four years at Miami.
Shaquille Quarterman started every game in his four years at Miami. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

A quartet of ’Canes eventually got picked, starting with linebacker Shaquille Quarterman. tacklers in the program’s storied history.The Jaguars’ fourth-round pick (No. 134 overall) gets a homecoming; Quarterman went to Oakleaf High in Orange Park, about a half hour from Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field. Quarterman started every game at Miami and left as one of the 10 leading

Related: What went wrong with the Miami Hurricanes? Shaquille Quarterman has some thoughts

The three other Miami players chosen: running back DeeJay Dallas (No. 144, Seahawks), receiver K.J. Osborn (No. 176, Vikings) and edge rusher Jonathan Garvin (No. 242, Packers).

Florida State was shut out Saturday, leaving second-round pick Cam Akers as the Seminoles’ only selection. It’s only the fifth time since the NFL-AFL merger that the ’Noles failed to produce two picks in one draft. Worse still, FSU’s three picks over the last two drafts are its fewest since 1974-75.

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Related: State of Florida usually owns the NFL draft. Not this year.

Gators receivers

Florida WR Freddie Swain (16) lines up for a play while on the field during the East practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Florida WR Freddie Swain (16) lines up for a play while on the field during the East practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]

A loaded group of unselfish receivers fueled the Gators’ run to the Orange Bowl, and it ended up not hurting them in the draft.

For the first time since 1978, Florida had three receivers chosen. After Van Jefferson went in the second round to the Rams, two more went Saturday: Freddie Swain to the Seahawks with the last pick of the sixth round (No. 214 overall) and Tyrie Cleveland to the Broncos in the seventh (No. 252).

Neither had outlandish production at UF as the Gators spread the ball around, and both will likely start their NFL careers with a heavy emphasis on special teams.

Running back Lamical Perine is joining former teammate Jabari Zuniga with the Jets after New York took him with the 120th pick. Perine led the Gators in rushing during each of his final three seasons and joined Robert Gillespie as the only other UF back in the last 23 years to record at least 40 receptions in a season.

UF finished with seven players drafted, giving the Gators at least five picks for a sixth consecutive year.

Local roundup

Blake High product Isaiah Rodgers was one of three local players chosen Saturday. (Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Samuel Lewis/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)
Blake High product Isaiah Rodgers was one of three local players chosen Saturday. (Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Samuel Lewis/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press) [ SAMUEL LEWIS | ZUMAPRESS.com ]

Tampa Bay-area high schools matched last year’s mark with three picks, all on Day 3.

East Lake High product Justin Strnad went to the Broncos in the fifth round (No. 178 overall). Strnad was a captain at Wake Forest and recorded 69 tackles in his first seven games before suffering a season-ending injury against Wake Forest. As a junior in 2018, his 105 tackles led the Demon Deacons and ranked seventh in the ACC.

“Before that injury, he was all over the field,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said.

Related: Tampa Bay’s NFL draft prospects tackle a new normal in getting noticed

Blake High alumnus Isaiah Rodgers followed, going to the Colts in the sixth round (No. 211 overall). Rodgers led the nation last year with 53 kickoff returns for 1,295 yards and 11 interceptions over his four seasons at UMass. Indianapolis chose him with a pick it acquired by trading former Gators defensive back (and 2017 second-round pick) Quincy Wilson to the Jets.

The Falcons drafted Syracuse punter Sterling Hofrichter (Armwood High) in the seventh round.

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