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Three Florida college takeaways from the NFL draft

The Gators’ spread-the-ball offense is working, and FSU’s new coach knows what he is doing.
Receivers Van Jefferson (left) and Tyrie Cleveland were both drafted out of Florida.
Receivers Van Jefferson (left) and Tyrie Cleveland were both drafted out of Florida. [ Times (2019) ]
Published Apr. 27, 2020
Updated Apr. 27, 2020

Now that the NFL draft is over and we’ve had some time to process it all, here are three next-level takeaways that matter in Florida college football:

1. The Gators’ spread-the-ball-around philosophy paid off.

Van Jefferson was a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
Van Jefferson was a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

It worked on the field, obviously, which is why Florida went 11-2 and finished just outside the top five. But it worked in the draft, too.

The Gators led all schools with three receivers drafted (Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland). The last time the Gators accomplished that: 1978. A fourth receiver, Josh Hammond, signed with Jacksonville as a free agent.

Those facts are important in recruiting. Top-tier receivers want to put up big numbers in college so they can get to the league. Because coach Dan Mullen has been willing to spread the ball around to many different receivers, none of them put up eye-popping stats. Now Mullen has something tangible to sell on the recruiting trail.

“You come play at Florida, you’re not only going to get coached,” Mullen said Monday. “You’re going to get developed ... and have the opportunity to go and get touches on the field and the opportunity to go onto the next level and play in the NFL.”

Related: Gators’ Dan Mullen more hopeful than optimistic about 2020 season

If any of his current players have lingering doubts about his offensive philosophy or commitment to special teams — where all three draftees were key contributors — this past weekend’s results should eliminate them.

2. Florida State’s new coach knows what he’s doing.

Memphis' Antonio Gibson is one of the versatile offensive playmakers new FSU coach Mike Norvell keeps finding ... and developing ... and spotlighting.
Memphis' Antonio Gibson is one of the versatile offensive playmakers new FSU coach Mike Norvell keeps finding ... and developing ... and spotlighting. [ MARK HUMPHREY | AP ]

Mike Norvell’s former team, Memphis, had three players drafted. That’s a nice accomplishment on its own; the only Group of Five program that did better was Temple, which had four players chosen (including Bucs linebacker Chapelle Russell).

But Norvell’s draft record at Memphis looks even better if you dig deeper. The Tigers have had seven players picked over the last three years. That’s their most since 11 were chosen from 1985-87.

Only one draftee from this class, Antonio Gibson, was even moderately recruited. He was a three-star junior college prospect and one of the versatile playmakers Norvell keeps finding, grooming and spotlighting. Gibson went to Washington in the third round.

Related: What we can learn about new FSU coach Mike Norvell from Memphis

The other two were even bigger sleepers. Chris Claybrooks was a zero-star junior college receiver that Norvell moved to defensive back … and now is a rookie in Jacksonville as a seventh-round pick. The only other college offer for offensive lineman Dustin Woodard (seventh round, Patriots) was Army.

Regardless of whether it was talent evaluation or development, Norvell deserves credit for those three picks. And that’s a good sign for FSU’s future after the Seminoles had their worst two-year class since 1974-75.

3. Miami’s numbers remain startling.

Miami's offense stumbled last season, despite having an NFL running back (DeeJay Dallas) and receiver (K.J. Osborn).
Miami's offense stumbled last season, despite having an NFL running back (DeeJay Dallas) and receiver (K.J. Osborn). [ Times ]

It was weird enough that Florida Atlantic and Florida International both had players drafted before the Hurricanes this year, and that Miami was shut out of the first three rounds for the second year in a row (which had happened only two other times in the previous three decades).

But Miami’s overall numbers weren’t that bad. Only 15 schools had more draft picks this year than the ’Canes (four). Miami had two offensive skill players drafted (receiver K.J. Osborn and running back DeeJay Dallas) plus someone at a premium position (pass rusher Jonathan Garvin). In the College Football Playoff era, Miami’s 33 draftees are seventh nationally, according to The Athletic’s Matt Brown.

Yet Miami has only been to one major bowl in that span, and its offense was awful last season despite Osborn and Dallas. Consider it another reminder of the hard-to-believe disconnect between Miami’s talent and results.