Florida ended the NFL draft Saturday with Hillsborough County high schools producing more picks than state colleges did.
The six players drafted directly from state colleges was the lowest figure of the modern era — one fewer than 2009 and 1971. Three of them went Saturday.
Running back Dameon Pierce was the third and final Gator chosen when he went to the Texans in the fourth round (No. 107 overall). The 5-foot-9, 218-pound bruiser rushed for 1,806 yards and 23 touchdowns during his four seasons with the Gators. His light workload (100 carries last fall) was surprising given his talent, but it means he has absorbed fewer hits than some other prospects.
Two defensive linemen from the state went in the final two rounds. Miami extended its draft streak to 48 years when the Packers drafted Jonathan Ford in the seventh round (No. 234 overall). San Francisco took UCF tackle Kalia Davis in the sixth round (No. 220 overall).
Despite a rough showing from the state, the Tampa area had a successful weekend with seven players taken. The Giants chose a pair of former Hillsborough prep standouts: former Iowa safety Dane Belton (Jesuit High) in the fourth round with the No. 114 pick and former Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden (Plant High) in the fifth at No. 146. McFadden was high school teammates with receiver Christian Watson, who was drafted in the second round by the Packers on Friday.
The Browns drafted Armwood High alumnus Jerome Ford No. 156 overall. Ford signed with Alabama as a blue-chip running back before helping Cincinnati make the College Football Playoff. He ran for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns last season for the Bearcats.
In the seventh round, the Steelers selected quarterback Chris Oladokun. He finished his high school career at Sickles and began his college career at USF. Oladokun started three games for the Bulls and completed 23 of his 45 passes for three touchdowns before transferring to Samford and, finally, South Dakota State.
Linebacker James Houston also started his college career in Florida before leaving. He spent four seasons with the Gators, then transferred to play for Deion Sanders at Jackson State. The Lions picked him in the sixth round (No. 217 overall).
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Napier, Norvell boost NFL resumes
Though UF and FSU both produced subpar draft classes by their standards, Saturday delivered a few picks that look like positive signs for this season and beyond.
The Jets’ No. 111 overall pick, offensive tackle Max Mitchell, played for new Gators coach Billy Napier at Louisiana Lafayette. Mitchell was a two-star recruit (according to 247Sports) whom Napier signed and developed into an all-conference lineman and, now, a pro.
Two picks later, another former Napier player, safety Percy Butler, was selected by Washington. Butler wasn’t among the nation’s top 2,000 recruits in his class but became one of the better defensive players in the Sun Belt. Both, notably, were a part of Napier’s first recruiting class at Louisiana.
Receiver Calvin Austin became the sixth offensive skill player signed or developed by FSU coach Mike Norvell to get drafted out of Memphis. Austin, who wasn’t a top-1,000 prospect in his recruiting class, was the No. 138 overall pick by the Steelers.
Norvell likes to say that his offense is built for playmakers, and Austin’s selection is another piece of evidence that he can evaluate talent. That skill, however, has not yet shown up with the Seminoles, during the draft or on Saturdays.
Another troubling state sign
Of the 28 receivers drafted (including 17 in the first two days), none of them played at Florida colleges. The state’s draft was shallow enough on its own, but the dearth of receivers is one of the most damning signs of how far Florida’s schools have fallen.
The state’s high schools have traditionally been filled with speedy athletes that should populate the rosters of the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes. For all three schools (plus USF and UCF) to be bystanders in one of the best draft class of receivers of the modern era is a serious concern, especially considering their 2022 rosters don’t look overly impressive, either.
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