After former Gators cornerback CJ Henderson goes somewhere in the first round Thursday night, the state can settle into a draft that could be one of Florida’s quietest in years.
Barring a major surprise, Florida State won’t have a player drafted in the first round for only the third time in the past 11 years. Neither will Miami. The last time both schools were shut out of the first round: 2012.
FSU has one early-round prospect (star running back Cam Akers) and a pair of potential Day 3 picks (cornerbacks Stanford Samuels and Levonta Taylor). If only two of those three are chosen, it will be only the fifth time this century when the Seminoles failed to produce three picks. Even worse, it would be the second year in a row that’s happened — a stunning fall from the record 29 draftees FSU cranked out during the Jameis Winston era.
Unless defensive end Jonathan Garvin sneaks into the third round, the Hurricanes probably won’t have someone drafted in either of the first two days. That has happened only three other times since 1987 … including last year.
USF’s most likely pick is tight end Mitchell Wilcox. The Tarpon Springs High product is viewed as a possible late-round pick; if he isn’t chosen, the Bulls will almost certainly be shut out of the draft for the second year in a row and just the fourth time since 2006.
Florida’s normally talent-rich high schools have produced a down crop this draft, too.
Over the past six drafts, Florida high schools have averaged 5.5 first-round picks, according to floridahsfootball.com. This year? Only two are first-round locks: ex-Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach) and Henderson. Even if former Michigan edge rusher Josh Uche — Henderson’s former teammate at Miami Columbus High — rises into the first round, it would still qualify as a disappointing haul for the state.
Only six Florida natives are ranked among the draft’s top 100 prospects by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. Compare that to 2014, when the state produced eight first-round picks. The top local prospect is probably East Lake High alumnus Justin Strnad, a mid-round linebacker from Wake Forest.
Despite a lack of star power, there will be plenty of positives from the Sunshine State, too. Ex-Florida International quarterback James Morgan is a Day 3 sleeper and potential Bucs target. At least five former Gators will be chosen, including Day 2 pass rushers Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. There’s a chance Miami has seven or eight draftees, which would give the ’Canes one of their deepest classes since the glory days of The U.
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But as a whole, Florida won’t be producing the same hype and headliners NFL fans have grown to expect.