2012 NFL Draft: Bold Predictions for Florida Gators Stars

Cole Dolan@@ColeDolanCorrespondent IIIApril 15, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Bold Predictions for Florida Gators Stars

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    The Florida Gators have produced some of the NFL's biggest stars. From Jevon Kearse to Emmitt Smith, Gators have gone on to be franchise players.

    In the 2012 NFL draft the highest pick is expected to be Chris Rainey, but he is likely to fall into the fourth round. The rest, if not all, of the Gators will not be taken until later.

    This year's NFL draft may not contain the amount NFL-ready talent from Florida Gators that we are used to, but there are several that have the potential to be game-changers.

John Brantley

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    John Brantley is ranked outside of the top 10 quarterbacks in the draft largely due to the offensive struggles of the Florida Gators. Brantley finally got going early in 2011 but was injured against Alabama in the team's fifth game of the year.

    Although Brantley's statistics have not looked the best of all the quarterbacks in the draft, he has often found himself without a reliable receiver to go to. In fact, running back Chris Rainey was his most popular target in 2011. 

    The lack of offensive weapons along with the fact that Brantley was thrown into an offensive system that he is not built for were the main reasons why he performed poorly.

    With the opportunity to develop in a system that suits his strengths, Brantley could very well develop into one of the more accurate players in the league. If he can improve his accuracy on his deep ball and speed up his decision-making, Brantley might very well find himself as a starter in the NFL down the road.

Chris Rainey

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    Chris Rainey is one of the fastest players in the 2012 NFL draft. His speed and versatility will surely entice a team to take a chance on him, despite his being undersized.

    During the pro day at Florida, Rainey also showed off his quick route running ability and his sticky hands.

    There is an NFL star that is a little undersized, but excels at route-running while using his speed. Ever heard of Wes Welker?

    Rainey has the physical tools to become a go-to slot receiver. Staying injury-free will perhaps be his biggest challenge while taking hits from much more physical NFL defenses.

Jaye Howard

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    Jaye Howard has been a force to be reckoned with while at Florida. He finished with 64 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year at Florida. 

    The criticism directed towards Howard circles around his work ethic and effort. Nobody challenges his speed or strength, but he often appears to take a play off at times.

    The inconsistency can be fixed, and if it is, his superb pass-rush can be put on display as a starter every Sunday.

Deonte Thompson

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    Deonte Thompson served as the deep threat for much of his career at Florida. His speed on the line of scrimmage allows him to get separation vertically while automatically forcing a safety to cheat deep.

    Louis Murphy served the same role for the Gators before Thompson. Murphy has since gone on to have a successful career with the Oakland Raiders, being one of the top two receivers in his first two years.

    Thompson could very easily make even a bigger impact on his team.