Florida Football: Best NFL Fit for Every Draft-Eligible Gator

Stephen Sheehan@@StephenPSheehanCorrespondent INovember 30, 2012

Florida Football: Best NFL Fit for Every Draft-Eligible Gator

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    From Sharrif Floyd to Matt Elam to Mike Gillislee, the Florida Gators are loaded with talented prospects who would make any NFL team happy. 

    Although it's impossible to determine whether draft-eligible players like Dominique Easley or Jelani Jenkins will declare, it's never too early to take a look at where they would fit best at the next level.

    Whether it's Floyd's massive frame and scheme versatility or Elam's instincts and play-making ability, NFL teams have plenty to be excited about when examining the Gators' crop of draft-eligible prospects. 

    With such a deep class, let's take a look at which NFL team would best fit each Gator's skill set. 

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Junior

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    All it took was a move back to defensive tackle for Sharrif Floyd to make his presence known. 

    The 6'3", 303-pound junior paces the Gators with 11 tackles for loss and ranks second with six quarterback hurries. 

    Although he isn't a traditional pass-rusher like Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals, his length, strength and motor make him scheme versatile. 

    However, because of his ability to stop the run and push the pocket, Floyd would best fit as a 3-4 defensive end, where he could also slide inside on third down and rush the passer. 

    When Sharrif Floyd feels like getting into the other team's backfield, nobody can stop him.

    — Eric Stoner (@ECStoner) November 29, 2012


    Best NFL Fit: Indianapolis Colts 

    The switch to a 3-4 defense has had more downs than ups for the Colts, as their offense has carried the team to a surprising 7-4 record. 

    Indianapolis has the No. 20 rush defense and has managed just 23 sacks in 11 games. 

    Floyd would be an immediate upgrade in both areas. 

Matt Elam, S, Junior

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    Before 2012, Matt Elam was regarded as a good but not great player. 

    This year, he's vaulted himself into superstardom. 

    Despite average size—he's listed at 5'10", 202 pounds—Elam is one of the best play-makers in the nation. 

    The second-year starter ranks second on the team in tackles (65) and tackles for loss (10) and leads the team with four interceptions. 

    Due to his ability to play safety, nickel and even corner, he'll be an attractive commodity for any team in need of a defensive back. 


    Best NFL Fit: New England Patriots 

    Bill Belichick values versatility over anything, so Elam certainly fits the bill. 

    With Devin McCourty settling in nicely at free safety, Elam would be an excellent complement to the former first-round pick. 

    His ability to play safety and also move down to play the nickel would be invaluable for a young Patriots secondary. 

Mike Gillislee, RB, Senior

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    In the course of a year, Mike Gillislee transformed himself from a late-round prospect to a possible second- or third-round selection. 

    Although his production dipped in the middle of the season, the senior tailback saved his best performance for Florida's biggest game, rushing for 140 yards and two scores in a 37-26 win against Florida State. 

    Gillislee doesn't possess any game-breaking qualities, but he does everything well. 

    As long as he runs a good 40 time, the Gators' workhorse should be a Day 2 pick. 


    Best NFL Fit: Atlanta Falcons 

    Michael Turner is on his last legs, and Jacquizz Rodgers simply doesn't have the size to hold up as a No. 1 running back. 

    Gillislee's ability to be a three-down back would make him a terrific fit in the Falcons' high-flying offense. 

    Adding him to an offense that already features Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White could be lethal.

Jordan Reed, TE, Redshirt Junior

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    The transition from high school quarterback to college tight end has been a developing one for redshirt junior Jordan Reed, but it will pay off big time if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft. 

    Blessed with a unique combination of size (6'3", 243 pounds) and speed (4.62), the Connecticut native established himself as the Gators' No. 1 receiver, racking up 44 catches for 552 yards and three scores. 

    Like predecessor Aaron Hernandez, Reed is the perfect hybrid tight end/receiver for today's NFL, and he should be an immediate impact player with even more upside. 


    Best NFL Fit: San Diego Chargers 

    Antonio Gates isn't getting any younger, so why not replace one of the greatest pass-catching tight ends of all time with another potential star? 

    Reed could enhance his development by learning from a legend in Gates and take over for the eight-time Pro Bowler when he hangs 'em up. 

    This could be another case of the rich getting richer. 

Jon Bostic, MLB, Senior

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    Jon Bostic isn't the biggest or fastest linebacker in the country, but he's still one of the best. 

    The 6'1", 246-pound senior came to Florida as a high-profile 4-star recruit and developed into one of the most consistent forces in the SEC. 

    Mostly regarded as a run stopper, Bostic showed a nose for the ball this year, recording two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three sacks. 

    He doesn't have tremendous quickness, but he's a thumper who can also get after the quarterback on A-gap blitzes. 


    Best NFL Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers 

    Imagine pairing Bostic with the speedy Lawrence Timmons on the interior of the Steelers' 3-4 defense. 

    The combination of physicality, speed and play-making ability could be deadly for opposing offenses. 

Dominique Easley, DE, Junior

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    The best decision for Dominique Easley would be to return for his senior season, but if he declares for the draft he could be highly sought after for his pass-rush abilities. 

    After playing defensive tackle his first two seasons at UF, the 6'2", 280-pounder moved to defensive end this season. 

    However, he wasn't as effective as expected because of the lingering effects of last year's torn ACL. 

    Easley recorded just 21 tackles (5.0 for loss) and four sacks in 10 games. 

    Though his numbers were down, he still has a ton of potential as an interior pass-rusher. 


    Best NFL Fit: Carolina Panthers 

    The Panthers have the league's worst set of defensive tackles, so Easley would be an immediate upgrade over anyone on their roster. 

    Carolina invested a boatload of money in linebackers Thomas Davis, Jon Beason and first-rounder Luke Kuechly, but those investments won't pay off until there's more talent up front. 

    Adding a versatile, high-intensity guy like Easley would go a long way toward solving the Panthers' problems.

Jelani Jenkins, LB, Redshirt Junior

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    Like Easley, linebacker Jelani Jenkins' best choice would be playing his final season at UF. 

    Injuries derailed the former 5-star recruit's season, limiting him to just nine games. 

    However, he still managed to display the play-making ability that should make him a third- or fourth-round pick if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft. 

    Jenkins' rare range and speed make him a perfect fit as a weak-side linebacker at the next level. 


    Best NFL Fit: Philadelphia Eagles 

    The Dream Team may be asleep, but adding Jenkins could revive this Eagles squad. 

    After drafting Mychal Kendricks in April, the Eagles could do well by taking Jenkins to play on the weak side in their 4-3 defense. 

    His fantastic speed and instincts would be perfect for this once-great defense. 

Josh Evans, S, Senior

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    Josh Evans proved that film study and a dedication to improvement can make all the difference. 

    The Gators' starting free safety had a decent 2011 season, but took his game to a new level in 2012. 

    All he did was post a team-leading 79 tackles and pick off two passes in his final year at UF. 

    His terrific senior year has helped Evans earn the No. 7 free safety spot on NFLDraftScout.com


    Best NFL Fit: Detroit Lions 

    Detroit already has Louis Delmas on the roster, but the former second-round pick's injury woes and expiring contract could spell the end of his tenure as the Lions' starting free safety. 

    Evans could help shore up a weak secondary, and the 6'2", 201-pounder would be an asset on special teams.

Omar Hunter, DT, Redshirt Senior

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    The only thing bigger than Omar Hunter's 313-pound frame were the expectations placed upon him when he signed with Florida as a 5-star recruit. 

    Once considered the crown jewel of Urban Meyer's 2008 recruiting class, Hunter largely disappointed before putting it together in 2012. 

    Thanks to new strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman, Hunter improved his explosion and totaled 39 tackles, including four for loss. 

    Hunter won't ever contribute as a pass-rusher, but he could carve out a role as a two-down run stuffer. 


    Best NFL Fit: Minnesota Vikings 

    Kevin Williams is getting up there in age, so adding Hunter could help alleviate his eventual loss. 

    Hunter will never get after the quarterback like Williams did during his heyday, but he could do a decent job stopping the run for a pretty solid Vikings defensive line. 

Lerentee McCray, LB/DE, Redshirt Senior

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    Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray once looked like one of the best players on Florida's defense, but an injury-plagued second half of the season leaves his draft stock murky. 

    The redshirt senior filled in admirably for junior Ronald Powell (ACL), but his overall numbers don't scream No. 1 pass-rusher potential. 

    In 11 games, McCray recorded just 23 total tackles and a pair of sacks—not good enough for a player at that position. 


    Best NFL Fit: New York Jets 

    McCray is too undersized to be an every-down defensive end, but he should make it as a 3-4 outside linebacker. 

    The Jets' defense lacks a No. 1 pass-rusher, opening the door for McCray to carve out a role early in his career. 

    He'll never be a premier threat, but he could be a third-down rusher and spot starter. 

Xavier Nixon, OT, Senior

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    There may not be a more impressive looking specimen than offensive tackle Xavier Nixon. 

    Unfortunately for the left tackle, his game tape doesn't match up to his immense abilities. 

    After struggling with his weight, the 6'6" blindside protector finally managed to keep the pounds on this year and is currently listed at 314 pounds. 

    He had some poor performances (particularly against Jarvis Jones), but rebounded with a very solid effort against Florida State. 

    His athleticism, frame and experience make him a draftable prospect, yet his up-and-down game tape will cause him to slip to the later rounds. 


    Best NFL Fit: Arizona Cardinals 

    The Cardinals may need to dedicate their entire draft class to the offensive line. 

    Although they've finally gotten better play out of rookie Bobby Massie at right tackle, the left tackle spot has been shaky. 

    Rookie Nate Potter has emerged as the starter, but Nixon probably brings more to the table. 

    At worst, taking a flier on Nixon would add more competition to a weak unit. 

Caleb Sturgis, K, Redshirt Senior

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    Everyone around the Gators acknowledges that they wouldn't be 11-1 without Caleb Sturgis. 

    That's right people: kickers do matter. 

    The redshirt senior has been a sure thing for Florida, often making up for a lackluster offense. 

    His ability to convert field goals and give the defense great field position off kickoffs has been a godsend. 

    It's rare that a kicker gets drafted, but Sturgis is that good. 


    Best NFL Fit: San Francisco 49ers 

    David Akers simply isn't money like he used to be, meaning the 49ers should be looking for his replacement. 

    For a defensive-minded team like San Fran, Sturgis' kickoff abilities would be a huge asset. 

    Having a kicker who converted 85 percent of his field-goal attempts this year doesn't hurt, either. 

James Wilson, OG, Redshirt Senior

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    Before multiple knee surgeries and weight issues derailed his career, James Wilson was the top offensive guard of the 2007 recruiting class and a surefire SEC star. 

    A high school teammate of Tim Tebow, Wilson rarely played with the current New York Jet as he barely saw the field because of his creaky knees. 

    The 6'4", sixth-year senior finally got his weight down (323) and went on to have a very solid season at left guard. 

    It may not be enough to earn him a draft selection, but with his size and pedigree, Wilson may have an outside shot at being taken in the seventh round. 


    Best NFL Fit: Chicago Bears 

    Besides the Arizona Cardinals, no team needs more help up front than the Bears. 

    Wilson's size would be a welcome addition to a unit sorely lacking punch. 

    When healthy, he can be a mauler in the running game and won't embarrass himself as a pass protector.