Florida Gators: Jelani Jenkins and the 10 Most Draftable Gators in 2011
It's never too early to talk about next year's NFL Draft, especially with the lockout still in place.
As the new college football season approaches, scouts will begin to take notes and analysts will fill their draft boards with the potential NFL superstars that will be playing in the college ranks during the 2011 season.
The Florida Gators struggled in 2010, but they return a solid group of players who aim to make a bigger impact in 2011.
Perhaps the most draftable Gator, Janoris Jenkins, was dismissed from the team after a third charge of marijuana possession during his tenure as a Florida Gator.
Nevertheless, the Gators are a factory when it comes to grooming future NFL stars. Although, the 2011 Gators might be a little weaker than the program is accustomed to, these players still have high potential heading into this next season and even the next NFL Draft.
Let's take a look at the 10 most draftable Gators in the upcoming 2011 season.
10. RB Jeff Demps
Regarded as the fastest player in college football, Jeff Demps has been an electric presence in the Gators backfield for the past three seasons.
In 2010, Demps won the 60 meter dash and the 100 meter dash at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
His personal best is 6.53 seconds in the 60 meters, along with 10.01 seconds in the 100 meter dash.
There is no question he has speed, but his lack of size as a running back does not bode well when it comes to projecting NFL success.
Demps has also struggled with a series of injuries while at Florida. He has compiled a list of elbow, foot and ankle injuries in his three years with the team. As a result, Demps has had a tough time in staying on the field consistently.
In his career, Demps has racked up 1901 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns.
If Demps heads to NFL after college, his speed will definitely get him some looks by NFL scouts because of how much of an asset it can be on the field. Demps could be a late-round steal for anyone looking for speed in the slot or out of the backfield.
However, his lack of size, trouble with injuries and his rumors of trying out for the 2012 Olympics might keep teams away.
If he can consistently stay on the field and put up some solid numbers, Demps will help his case as a running back who could help out an NFL team.
9. Deonte Thompson
Deonte Thompson is a player who has always been seen as someone who hasn't quite reached his full potential.
A highly-rated prospect out of high school, Thompson was tabbed as Percy Harvin's replacement as a playmaking receiver.
So far, Thompson has not played up to those expectations.
Finally in 2010, Thompson began to show signs of life. As the team's primary receiver, Thompson saw a lot more opportunity to showcase his skills and become a playmaker on the offense.
He hauled in 38 receptions for 570 yards, but only caught one touchdown.
Thompson definitely did not benefit from the shaky quarterback situation in 2010.
At 6'0, Thompson is not the biggest wide receiver, but he possesses above-average speed in the open field, allowing him to outrun many defensive backs.
The biggest problem with Thompson is catching the ball consistently. His reputation around Gainesville is that he can't make the big play catches when they're needed most. On more than one occasion, Thompson has dropped a long pass that hit him perfectly in stride.
Thompson has the athleticism and raw talent to make it as a third- or fourth-option wide receiver at the next level.
As long as he consistently catches passes in his senior season, his game will dramatically improve, and so will his standing among NFL scouts.
8. WR/TE Omarius Hines
Redshirt junior Omarius Hines has risen in the Florida program over the last two seasons.
Although Hines hasn't stuffed any stat sheets for the Gators by finishing sixth on the team in receptions, he's due for a breakout year.
Hines will receive a lot more attention in the pro-style offensive system that features a lot more two tight end formations.
He became one of John Brantley's more reliable targets, and the other quarterbacks to fill in also appreciated having him there as receivers like Thompson and Carl Moore struggled to hold on to the football.
With a new coaching staff, Hines has the opportunity to get on the coaches' good side, see a lot of action in the upcoming season and improve on his seven starts from 2010.
Since Brantley will be at the helm again when the season starts up, you know he'll be looking for Hines in his progressions.
Along with his excellent blocking ability, Hines' numbers should see an increase this season and he'll begin to catch the attention of scouts.
If not this next year, look for Hines' name to circulate around the 2012 NFL draft.
7. DT Omar Hunter
Omar Hunter was one of the most sought after five-star defensive tackles in the 2008 recruiting cycle.
He participated in the Under Armour High School All-American Game and was named a Parade All-American. He was also tabbed as the No. 2 best defensive tackle in the 2008 recruiting class and was ranked No. 37 overall.
After being redshirted his freshman year, Hunter has gone on to start 17 games for the Gators in his two years of play.
Hunter has proven himself as a consistent contributor on the Florida defensive line. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2009, and has 40 tackles in his career.
About Hunter, former coach Urban Meyer once said, "Everything you want in a defensive tackle...you get with Omar Hunter."
As Hunter prepares for 2011, he must develop a quicker step off the line and show more of the intangibles that scouts like to see in a leader.
Hunter is one of the most experienced players on the Florida defense right now, and if he improves his play, not only will the defensive line be better, but so will the whole team.
Defensive tackles are always a premium position in the NFL, so scouts will be looking closely at Hunter's progression in his third year of play.
6. RB Chris Rainey
The last of the infamous "Gator Naughts" at Florida, Chris Rainey comes into his senior season with a lot to prove to fans and NFL scouts.
Rainey, who is considered one of the more electrifying running backs in the SEC, has shown amazing breakaway speed and the ability to juke defenders out of their cleats.
When it comes to Rainey, the big issue that NFL scouts are worried about are his problems off the field. He missed five games in 2010 due to a team suspension resulting from a trip to jail for threatening a woman and allegedly stalking her as well.
Unfortunately, it will be a long time before Rainey can shake his image of having character issues and it will hurt his draft stock in the end.
Another thing working against Rainey is his size. He is 5'9, 178 lbs, which is far too small for an ideal NFL running back.
Obviously, he does not have the build to play every down in the NFL, but it's hard to ignore the electrifying speed and his ability to juke past defenders.
As long as he stays away from any more trouble with the law, Rainey could jump on an NFL team and fill a similar role to what Dexter McCluster has done for the Kansas City Chiefs.
5. OT Xavier Nixon
Xavier Nixon came onto Florida's campus as the top-rated prospect coming out of the state of North Carolina.
In his freshman year, Nixon made an immediate impact and was selected to the 2009 SEC All-Freshman Team.
Nixon started many key games as a freshman for Florida, including the 2009 SEC Championship Game against Alabama and the 2010 Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati, where he played the entire game.
Nixon has shown versatility by playing both right and left tackle during his collegiate career as well as lining up as a blocking tight end in some goal line formations.
Nixon possesses excellent speed and agility off the line for an offensive lineman and plays with a fiery passion. He is also one of the best blockers down the field for the Gators.
At 290 lbs Nixon has decent size for an offensive lineman, but if he can excel in the weight room and put on some more pounds, Nixon will be an even more dominant lineman heading into his junior season with the Gators.
4. DT Jaye Howard
Opposite Omar Hunter is Jaye Howard, a 6'3, 302-pound redshirt senior.
Howard has continued to improve his contributions on the field with every passing season. He was named Player of the Game twice by the coaching staff in 2010 and has collected 66 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in his career.
Howard is already projected to go around the third or fourth round according to various NFL Scouting websites.
His final season will either make or break his draft stock. As one of the leaders of the defense, Howard must step up his game this next season and prove to everyone that he is capable of being a top defensive lineman in the SEC.
If he improves his run stopping ability and can combine that with his great pass-rushing skills, Howard will be a great prospect to look out for on day two of next year's NFL draft.
3. ILB Jelani Jenkins
Only a redshirt sophomore, Jelani Jenkins still has a lot of growing to do on the field for the Florida Gators.
However, Jenkins has proven that he has the skills necessary to be a top inside linebacker in the SEC.
As a freshman, Jenkins was second on the team in tackles with 78 tackles, with 42 of those tackles being solo stops.
He was selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team and was named by Phil Steele to the All-SEC Fourth Team.
In a poor 2010 season for the Gators, Jenkins seemed to be one of the few bright spots on the entire team.
Another attribute that favors Jenkins as he moves forward with his collegiate career is his intelligence. Jenkins was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll two years in a row. He carries that intelligence with him onto the football field, and showed great maturity as a freshman playing middle linebacker.
As he gets older, Jenkins will only continue to improve his game, and he will become a leader on this young Florida defense.
His game could take some great strides in 2011 as he very well could be the team's leader in tackles by the end of the season.
If he is able to make some game-chaging plays and stay a consistent force in the middle of the defense, his name will be mentioned as one of the best linebackers in the SEC and around the draft.
2. QB John Brantley
Perhaps the most frustrating player on the Gator's roster in 2010 was John Brantley.
Touted as a better passer than Tim Tebow, Brantley came into 2010 with high expectations as a gunslinger with NFL-ready skills.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out for Brantley, as he could never seem to find a groove in Urban Meyer's spread option offense.
Enter Will Muschamp, Charlie Weis and a new pro-style offense, and Brantley has new life going into his senior season.
He won't get too much help from his offensive line again this season, but if Brantley can remain calm and throw with the great accuracy he was known for in high school, he could very well be the best quarterback in the SEC.
He still has a lot to prove, but if he reverses his fortunes from last year, he could be one of the better pro quarterback prospects heading into the 2012 NFL Draft.
But, that's a big if.
1. OG James Wilson
Unfortunately, James Wilson has had to deal with a series of injuries while at Florida.
In 2010, he had to miss the last 10 games of the season due to a left knee injury and was unable to showcase the talent that led to him being rated as the No. 2 overall prospect in the country by Rivals.com.
But, in the time he has spent on the field, Wilson has been a steady presence at the left guard position for the Gators.
In his redshirt sophomore season, Wilson played in every single game for the Gators.
He has excellent size at 6'5, 305, which is crucial to being considered a NFL-type offensive lineman.
He is also very aggressive off the line, and is able to fend off defensive linemen with his excellent hand work.
Wilson's strength is his run blocking, but he has also improved his pass rushing throughout his career.
If Wilson is fortunate to avoid the injury bug in 2011, he could be the Gators' top draft prospect and one of the more highly regarded offensive line prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft.