As part of Hogs Haven’s pre-draft coverage, I am going to preview one team per week (either Friday or Saturday) throughout the college football season. One of the biggest games this weekend will be when #9 Florida hosts #7 Auburn, in a battle between two 5-0 SEC teams. Since I have already previewed Auburn, here are a few of the Gators’ players to watch.
Even when their record is poor, I always watch a bunch of Florida games, as they always seem to have a bunch of NFL prospects. In fact, since 2012, only Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson had more first rounders than the Gators (tied with rivals LSU and FSU with nine).
This year, I watched their “week zero” opener vs Miami and most of the Tennessee game when each was televised, as well as a condensed version of the Kentucky match-up.
POTENTIAL FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS
#1 C.J. Henderson, CB (Jr.), 6’1/202
While Henderson grew up in Miami, his childhood dream was to be a Gator. Primarily a RB in high school, Henderson was the No. 139 overall high school recruit, per the 247Sports Composite.
Somewhat surprisingly (since I had him 3rd), Henderson was just ranked 5th in The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s pre-season cornerback rankings, citing that he tends to play “overly cautious” in coverage and needs to take more “calculating chances” .
After all, Henderson earned a spot on Bruce Feldman’s Freak’s List last summer. At 6-1, 193-pounds, Henderson reportedly has just 4.3 percent body fat, pumped out 16 reps of 225 on the bench press, along with a 40.5-inch vertical, and 10-4 in the broad jump. Most importantly for his position, he has been timed at 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Per Pro Football Focus, in 2018, Henderson was targeted 36 times and allowed 18 receptions and 249 yards. When opposing quarterbacks did throw at Henderson, his NFL passer rating allowed was just 49.4, and didn’t allow a single touchdown all year.
While Henderson is an excellent cover corner, he needs to improve as a tackler. PFF credited Henderson with nine missed tackles in 2018, and he was called out by ESPN college football color analyst Kirk Herbstreit for “not wanting it” in Florida’s opener against Miami after a particularly poor tackle attempt this season.
Finally, PFF’s charting indicates Henderson came on a blitz on 12 times in 2018, and was credited with six quarterback pressures. Of coarse, that 50% rate is not sustainable.
Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham called Henderson the best college corner he has coached, explaining it’s his work ethic and relentless effort that set him apart.
Henderson wore #5 in 2017-18, but is wearing #1 in 2019. Receiving the #1 jersey is a major honor, and no Florida player has worn it since Vernon Hargreaves during the 2015 season.
Florida has a proud history at cornerback, including Joe Haden (2010) and Vernon Hargreaves III (2016) who were each first-round picks, while Quincy Wilson (2017), Jalen Tabor (2017) and Duke Dawson (2018) were all second-round selections this decade.
Henderson is regarded as one of the best cover corners in the country and is very likely to join the above list in the coming months.
Henderson has all of the physical traits of a top-shelf cover corner in the NFL. He’s got prototypical size and impressive speed (4.35 40-yard dash), with the quickness and jumping ability to effectively line-up against a variety of different receiver styles and body types.
While Henderson has elite traits for the position, some teams may be turned off by his poor tackling. While I see him as a first round prospect, we may see a similar slide to the one Greedy Williams (LSU, Browns) suffered.
#92 Jabari Zuniga EDGE (Sr.) 6’4/265
Last season, most of the headlines went to teammate Jachai Polite, who slid in the draft (and has already been cut) due to character concerns. However, something I kept pointing out was that technically, Polite didn’t start, and was primarily a pass-rush specialist. Zuniga seems like the more steady and complete prospect.
In his first three seasons at Florida, Zuniga has racked up 104 tackles, including 27.5 tackles for a loss, with 15.5 sacks.
As usual PFF has some advanced stats from his 2018 season: In 335 pass rushing snaps, Zuniga totaled 36 pressures. He totaled 45 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks on the year.
Jabari Zuniga is the next man up for the Florida defensive line. pic.twitter.com/9CoH7npaZL— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 16, 2019
As The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman noted when slotting Zuniga No. 29 on his list of “Freaks” for 2019, Zuniga is an elite athlete. He has put up 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, while posting a 7.03-second 3-cone drill -- a number that would have been tied for second-fastest among all defensive linemen at the 2019 NFL Combine.
Zuniga was my #3 Edge going into the 2019 season, but injuries have limited him to just two games. Fortunately, he managed 1.5 sacks in each of those games, and is expected to play against Auburn and their quality offensive line.
POSSIBLE DAY TWO (ROUNDS 2-3) PROSPECTS
#58 Jonathan Greenard, Edge (Sr.) 6’3/263
A grad transfer, Greenard was originally a 3-star HS recruit, who started off at Louisville. After redshirting during the 2015 season, Greenard started just six games over the following two seasons at for the Cardinals before suffering a season-ending injury to his wrist on the first defensive series of the 2018 season.
Greenard played for current Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as a redshirt freshman in 2016, and inherited the vacated “Buck” position from the since departed Jachai Polite largely because of his experience and familiarity with Grantham’s system.
HERE, Mike Jarvis shares his Youtube cut-up of Greenard’s Florida debut.
Greenard was disruptive in the win over Tennessee, totaling four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, three passes defended, and a forced fumble. His knack for batting a ball down is a skill that often translates to the NFL.
Jonathan Greenard was a FORCE for the Gators in a route of Tennssee pic.twitter.com/xm2jmsUlm0— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 26, 2019
Greenard does not appear to have Rd1 traits from what I have seen. However, I think he will do really well in 1v1s at the Senior Bowl and will contend for a top-50 selection.
#3 Marco Wilson, CB (RS-Soph.)
Marco is the younger brother of former Gator corner Quincy Wilson, a 2nd round pick by the Colts. A 4-star recruit, in 2017, Wilson joined Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, and Marcus Roberson as the only four true freshman to start at cornerback on opening day in program history. That year, he started all 11 games, finishing with 34 tackles and a team-high 10 pass breakups. Wilson started two games in 2018 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL.
Wilson is a bump-and-run corner, who does a nice job staying attached to the receivers’ hip pocket. He is a good athlete with fluid hips, quick feet, and adequate deep speed. That speed will be tested against Auburn, who has two of the fastest receivers in the country.
LIKELY DAY THREE (ROUNDS 4-7) PROSPECTS
#7 Jeremiah Moon, Edge, (RS-Jr.) 6’5/228
Moon came to Florida as a lanky (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) 4-star HS recruit. He suffered a season-ending injury in 2016 before becoming a part time starter the past three seasons.
According to Pro Football Focus, Moon was effective as a pass rusher, totaling 17 quarterback pressures on 104 pass rushing snaps in 2018.
In 2019, with Zuniga out a couple of games, Moon has seen his playing time increase and he has flashed some some rush prowess. He had a sack in the Tennessee game and registered a 1⁄2 sack against both Miami and Towson.
Moon has a long thin frame, similar to when Leonard Floyd was at Georgia. He has been a key part of Florida’s pass rush this season, tallying 19 total tackles, two sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 16 QB pressures through five games.
#33 David Reese, LB (Sr.) 6’1/239
Reese has been in the middle of Florida’s defense since arriving in Gainesville in 2016. After starting four games as a true freshman, he led the Gators in tackles in 2017 and was second on the team in 2018 despite missing the first three games of the season due to an ankle injury. Reese also had surgery on both of his wrists in 2017.
David Reese was dominant against the run pic.twitter.com/lms1Ecgl6Y— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 16, 2018
This season, he had 16 tackles in the Kentucky game and brings a team leading 36 tackles into the Auburn contest. While stout against the run, and showing adequate sideline-to-sideline range, he has revealed some weaknesses in coverage in the games I have watched.
While Reese is regarded as the quarterback of the Gators’ defense, SB Nation’s Alligator Army labels him “the least awe-inspiring athlete in Florida’s defensive starting lineup.”
#12 Van Jefferson, WR (RS-Sr.) 6’2/192
A 4-star recruit, who originally played at Ole Miss from 2015-17, Jefferson transferred from Ole Miss to Florida due to team sanctions. In his first season in Gainesville, Jefferson became the Gators’ leading receiver in 2018 with 35 receptions for 503 yards and six touchdowns. 2017 (42-456-1) and 2016 (49-543-3).
A sure-handed and brave slant target, here’s Matt Waldman’s thoughts on Jefferson. Waldman believes he excels on slant routes and describes him as having very economical footwork who sets up inside breaks with outside moves.
NFL bloodlines: Father is former NFL WR Shawn Jefferson who is now a NFL WR coach.
Similar to the Browns’ Rashard Higgins, Jefferson is a polished route runner with solid, but average athleticism, who will likely be drafted around the 4th-5th round.
#89 Tyrie Cleveland, WR (Sr.) 6’2/205
A better size/speed prospect than Jefferson, Cleveland may be the prospect most likely to make a DJ Chark-like rise post-season. He ran a 4.32 second 40 time in high school.
Cleveland entered his senior season with 24 starts, including all 12 games as a junior, but just 920 receiving yards over his first three seasons combined.
He has flashed big play ability since his true freshman season, when he beat Donte Jackson for a 98 yard score. The following year, one of his scores was a 63-yard touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks to beat Tennessee in the final seconds.
Felipe Franks the legend Hail Mary to Tyrie Cleveland! pic.twitter.com/gRzsMULgmx— Lawrence Chaney (@pacificscouting) September 16, 2017
In July of 2016 was charged with multiple felonies after shooting BB guns and causing property damage on campus, but the charges were later reduced.
In the three Florida games I have watched this year, his combined stats are just 4 catches, for 56 yards (10, 167 total in 5 games). He’s a physical, aggressive blocker and has already made an impact covering punts.
The Gators WR group may be one of the deepest in college football, and they may be held back by inconsistency at the quarterback position, but Cleveland game hasn’t developed since he was a freshman/sophomore.
#2 Brad Stewart, S (Jr.) 6’0/200
According to Pro Football Focus, Florida rotated their safeties throughout the 2018 season and Stewart finished with the third most snaps behind both Jeawon Taylor and Donovan Stiner. However, Stewart graded out the best of the three by PFF.
Brad Stewart Jr is in-line for a HUGE season for Florida. pic.twitter.com/wSBP2hcGEM— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 18, 2019
Stewart is an All-SEC caliber talent but struggled with consistency last season, and was suspended for the first two games of 2019.
Stewart is known for his rangy coverage ability, but he does not to be in the same class as former Gator safeties Marcus Maye or Keanu Neal.
#2 Lamical Perine, RB (Sr.) 5’11/218
A cousin of former Redskins’ RB Samaje Perine, Lamical is also a cousin of Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack.
Lamichal was second of the team in rushing yards as a freshman, before leading the team in each of the past two seasons. Last year while sharing the ball with the since-departed Jordan Scarlett (Pk#154), Perine recorded 826 yards with an average of 6.2 yards per carry. This season, Perine is staring to lose carries to sophomore RB, Dameon Pierce.
This year, Perine’s 3.7 yards to carry is the lowest of is career, but that may not be entirely his fault. So says Senior Bowl Director and former NFL scout Jim Nagy.
The @seniorbowl is looking live at @Vol_Football vs. @GatorsFB. Stats sometimes lie and they certainly do so far this year with Florida RB Lamical Perine (@LP_deucedeuce). He’s only averaging 3.5 ypc but Perine is making the most of what is blocked. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/znXLF4817b— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 21, 2019
While Florida head coach, Dan Mullen loves to run the ball, the Gators have had difficulty trying to run the ball behind an offensive line that entered the season with just one returning starter from last year. Prior to last weekend’s 38-0 win over Towson, the Gators’ yards per carry ranked just 11th in the SEC. According to Football Outsiders, through Florida’s first four games, they were 106th in the nation stuff rate, which is the percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the back reaches the line of scrimmage.
Possibly one of the nation’s more underrated running backs, Perine can do it all. He’s good between the tackles, a reliable pass catcher, and a plus-blocker, but he doesn’t have that one elite trait or skill needed to get him drafted before the third day.
OTHERS (LATE DAY-3/UDFA)
#31 Shawn Davis, S (Jr.) 5’11/185
According to Pro Football Focus, Davis finished with 22 tackles in 2018, with just one missed tackle for the entire year.
Along with Brad Stewart, Donovan Stiner and Jeawon Taylor, Davis has been one of four Gators’ to see action at safety this season. Stewart was suspended the first two games, Taylor missed two games with injuries, and Davis played in the first four games before missing the Towson game.
Stiner started 12 games last year, and Taylor had a team-high eight tackles in the last season’s Peach Bowl, but neither truly ran away with the job. For the Auburn game, I believe we will see Stewart and Davis as the starters, assuming each are healthy.
Florida’s tackling has been an issue this year, particularly in the secondary, but Davis is regarded as Florida’s most physical, hardest-hitting safety.
Additionally, Davis had two interceptions against Kentucky, which ties him for the season lead. I don’t think we are talking about a high draft pick yet, but he has a chance to be an early entrant, if he can hold down the position.
#51 Ventrell Miller, LB (RS-Soph.) 6’0/222
Miller spent the entire 2017 season suspended and away from the team, and was a reserve in 2018. Might be the highest upside off the ball LB on the team, but probably a year or two away. Most of all, modern linebackers require strong pursuit range, a trait Miller possesses.
#55 Kyree Campbell, DT (Jr.) 6’3/304
A 4-star HS recruit, Campbell started 11 games in 2018, recording 37 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups and one fumble recovered.
A full-time starter again this season, Campbell is a nose tackle with intriguing quickness for someone his size. There might be enough upside here, that Campbell could become an eventual riser.
#88 Adam Shuler, DT (RS-Sr.) 6’4/275
A gradual transfer from West Virginia University, Shuler supplanted Tedarrell Slaton in 2018 and returns after starting 10-of-13 games last season.
#8 Trevon Grimes, WR, (Jr.) 6’5/210
A 5-star wide receiver according to Rivals, Grimes originally enrolled at Ohio State. He had his senior season in high school end after just his third game with a knee injury, but was still considered one of the Top 50 overall prospects in the nation.
After seeing little playing time with the Buckeyes, Grimes transferred to Florida last year, and worked his way into the offense during the course of last season. He received his first-career start in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Michigan. The tallest of the Gator wideouts, Grimes finished third on the team in both receptions (28) and yardage (364) in 2018.
In 2019, Grimes is currently second among the Gators’ wide receivers in both receptions (15) and yards receiving (231) trailing only Van Jefferson.
#1 Kadarius Toney, WR (Jr.) 5’11/194
While listed as a receiver, Toney is more of a hybrid RB/WR, with an almost equal 43 career receptions and 39 career carries. He spends most of his of time taking carries on jet sweeps, on reverses, or WR screens.
In 2018, Toney finished the season with 629 all-purpose yards as he totaled 25 receptions for 260 receiving yards and one touchdown, 21 rushes for 240 yards, six kickoff returns for 133 yards, one punt return and a 20-yard touchdown pass as he completed on a trick play.
Last season, Toney was the first Gator since Percy Harvin to average a first down per touch (minimum 40 touches) and he was dynamic in Florida’s opener against Miami this year.
Unfortunately, he was injured in the 2nd game of the season, causing him to miss the Gators’ last three games, and he is expected to miss the Auburn game as well.
Toney a Tavon Austin-like element to his game. Considering his profile as a “gadget” player, I was surprised to learn he only had one career punt return and just eight kickoff returns.
#10 Josh Hammond, WR (Sr.) 6’0/194
Hammond entered the 2019 with 24 starts, including all 13 last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Hammond didn’t drop a single target in 2018.
Best out of the slot and running underneath routes, Hammond will fight for yards and is considered Florida’s best run-blocking receiver, but he might be the least dynamic of the group.
#16 Freddie Swain, WR (Sr.) 6’)/199
Yet another Gators receiver who you want to get the ball to, Swain has a knack for scoring touchdowns.
In 2018, Swain finished fourth on the team in yards (265), and fifth in receptions (14), but he was #1 in yards per catch average with nearly 19 a reception, and managed to find the end-zone five times.
On this season’s 8 receptions, he has hit paydirt twice already. He also handles many of the punt returning responsibilities.
#66 Nick Buchanan, Center (RS-Sr.) 6’3/291
Buchanan came to Gainsville in the same recruiting class as Martez Ivey (#1 OT recruit in the 2015).
Buchanan is the lone returning starter from the 2018 Gators’ offensive line unit. It will be up to him to try to contain Auburn’s talented defensive line, including potential first round DT, Derrick Brown. Going into the Florida game, Auburn boasts the nation’s No. 19-ranked rushing defense.
It is worth noting that while Ivey (undrafted in 2019) received immediate playing time as a true freshman in 2015, Buchanan did not receive a single start until the 2018 season.
Buchanan is undersized relative to NFL height-weight standards, and did not start until his 4th season. His upside seems a bit limited.