GAINESVILLE -- After a down year in 2012, Saturday’s final four rounds of the National Football League Draft helped cap a rebound showing for Florida prospects.
With four more former Gators selected in rounds four through six, a total of eight were chosen over the draft’s three days, coming just one shy of the school record for most players selected since the draft went to seven rounds, and exceeding the number (6) from the last two years combined.
Several more are expected to sign free agent contracts in the coming days.
The Miami Dolphins turned some heads by selecting three Gainesville products Saturday, including two in a span of three picks in the fifth round. An oft-injured linebacker with special attributes, linebacker Jelani Jenkins went No. 104 overall to Miami to start the run. Jenkins was regarded by ESPN analyst Todd McShay as the top coverage linebacker available in the draft despite dealing with a broken thumb, pulled hamstring and broken bone in his foot that caused Jenkins to play in only nine games last season.
With Jon Bostic going No. 50 overall to the Chicago Bears on Friday, the selection of Jenkins marked the first time since 1999 that two former Gators linebackers were chosen in the same draft.
The Dolphins then selected running back Mike Gillislee at No. 164 and kicker Caleb Sturgis at No. 166. Buried on the depth chart behind Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps for much of his Florida career, Gillislee exploded for 1,152 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns when he got his chance as a senior. Sturgis holds multiple kicking records at UF and will be afforded every opportunity to supplant Dan Carpenter as Miami’s place kicker. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected safety Josh Evans with first pick of the sixth round (No. 169 overall). Evans’ experience playing both strong and free safety for Florida factored heavily into the selection, as the Jaguars are planning to play a lot of single-high safety looks under new head coach Gus Bradley.
Before joining the Jaguars, Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, where former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn coached the defensive line. When Bradley left Seattle for Jacksonville, Quinn left Gainesville to take his place. Quinn and UF coach Will Muschamp repeatedly called Evans the team’s most improved player in 2012, when he led the defense in tackles with 79.
Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, outside linebacker Lerentee McCray and tight end Omarius Hines are expected to be preferred free agents.
Offensive lineman James Wilson, defensive tackle Omar Hunter and wide receiver Frankie Hammond (Hollywood Hallandale) could also get signed as undrafted free agents or invited to a training camp for a tryout.