Twenty-two defensive players were taken in the second round of Friday’s 2016 NFL Draft — the most since the draft’s Common Era in 1967.
Yet none were former Florida defensive lineman Jon Bullard.
The All-American slipped to third round, going No. 73rd overall to the Chicago Bears.
While most analysts pegged Bullard as a late-first or early-second round pick, the run-stuffing lineman fell after a number of other highly-touted SEC defensive linemen (Alabama’s Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson, Mississippi State’s Chris Jones) also slipped outside of Thursday’s first round.
“He’s quick and explosive. He’s going to make a heck of a living,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “In the old day’s they’d call him a tweener. Today they’re going to call him a millionaire.”
Bullard had to sweat out a long wait first, though.
The 6-foot-3, 284-pounder was the 14th defensive lineman drafted Friday, as teams overlooked Bullard’s production (17.5 tackles for loss in 2015 — third-best in the SEC) and scheme versatility (an ability to play inside or as a five-technique end).
Bullard’s durability (he battled shoulder and knee injuries in college), size and overall upside were a concern, but ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had the senior in the first round of his final mock draft and praised the pick Friday.
“He's not the most athletic player in the draft, and he's not the most talented, but he might have the best motor,” McShay said Friday.
During Bullard’s freefall, SEC Network commentator Marcus Spears tweeted that Bullard was “one of the steals of this draft” and that “somebody [is] gonna get a stud.”
Meanwhile, a number of former Gators hope to hear their name’s called Saturday during the draft’s final four rounds, highlighted by trio of players — tailback Kelvin Taylor, wideout Demarcus Robinson and defensive end Alex McCalister — who opted to skip their senior seasons with UF.
Taylor is projected as the next Florida player off the board, but the tailback struggled at the NFL Combine in February, running a slow 40-yard dash (4.60) and dropping a number of passes in receiving drills.
Still, the junior was productive in college, rushing for 1,035 yards in 2015 and never fumbling in 486 career-carries.
“At the end of the day I feel like I'm a great football player,” Taylor said in March. “I’m just ready to get into camp and start making plays. I know what I'm capable of doing.”
All-SEC linebacker Antonio Morrison, tight end Jake McGee and nickel-back Brian Poole could all get drafted late Saturday, too, or sign with teams as potential priority free agents.