Florida State’s traditionally deep NFL talent pool began to dry up as the Bobby Bowden Era ended.
Whereas the first round of any given NFL Draft used to feature at least one dynamic Seminoles player, the quantity and quality of the prospects emerging from FSU have diminished in recent years.
But 2012 was a resurgent year for Florida State. Jimbo Fisher’s team was just the third in school history to reach 12 wins, it captured the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time since 2005 and won just the second BCS bowl in FSU history.
And now as the 2013 NFL Draft approaches on April 25, Florida State finds itself in familiar territory — fielding a slew of potential first-round prospects.
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There are five Seminoles — Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes, Menelik Watson, EJ Manuel and Tank Carradine — potentially set to be selected in the first round. And three of those players could be of interest to the Miami Dolphins.
Xavier Rhodes might be the most likely FSU prospect to end up in aqua and orange on draft day. The former Miami Norland standout came to FSU to play receiver after drawing comparisons to Dwayne Bowe in high school. But a transition to corner as a freshman set the redshirt junior up to be one of the top defensive backs in the draft.
At 6-2, 217 pounds, Rhodes has the size and athleticism to play in the NFL. He finished with eight interceptions and 140 tackles at Florida State and has seen his stock soar after big-bodied corners such as Richard Sherman and Antonio Cromartie have had success at the professional level.
Werner has been described by teammates as a technician with a tireless work ethic. The Berlin-born defensive end moved from his native Germany at age 16 to a prep school in Connecticut to pursue his dreams of one day playing in the NFL.
In three years at Florida State, Werner went from touted recruit to one of the top pass-rushers in the country. The 6-4 255-pounder registered 23.5 sacks, including 13 his junior season.
Werner is a student of the game who plays the run well, gets after the passer and displayed surprising agility and flexibility in his hips when asked to stand up and perform drills as an outside linebacker on his pro day. Werner’s versatility and work ethic would likely be a welcome addition to the newly rebuilt Dolphins defense.
Should Miami trade down in the first round, one of the more intriguing prospects is right tackle Watson.
Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner worked Watson out extensively at the FSU pro day in March, and the 6-6, 320-pound tackle born in Manchester, England, has quietly been climbing up draft boards across the league.
With Jake Long now in St. Louis and Jonathan Martin the likely starter at left tackle, Watson could be an option if Miami moves down in the first round. Originally a basketball player at Marist, Watson took up football and played a year of junior college ball before picking Florida State over several other schools. After playing just a season as the Seminoles’ starting right tackle — and fewer than 20 football games his whole life — Watson is already considered a fringe first-round prospect.
Watson also is a former amateur boxer. Around Florida State’s campus — and in the ACC — the force and brutality of his initial punch off the snap is already legendary. At FSU’s pro day, Turner couldn’t help but be impressed.
Manuel and Carradine also could sneak into the back half of the first round, though both are more likely to go Friday in the second or third round.
Regardless of how the first round plays out, Florida State is putting talent into the NFL again.
And there’s a solid chance one of those players ends up in Miami.
Trickett released: Florida State announced Wednesday that junior quarterback Clint Trickett has been released from his scholarship.
Trickett is set to graduate in May and will explore other options.
It is likely redshirt freshman Jameis Winston will be named the Seminoles’ 2013 starter. Winston, who also is a baseball player — hitting in the middle of the lineup and pitching — was 12 of 15 for 205 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s spring game.