University of Florida

Florida Gators’ Quincy Wilson striving to be an NFL first-round pick

Defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) runs through a drill during Florida's NFL Pro Day in Gainesville on March 28.
Defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) runs through a drill during Florida's NFL Pro Day in Gainesville on March 28. AP

Cornerback Quincy Wilson stood in the south end zone of Florida’s indoor practice facility during Florida’s Pro Day, waiting for his next rep.

As soon as he heard the whistle, he took off. Wilson ran down the right sideline and cut left as football sailed over his head. He jumped, extended his right arm out behind him and, with the tip of his fingers, hauled the pass in with one hand before crashing on the turf.

Scouts and coaches from all 32 NFL teams stood in astonishment.

His former teammates howled with excitement.

Quincy Wilson simply got up and moved on to the next play.

“It proves that I have ball skills,” Wilson, a former standout at Fort Lauderdale’s University School, said afterward. “It’s nothing new.”

That the mind-set he took during his three years with the Gators, during which time he played an integral role on one of the top defenses in the country.

And that’s how he needs to be, Wilson said, if he wants to be a first-round pick when the NFL Draft starts Thursday.

“It’s been a lifelong dream,” Wilson said. “I’d love to be one of the top 32 guys to get picked. … Hopefully I’ll be one of those guys.”

Wilson has the measurements and intangibles to crack the top 32 picks.

He has an eye for the ball, evidenced by his six career interceptions and 17 total defended passes. He’s made big plays — such as his one-handed interception against Kentucky and his pivotal pick-six in Florida’s homecoming win against Missouri — but it’s Wilson consistent high-level performance that sets him apart.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson allowed an NFL passer rating of just 29.9 on throws into his coverage in 2016. For context, a quarterback receives a passer rating of 39.6 if all of his passes are incompletions.

At times, Wilson uses his 6-1, 213-pound frame to jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage and force him off a route. At other times, he plays off the line of scrimmage and couples that strength with enough speed and agility make plays down the field.

And he’s confident in his ability to make a play when needed.

“I feel like I’m the best,” Wilson said. “Without a doubt. No question.”

Yet it took Wilson until his final season at UF for others to see just how good he is.

Wilson, an Under Armour All-American out of University School, arrived in Gainesville in 2014 knowing he would have to work to get playing time considering the depth Florida had at the cornerback position.

There was Vernon Hargreaves, who went on to be the 11th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. There was Brian Poole, who started for the Atlanta Falcons as a rookie last season on their run to the Super Bowl. There was Jalen Tabor, his classmate and a five-star recruit who earned all the hype from Florida’s recruiting class that year.

“He’s a little bit more reserved,” Chad Wilson, Quincy’s father, said of his son in an interview earlier this season. “He’s not as flamboyant about things. He’s not as outspoken. ... He does want to be seen as a top cornerback because he certainly feels that way.”

Wilson worked his way into the rotation his freshman year and recorded his first career interception against FSU in the regular-season finale.

He started nine games as a sophomore, rotating with Tabor at the outside corner position opposite Hargreaves, before becoming an every week starter as a junior.

But while Wilson sees himself as a first-round pick, the national opinion is a mixed bag.

Some, such as NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and Chad Reuter, see him going late in the first round. Others have him as an early pick on Day 2.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projects Wilson will be drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round with pick No. 36. Mel Kiper has Wilson going to the San Francisco 49ers in the third round with the 66th overall pick.

ESPN senior writer Jeff Legwold on Saturday ranked Wilson as the 31st-best player overall in the draft and the sixth best cornerback overall.

“He plays with the confidence of a pro, doesn’t shy away from challenges, and rebounds from mistakes,” Legwold wrote. That’s a pro corner in waiting.”

Wilson, however, takes those rankings with a grain of salt.

Starting Thursday, none of that will matter until his name is called.

“I know I’m good enough,” Wilson said. “I don’t have really anything to worry about. Just anxious to see who wants me.”

UF DRAFT PROSPECTS

Name

Pos.

Ht./Wt.

Projected round

Quincy Wilson

CB

6-1/213

1-2

Jarrad Davis

LB

6-2/238

1-2

Jalen Tabor

CB

6-0/201

2-3

Marcus Maye

S

6-0/216

2-3

Caleb Brantley

DT

6-2/297

2-4

Alex Anzalone

LB

6-3/241

3-5

David Sharpe

OT

6-6/357

3-5

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