Last year, just two former Florida Gators had their name called throughout three days and seven rounds of the NFL Draft. This year, two were selected in the draft’s first round.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd went No. 23 overall to the Minnesota Vikings, and safety Matt Elam went No. 32 overall to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday in the first round of the NFL Draft, marking the first time Florida had two former players drafted in the first round since 2010 when Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey and Tim Tebow were all chosen among the first 32 selections.
Projected as one of the top defensive players in the draft and a potential top-five selection, Floyd tumbled all the way to pick No. 23 when the Vikings ended his slide.
Still, after a childhood mired in poverty and abuse, Floyd said it was an honor to be chosen.
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“I’m one of those kids that got through,” he told Deion Sanders of the NFL Network after being selected. “Plenty more are going to come after me, and I hope I can be there to help them. Looking at me and looking at my background, I wouldn’t even have dreamed of standing here right now. But at the end of the day, I made it. No matter what pick it was, no matter what round it was, I’m here.”
Most analysts rated Floyd as the top defensive tackle available, potentially going No.3 overall to the Oakland Raiders, but Oakland traded out of the pick with Miami and passed on Floyd again at No. 12.
In Elam, Baltimore gets a like-minded replacement for hard-hitting safety Ed Reed, who made the Ravens defense feared with his physical style much as Elam did for the Gators’ top-10 unit last season. Elam, a graduate of Palm Beach Dwyer High, racked up 76 tackles, four interceptions, a forced fumble, two sacks and 11 tackles for loss as a junior in 2012, earning First Team AP All-American and First Team All-SEC honors.