Florida Gators have eight NFL Draft selections, third most in country


Will Muschamp was fired as Florida’s coach because he lost too many games, and at least according to NFL personnel, talent wasn’t the Gators’ issue.

UF had more players drafted (eight) than wins (seven) last season, finishing the 2015 NFL Draft with the third-most selections in the country.

The Gators ranked in the bottom-20 nationally in total offense in three of the past four years, yet six offensive players were picked including four offensive linemen — the school’s most offensive line picks since 1966.

Versatile center/guard Max Garcia went off the board at the end of the fifth round Saturday, going No.133 to the Denver Broncos.

“This is a really good, athletic player,” former NFL general manager and ESPN analyst Bill Polian said during the draft telecast. “This is a guy who gets off the ball and into the second level. He can really move. In a Peyton Manning offense, a zone blocking offense, his feet, his balance and his ability to move in space is an absolute must. They got a good one.”

Garcia, who transferred to Florida from Maryland in 2012, started all 24 games the past two seasons, successfully transitioning to center for the 2014 season. He was the fourth center drafted.

“He really stood out at the senior bowl,” ESPN draft guru Todd McShay said. “He’s got a powerful punch with his upper body. When he got to the Senior Bowl and you saw him against some of the top interior linemen, he really had no trouble handling them. He was probably the most impressive offensive linemen based on drills that week.”

In the seventh round, mammoth offensive guard Trenton Brown (6-8, 360) went to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Oakland Raiders nabbed a pair of Gators, taking linebacker Neiron Ball in the fifth round and selecting wideout/kick returner Andre Debose in the seventh round.

As an athletic 4-3 outside linebacker, Ball’s path to the NFL has been a long, grueling journey. Ball underwent microfracture surgery in late November. He missed an entire season after undergoing brain surgery in 2011 and lost both his parents before the age of 10.

Debose, who caught just a single pass as a sixth-year senior but did run a 4.38 at UF’s Pro Day, was Florida’s first receiver drafted since Riley Cooper in 2010.

In all, the Gators’ eight picks were the school’s most draftees since 2010.

Dante Fowler Jr., who went No. 3 overall to Jacksonville on Thursday, was Florida’s crown jewel selection, tying former UF defense linemen Gerard Warren as the highest draftee in school history.

Meanwhile, D.J. Humphries was UF’s first offensive linemen to find a professional home, as the Arizona Cardinals selected the junior left tackle No. 24 overall in the first round.

Late Friday night, two former Gators instantly became division rivals, as the Dallas Cowboys drafted offensive tackle Chaz Green with the 91st overall pick, and tailback Matt Jones went to the Washington Redskins four slots later.

Following the draft’s conclusion, several former UF players signed free agent contracts. Defensive tackle Darious Cummings posted on Twitter that he signed with the Carolina Panthers, and defensive tackle Leon Orr went to the Raiders.