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Monday, April 29, 2013
Projecting Florida's next draft class

By Michael DiRocco

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The 2013 NFL draft was certainly a good one for the Florida Gators, especially after the poor showing in the prior year, in which only two Gators were drafted. This year, Florida had eight taken between Thursday and Saturday. That’s one shy of the school record for most UF players drafted in the seven-round format.

The 2014 could be pretty similar. The Gators have 11 scholarship seniors graduating and could lose three underclassmen. Of those 14 players, eight project as draftable -- including two possible first-round selections.

Dominique Easley
Dominique Easley, with his impressive first step, could become as noted in 2014 NFL draft discussions as 2013 first-round pick Sharrif Floyd.
Here’s an early look at next year’s draft class (* - denotes underclassman):

DE/LB Ronald Powell * (6-foot-4, 234 pounds)
Projected rounds: 1-3

Powell missed the 2012 season because of two ACL injuries, but he is scheduled to be cleared for full contact in August. Powell was playing at a high level when he was injured in UF’s 2012 spring game. If he returns to that level and becomes the elite pass-rusher he was projected to be, it’s likely he'll leave early and become a first-round pick. All indications are that his knee is ready to go, so, barring another setback, this should be Powell’s last season in Gainesville.

DT Dominique Easley (6-2, 283)
Projected rounds: 1-3

Easley nearly left school after the 2012 season and his decision to return may end up paying off with a first-round selection. Easley can play both end and tackle, although he’ll start the season inside. His biggest strength is his quickness off the ball, especially his first step. He’s got to improve as a pass-rusher, but he can be every bit as disruptive as Sharrif Floyd, who was taken in last week's first round by Minnesota.

CB Loucheiz Purifoy * (6-1, 185)
Projected rounds: 2-4

Purifoy is going to spend time at receiver in 2013, but he’s still going to play defense -- which is what’s going to get him drafted. He is UF’s most physical cornerback, and while he needs to improve his cover skills he’s a playmaker who always seems to be around the football. He’s also one of the Gators’ best special teams players and likely going to declare for the draft a year early.

CB Marcus Roberson * (6-0, 195)
Projected rounds: 2-4

Roberson is essentially Purifoy’s opposite: He has very good cover skills but needs to become much more physical. That’s something UF coach Will Muschamp said Roberson improved during the spring, but he still needs work. He’s not a great tackler, either. But he can cover, and those guys are in demand in the NFL. If he has a great season he could end up in the first round.

C Jonotthan Harrison (6-3, 303)
Projected rounds: 4-6

Centers generally don’t get drafted high. Ask Alabama’s Barrett Jones, who went in the fourth round despite being an All-American and an Outland Trophy winner. Harrison is a solid player who moves well, but he has had some issues with shotgun snaps. He could end up as a guard in the NFL.

G Jon Halapio (6-3, 317)
Projected rounds: 4-6

Halapio has been the most durable of UF’s offensive linemen and will finish his career as a three-year starter with nearly 50 career starts. He’s another big body that moves well and is a great run blocker. He needs to continue to improve as a pass protector.

DB Jaylen Watkins (6-0, 181)
Projected rounds: 4-6

Watkins’ biggest strength is his football IQ. He can play corner, safety and nickelback, and that’s why he’s probably Muschamp’s most trusted secondary player. He’s probably more of a nickelback at the next level at first, but he needs to become a more physical player. He won’t have trouble understanding NFL defenses so he could end up higher on a depth chart ahead of more talented players.

DT Damien Jacobs (6-3, 290)
Projected rounds: 5-7

Jacobs is the Gators’ nose tackle, but he’s a bit light to play that spot in the NFL. Jacobs is solid against the run and has shown the ability to get pressure on the quarterback up the middle, but he’s got to become more consistent. There’s no question about his strength, though, and that’s his biggest asset.

Worth noting
Several players -- such as OL Kyle Koehne (6-5, 314), RB Trey Burton (6-2, 224) and WR Andre Debose (6-0, 187) -- could sneak into the later rounds with good seasons. Debose is the biggest wild card. If he can somehow put it together and become a consistent player and put together a good year, then he could even end up in the middle rounds because of his athleticism, speed, and ability after the catch.