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RBs tops among Florida prospects

11/14/2011

Week 11 gave me my first live look of the season at the Florida Gators, and it's clear that part of their offensive problems this season has to do with talent. More specifically, lack of NFL-caliber talent.

The cupboard is rather bare in Gainesville, with only two players ranking as even Day 2 possibilities.

RBs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are quick, explosive playmakers, but they have slight builds and lack power as runners.

Rainey shows the versatility to make plays as a receiver out of the backfield, also showing the ability to stick his foot in the ground and cut without losing momentum. He also runs hard and shows some savvy between the tackles, but he's not an every-down back. At most, Rainey is a good third-down back who can offer a change of pace in the running game, be a weapon on screen passes and contribute on special teams.

Demps has track-star speed with impressive initial burst, and he shows the ability to hit the slimmest of creases and make plays in the return game. His vision is just adequate, though, and he missed some vertical cuts this weekend against South Carolina. He's also not as good as Rainey between the tackles.

Both have dealt with nagging injuries and always seem to be nicked up, and in the end it will take impressive performances over the remainder of the season and during the pre-draft process to get them comfortably into the Day 2 range.

Brantley continues to struggle

Gators QB John Brantley was underwhelming once again, showing very average arm strength and a concerning lack of athleticism and pocket mobility. He flashed the ability to anticipate throws before receivers came out of their cuts, but he did not always get through his progressions, forced some throws into coverage and was erratic in terms of accuracy.

Brantley's seeming inability to process information quickly and make sound decisions is also a concern. He's simply too inconsistent, and even though some of his lack of production can be attributed to a lack of perimeter weapons, Brantley is a late-round prospect at this point. He will likely have to show well in postseason all-star action to boost himself before April.

South Carolina prospects

Gamecocks DE Melvin Ingram continues to impress with his versatility, at one point kicking inside and beating the guard with a quick swim move to get a sack. Ingram also shows good athleticism and change-of-direction skills as well as a nonstop motor, but his lack of size will limit his NFL fits.

Ingram (6-foot-2, 272 pounds) could find a home as an undersized 4-3 end in a Tampa 2 defense that values quickness and athleticism in its ends. That could include teams such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay that look to create penetration and havoc in the backfield. Ingram could also potentially become an edge-setting 3-4 outside linebacker.

We currently grade him on the fringe of the first round, but as far as NFL teams are concerned his stock will vary from team to team based on his lack of size and scheme fits.

South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore also had a good showing, displaying his quick feet and change-of-direction skills, and he's improving in terms of instincts, route recognition and anticipation. At 5-11¼ and 193 pounds, Gilmore is also solid in run support, and it won't surprise me if he gets himself into the second round before all is said and done.

We've noted in this space before that Gamecocks WR Alshon Jeffery is elite in terms of size (6-4, 232) and production and that he's impressive in terms of strength, length and body control in jump-ball situations and in the red zone. However, his body and lack of explosiveness are reasons for concerns.

Jeffery does not have a chiseled frame and lacks quick-twitch athleticism, and you have to worry about whether he'll be able to separate from coverage at the next level. He is not as quick or explosive out of breaks as the two receivers ahead of him on the board -- Michael Floyd and Justin Blackmon -- and at this point it appears his size and production are inflating his grade.

Jeffery currently ranks as a fringe first-rounder, and more than one scout in attendance told me he'll likely get drafted early based on numbers, but at this point I would have a hard time taking him in the first round, given the questions about his game.