Because there are no games to predict this week, it seems like a good time to look at what Florida’s much-discussed juniors will be doing after the Sugar Bowl in terms of the NFL Draft.
Here’s what we’re predicting:
Joe Haden — This is a no-brainer. He’s being projected as the No. 1 cornerback in the draft and an almost certain top-15 pick. He talked last week about possibly returning for his senior season to earn his degree and play with his brother Jordan, who will be a true freshman cornerback next season. That sounds good, but it’s time for Haden to take his game to the next level. He said he will know what he’s going to do before the Sugar Bowl (he probably already does). We have a good idea, too. Prediction: He’s gone.
Carlos Dunlap — There is no doubt this athletic freak has first-round ability. But a huge red flag went up two weeks ago with his DUI arrest the Tuesday before the SEC title game. The pros already had some concerns about his inconsistent work ethic. Now, they have to be wondering about his character. There’s a good chance now Dunlap could fall out of the first round. The advice I would give him is to come back for his senior year, stay out of trouble and bust his butt on the field on every play. That would vault him back into the first round in the following draft. I think his parents might be thinking the same thing, but I doubt that’s what he’s thinking. Prediction: He’s gone.
Aaron Hernandez — This talented tight end tipped his hand when he threw the ball into the stands after catching a first-half touchdown pass in the home finale against Florida State. That was his way of saying farewell to The Swamp. He does not have prototypical NFL size, but he’s a pure pass-catching tight end in the Tony Gonzalez mold. He’s pretty much made it clear he’s ready to move on. Prediction: He’s gone.
Maurkice Pouncey — He probably will stay if he doesn’t project to go in the first two rounds. But ranked as the No. 1 center in the draft by some, Pouncey figures to be a second-round pick, so this looks like an easy call. He might want to stick around and play one more year with his twin brother Mike. Then, again, maybe it’s time for the twins to go their separate football ways. Prediction: He’s gone.
Mike Pouncey — He’s rated one of the top offensive guards in the draft and could go somewhere in the second round. The temptation will be there to leave, especially if Maurkice pulls the trigger. It’s plausible that Mike could come back even if Maurkice doesn’t. But that scenario won’t happen. Prediction: He’s gone.
Major Wright — His name hasn’t been mentioned much about this draft, but he will have a chance to go. He does not have top-end speed for an NFL safety, but this guy could be a potential star at strong safety in the NFL the way he hits people. Hey, he might even grow into an outside linebacker. He definitely has a big upside. Prediction: He’s staying.
Ahmad Black and Chris Rainey — We’ve put these two Lakeland kids together because they’re pretty much in the same category. THEY ARE NOT READY FOR THE NFL. Not even close. Rainey has the speed, but he doesn’t have the size and strength. And he hasn’t really done much. Black doesn’t have the size or the speed. He’s a safety in a cornerback’s body. Black’s father wants him to come out, but it would be a serious mistake if he does. Black is a really good football player, one of the most instinctive defensive players on the UF roster. But he needs to get bigger, stronger and a shade faster before he’s ready to tangle with the big boys. Rainey isn’t ready, either. If these guys decide to come out, I would not be shocked if neither gets drafted. That would be a waste. Prediction: They’re staying.
Marcus Gilbert — This offensive tackle has an NFL body and an NFL future, but he’s been a starter for only one season. He needs another year to develop. Prediction: He’s staying.