1. You are as good as you are going to get at this level (Gerard Warren)
2. You are tired of school and simply want to move on (Channing Crowder)
3. You have unique family needs/obligations (Ciatrick Fason)
4. You have personal issues with your current situation.
There's no indication that reasons three and four are in play with this year's top early-entry candidates so that really leaves just the top two. I don't know if any of these guys are sick of school but none of Florida's players qualify under category number one. Here's one man's view of the half dozen juniors who should be giving the next level a thought.
Looking at Each Guy
CHAD JACKSON: There's no denying Jackson is an impressive talent and his stats are incredible. Tying Carlos Alvarez's single season record with 88 catches assures Jackson a spot in the Gator record books. His nine touchdowns led the Gators and he carried the passing game while his fellow receivers kept getting hurt. I said after spring practice Jackson will be the next number one pick at UF but I don't think that can happen this year. Jackson has as much room for improvement as he has talent. He is not great at getting open on his own, relying more on the scheme to get him free. He has yet to develop that fine sense of timing on long passes, thus Florida had very few big plays. His blocking needs improvement and nobody with his speed should average 10.2 yards a catch. He can't exactly offer himself up as a punt return man after the Outback Bowl either.
Still, this is a weak draft at receiver and some lesser entities are ranking Jackson as number two at the position. That is a ranking I find hard to believe. But keep in mind, wide receiver is one position that invariably slips in the draft and with this year being loaded at linebacker you could see as few as two receivers in the first round.
DEE WEBB: This one puzzles me, as the junior corner has not been consistently good this season. Webb has a world of talent and shows it at times. But at other times he shows a lack of instincts and judgement. He made ten tackles and had a couple of break-ups in the Iowa game, but was also burned for a TD and gave Hawkeye receivers all the room in the world in the fourth quarter. The fact that Vernell Brown became such an important player for this team shows Webb has not separated himself from college level players. The tools are there, but the room to grow and improve is too. If anyone in this group simply wants to move on, it's him.
MARCUS THOMAS: Frankly, I think Marcus is the most ready of any Florida junior. There are times he makes plays after fighting off three blocks and you think you are watching Gerard Warren at his best. Then you add it up and wonder how a guy with this level of ability averages fewer than four tackles a game and has just four sacks for the year. If Thomas can put it all together as a senior, he won't be debating the merits of round three. He'll be hearing his name called during round one of the 2007 Draft.
EARL EVERETT: Florida's leading tackler (72) has the kind of speed most linebackers only dream about. The NFL loves guys who can run unusually fast for his position and Everett qualifies. Still, he has a long way to go in pass coverage and learning to look for the ball when the time is right. Everett can be a major disruptive force like he was with two interceptions against Kentucky, 1.5 sacks against FSU and 14 tackles in the LSU game. But too often, #30 was not heard from (5 tackles vs. Vandy).
DESHAWN WYNN: I may sound like an idiot here, but this is one guy who might oughta just go ahead and go. With the competition at running back it's hard to see Wynn getting the number of carries he would need to vault towards the top of the draft. He has shown enough to be worth a shot and his size would seem to indicate he can make the transition to the next level. So while I don't think he has reached his peak, I also don't believe he can count on being Florida's leading rusher in his senior year. The big concern about his future has to be his propensity for injuries.
CHRIS LEAK: After a dozen games in the spread option Leak continues to show he is a passer, not a runner. When running, the Gator quarterback always looks tentative. Shoot, twice he stopped while running and got drilled. Four times he fell down short of the first down. Yet his throw to Dallas Baker late in the first half was a thing of beauty and he does have over 8,000 passing yards as a Gator. The question here is whether another year in this offense helps or hurts his pro-tential. (That's a word I invented).
I don't mean for this to be viewed as an attack on these kids as athletes and players. Anyone good enough to be in a position to ask the questions these guys are asking is a helluva player. It's just my way of assessing each as a NFL prospect. That's why the four who seem to have the most pro-tential (Jackson, Thomas, Webb, Everett) are also the four who I believe have the most to gain from another season of college football.
In the last month all but Webb and Jackson have stated their intention to return to UF and as a result most believe those two will move on. I suspect the other four will stay put. Still, with the January 9 deadline in sight, I suspect each guy will be getting all kinds of advice from all kinds of sources and will re-assess their status. And when that happens, all bets are off.
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