VETTEL: Looking To Next NFL Early Entries

Emmitt Smith was the first Gator to leave the University of Florida with eligibility remaining in order to pursue NFL riches. Since then more than a dozen Florida football players have decided to cast their net with the pros rather than complete their eligibility. Most recently, Chad Jackson and Dee Webb moved on although neither was drafted as high as originally expected.

For the most part, the guys who have left have done okay for themselves in terms of getting decent draft position; the notable exception being Webb who was not chosen until the seventh round and may have cost himself millions. Clint Mitchell didn't do himself any favors either.

Some, like Ian Scott and Darrell Jackson weren't high picks but are making excellent livings and have major long term financial potential. Jackson, to the surprise of almost everyone, evolved into the best NFL player among the Spurrier-era receivers.

Next spring promises to be the most interesting around here since the 2002-03 drafts that saw 16 Gators get drafted, ten in the first four rounds. That was some bare cupboard, huh?! Well, the Gators should have another eight or more seniors that could be chosen, and that doesn't include a group of non-seniors who have the potential to join them.

Here's a look at Florida four best "underclassmen" from a draft perspective in the order of one man's view of their "draft-ability".

Jarvis Moss: The junior defensive end has had a rather strange time at UF starting with a major auto accident on his way to Gainesville in the summer of 2003. He suffered a hernia, muscle injuries and serious infections during his first two years and was listed by one moron last summer as a "bust". Well in 2005 we saw a healthy, strong, motivated Jarvis Moss and opposing offensive coordinators saw Maalox moments. Moss led the Gators with 7.5 sacks and I wouldn't be surprised to see him double that number in '06. There is no skill the NFL values more than the ability to rush the passer. If healthy, Moss is a lock for round one.

Andre Caldwell: Bubba was originally listed as a senior this spring before it was changes, but they might as well leave it alone. He seems recovered from his broken leg of last fall and should go back to being an impact threat at receiver. Caldwell had ten catches, five runs and four kick returns when he got hurt, totaling 336 all purpose yards. He averaged 31 yards on kickoff returns; the Gators averaged 19 without him. Having been through one major injury, a healthy season means time to move on.

Reggie Nelson: While Nelson really hasn't locked down one position on the Gator defense, he is a crucial part of the mix. He may be a safety. He may be a corner. He may be a nickel. But he has to be on the field. While his lack of a true position might hurt his draft status, his athleticism and intensity is something special. Nelson was in the Gators top five in tackles and quarterback sacks last season. Not bad for a so-called part time guy. He may add punt returns this fall, which would further enhance his attractiveness. Still, it's his fourth year since high school and athletes this gifted do not become fifth-year seniors.

Brandon Siler: As a football player, Siler should be higher up this list. He is a high-motor, high-intensity, high-character guy. That's an incredible trifecta. But "B-Si" is not a great "tools" guy as far as the next level is concerned. He has good, not great size. He has good, not great speed. But he's a great, not good player. To me, Siler is a lot like Andra Davis who was a fifth-round pick, but recently signed a mega-bucks second contract with Cleveland. Siler will go higher than round five, but he'll be a steal, just like Davis and Channing Crowder for whoever takes him. Siler also loves UF, his head coach and his education. So he may decide four years is the way to go. Gator fans certainly hope that's what happens.

Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated. You can tell me what you think at vettel@gatorcountry.com


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