Which Gator goes first in the draft?

Florida's expected to set a school record for most players selected in a single NFL Draft this year, which is particularly special considering it used to be five rounds longer. A large contingent of Gators are expected to be chosen in the middle rounds, but only three appear to have a shot at round one at this point.

Tim Tebow could go late on the first day, but tonight the real race is between cornerback Joe Haden and center Maurkice Pouncey. Haden would dust Pouncey in the 40, but the big man may be the first to have his card reach Roger Goodell's podium tonight.

At one point it appeared Haden would definitely be the first Gator selected, but then the Cleveland Browns traded for cornerback Sheldon Brown to reduce the pressure on them to fill a need at his position. They may still opt for a defensive back tonight and did have a lengthy phone conversation with Haden Wednesday, so there's still a chance of him beginning his pro career there. Reporters who cover the team indicate it's more likely they will select Tennessee's Eric Berry if he's available, with trading down or Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson also possibilities.

Assuming Cleveland isn't the destination for Haden, the next place believed to have interest in Jacksonville at 10. The Jaguars are supposed to be looking to trade down and haven't had great results from recent Gator first rounders Reggie Nelson and Derrick Harvey, so that may not be a fit. At the middle of the first round is where Haden's strongest recent interest has come from. San Francisco selects in spots 13 and 17 and needs a cornerback badly. The New York Giants have been reported to be interested at the 15th pick, even though Haden wasn't invited to visit their facility prior to the draft. If Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain isn't availabale for the Giants, Haden may well be their guy. Haden has also visited the Tennessee Titans, selecting 16th, and No. 21 Cincinnati.

While some teams aren't sold on Haden as the best cornerback in the draft, no one disputes that Maurkice Pouncey is the best center prospect - not just this year, but in several drafts. The only question for Pouncey is when a team is willing to select an interior lineman, since they tend to be later selections in the draft. Denver is reportedly looking to trade for a lower selection, but if it holds onto its pick at number eleven there's a very good chance that Pouncey is their guy. Pittsburgh is definitely interested at 18, so the Broncos may not be willing to go down very far and miss losing out on him.

Almost every team with a pick late in the first round has been linked to Pouncey, but it will be hard for teams like Green Bay, Philadelphia, the New York Jets or Indianapolis to get him without making some sort of a move up. The Steelers are a wild card because of the ongoing Ben Roethlisberger situation, but unless their needs change thanks to a trade that's as far as Pouncey is likely to fall.

Is there any other Gator besides Tebow who could squeeze into the first round? It doesn't seem likely. Carlos Dunlap has been hurt by his perceived lack of production despite his great physical tools. A collection of scouts surveyed by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel voted him the defensive lineman most likely to be a bust in this draft, and that kind of thinking will likely keep him out of the first round. Aaron Hernandez is the highest rated guy at his position for some teams, but tight ends rarely go in round one. Both of those players as well as many more Gators will be expected to be selected Friday in rounds two and three.

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