Florida in the NFL Draft: Here Come the Gators

Gators_Ronald_Powell_2013The 2014 NFL Draft may have come to an end, but for several former Florida Gators, their journey in the NFL has just begun. Four Gators were selected by NFL teams in this year’s draft, while many undrafted Florida players agreed to free-agent contracts.

Defensive tackle Dominique Easley was the first Gator off the board, selected in the first round as the 29th overall pick by the New England Patriots on Thursday night. This was a bit of a surprise to many who expected teams to be reluctant to pick him in the first round because of health concerns but these concerns did not stop the Patriots from selecting the versatile player and investing in their defensive line. Easley took a moment to thank Florida football head coach Will Muschamp as well as the Gator Nation on Twitter.

Three other draft-eligible Florida football players were selected on day three of the Draft, joining Easley. The second Gator selected was defensive back Jaylen Watkins with the first pick of the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday.

The Florida native is a versatile player who has played corner and safety for the Gators and will join former University of Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper in Philadelphia. Next to come off the board was linebacker Ronald Powell who went in the fifth round to the New Orleans Saints. Powell, who is 6-foot-3, 237 pounds, was heavily scouted out of high school and totaled 84 tackles, 19 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks in his career at Florida. He is also the first Gator drafted by the Saints since 1998 (Fred Weary, 4th round).

With the 179th pick in the sixth round, the New England Patriots selected offensive lineman Jon Halapio. Halapio will be reunited with Easley, joining the Patriots. The dynamic duo expressed their excitement of starting their NFL careers together.

Meanwhile, undrafted Florida players agreed to free-agent contracts with teams after the conclusion of the draft Saturday night. Wide receiver Solomon Patton agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that had shown a significant amount of interest in him during the draft process.

Tight End Trey Burton will be joining former University of Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins in Philadelphia after reaching agreement with the Eagles. Defensive tackle Damien Jacobs and outside linebacker Darrin Kitchens agreed to free agent contracts with the Buffalo Bills.

Undrafted cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy who were once considered potential first rounds picks in 2013, are still considering their options and will hope to sign with NFL teams over the next few days.