Florida Gators in the 2022 NFL Draft
The 2021 NFL Draft was a fantastic event for eight Florida Gators who were selected and will soon start their NFL Careers. Three Gators signed free agent contracts shortly after the draft, joining their former teammates in the league.
With the excitement of the 2021 NFL Draft still hanging in the air, many draft pundits have already begun publishing 2022 mock drafts. The Florida Gators have a slew of draft-eligible players in the coming draft we take a look at the top five Gators' prospects for the next draft class.
CB - Kaiir Elam
Elam started all 12 games for the Gators in 2020 and finished his sophomore campaign with 39 tackles (28 solo), 1.0 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, and one fumble recovery.
Elam is considered a lockdown corner and he will be one of the top defensive backs in the class alongside LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. The two will likely compete to be the first cornerback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Elam is the Gators' top-rated player returning in 2022 and one that is already considered a first-round prospect. Elam was projected to the Minnesota Vikings at 13th overall by The Athletic and No. 12 overall to the New York Giants by Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network.
S - Trey Dean
Dean has bounced around during his career at Florida, which has frustrated him at times. However, what NFL teams will see on tape is a player who has and can play corner, safety and nickel in a pinch. Dean will stick at safety for his senior season at Florida, which is likely where he projects at the next level. NFL teams only have 53 roster spots, so a player who can fill a couple of spots is highly coveted.
2022 will be Dean's first really, extended opportunity to start at safety. Florida needs his veteran leadership on the backend and Dean could really help his draft stock with a solid campaign. During his junior season, Dean made one start (against Alabama in the SEC Championship), while he finished the season with 34 defensive stops (21 solo), 1.0 sack, one interception, and a fumble recovery.
EDGE - Brenton Cox Jr.
A former five-star high school prospect, Cox flashed in 2021 but wasn't as consistent as Florida would have liked. He started all 12 games of the season, tallying 41 tackles (21 solo), 9.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks, in addition to leading the team in QB hurries with 18. His 9.5 tackles-for-loss were tied for first among Gators defenders.
Cox had to move around some and played out of position, like most of the defensive line in the absence of Kyree Campbell for the first month of the season. Being able to get back to his EDGE rushing position in 2022 (BUCK LB) should help him continue to develop and produce. Cox is one of the Gators' most intriguing NFL Draft prospects. Right now he would probably be considered a second to third-rounder but could easily put himself into the first round with a productive 2022 campaign.
DL - Zach Carter
Similar to Trey Dean, Zach Carter is a player who has moved around a lot for the betterment of the team. Carter has played inside at tackle but is better-suited as a defensive end.
Carter appeared in all 12 games of the 2020 season and started at defensive tackle in 11He racked up 36 tackles (13 solo), while leading the Gators with 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss, in addition to recovering a fumble and returning it for a touchdown.
Carter returns as a veteran leader for the Gators' defense and is a middle-round prospect, someone who could provide value on day three for a team that takes a chance on him.
LB - Ventrell Miller
Ventrell Miller is an old-school, smashmouth type of linebacker that may have been a really high pick in a different era. He's really tough, playing most of the 2021 season with nagging injuries but played in 11 games, starting in 10 of those contests. Miller led the team in tackles with 88 and added on 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles-for-loss. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week after Ole Miss game where he collected 15 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and a sack.
Miller doesn't play much special teams for the Gators but it's probably how he will make a team in the NFL and getting on to a couple of the Gators' special teams units this season should help him when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft.
WR - Justin Shorter
The Florida Gators have been churning out receivers to the NFL over the last two years but they keep producing. This year Florida had two pass catchers taken in the first round, while Trevon Grimes signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles after the draft.
In 2020 Shorter hauled in 25 passes for 268 yards. He's 6-5 and a good route runner but needs to have a really good season in 2021 in order to continue adding to the list of Gator receivers drafted in recent years.
WR - Jacob Copeland
Speaking of Gator receivers, Jacob Copeland comes back for his redshirt junior season and looks to be the top target for Florida this year.
Copeland appeared and started at wide receiver in 11 contests, while recording 23 receptions for 435 yards (39.5 avg.) and three touchdowns in the season. Copeland has had an issue with drops over the last two years but has really improved as a route runner. He also plays on special teams, which as stated previously, is the easiest way for rookies to make a NFL roster.
Copeland has a chance to have a huge year for the Gators in 2021 and really bump up his draft stock.