(Note: This interview was conducted three weeks ago)
Q: Of everyone on the team, perhaps no one has helped their draft status as much as Zachary Carter, who leads the SEC with 6 1/2 sacks. What are your thoughts on him here at the halfway point?
A: The biggest bonus a guy like Zachary Carter brings is his position flexibility. He isn’t a perfect fit on the edge on a full-time basis he has the ability to align up and down the line of scrimmage to maximize mismatch opportunities. That should allow any defense, regardless of base alignment, to have an interest. He is heavy-handed and relentless. Carter’s flexibility working inside on passing downs is a huge bonus potentially. These types of guys tend to warrant mid round capital, giving defensive coordinators adding flexibility.
Q: Buck Brenton Cox has all the talent, but that doesn't always result in results. What is the book on him? What round do you see him being taken six months before the draft, before Indy, before Pro Day?
A: I’m extremely hesitant on Cox. There are some nice tools to work with – length, explosive first step, hand violence, etc… but there is just no nuance of consistency. He disappears for big stretches of time. He’s firmly a day three player who is going to get taken purely off of traits. There is still some upside with Cox but at some point, it has to become tangible.
Q: Looking at UF's draft-eligible receivers, Jacob Copeland, Justin Shorter, Rick Wells, do any of them jump off the page? What are the projections early on them?
A: Copeland will get drafted just because of his downfield flash. There is some speed and dynamic ability working vertically there. Obviously, he’s a bit of a one-trick pony right now with a questionable upside to be much more but his one trick is valuable. Shorter, similar to Trevon Grimes last year, flashes an outstanding frame with the ability to win back shoulder and at the catch point. The question is always going to be what type of athlete he is. Currently, I’d assume he’s a long shot to declare and would be best served to return for another season.
Q: What about the two senior running backs?
A: Dameon Pierce has quietly been impressive and efficient both in the run and pass game for the Gators. His game resembles Lamical Perine (who went in the fourth round) – but is more physically gifted. It is a deep class in terms of sheer numbers but Pierce could have the opportunity to hear his name in the mid-round conversation when all is said and done. Malik Davis is a nice athlete but has never managed to put it all together. He has some projection as a third-down piece with his ability to affect space and catch the football in the passing game. There are some parallels to former Michigan running back Chris Evans. Davis seems destined for a late-round valuation with projection as a designated space player.
Q: Florida's offensive line has shown dramatic improvement. Where do starters Richard Gouriage, Stewart Reese, and Jean Delance stand evaluation-wise? Pluses and negatives?
A: I haven’t seen anything from Gouriage yet but Reese and Delance are both intriguing players. Obviously, Reese’s size pops off the film instantly. He is a big dude who can generate a ton of power in small spaces. Reese isn’t the most flexible dude but he is a difficult man to work around in pass protection. There are some limitations to him but a day three evaluation for a power scheme is very feasible. Delance is going to be an interesting evaluation. Obviously, he was a highly regarded recruit originally signing with Texas. His film has had a lot of peaks and valleys over the past couple of seasons but the tools are very impressive. Despite not being the tallest offensive tackle, Delance has some silly length with plus movement skills. He’s a developmental prospect who won’t play early but also, he’s probably a slam dunk to get drafted.
Q: Before the season, one of the TV draft experts said that they wouldn't be surprised if Emory Jones had a big year and turned that into being a first-round pick. That obviously isn't going to happen. What is the book on Jones?
A: Jones just seems a tick slow working through progressions. His accuracy can be a bit sporadic and just doesn’t always seem comfortable. He has some outstanding athletic traits with plus arm strength but this season has been a disaster for him as far as his projection as a future NFL quarterback.
Q: Most of the time scouts don't have reports on redshirt freshmen but what is the book on quarterback Anthony Richardson early on?
A: Certainly he looks the part. It doesn’t take a good eye to see the rare athleticism and size he has. His arm is also NFL caliber with some wow moments. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops but Richardson certainly looks the part of an early rounder if he develops properly.
Q: What's the word on UF's two senior transfer defensive linemen? Daquan Newkirk, Antonio Valentino (formerly Antonio Shelton)?
A: I like Newkirk a good bit as a developmental player. He has some twitch to him but is still a bit green technically. Valentino is a energetic player but just doesn’t have a ton of traits to work with. Ultimately both are UDFA types but Newkirk should be a priority kid with some upside.
Q: Senior Jeremiah Moon has been playing mostly middle linebacker after flashing as a Buck defensive end when healthy. What is the scouting report on him? He was invited to the Senior Bowl last year but didn't go in order to return to school. He has been damn good when healthy, but has had issues staying healthy. Is he seen as a MLB or a OLB/DE on the next level?
A: I think the more Moon can do the better. When healthy, the kid is a day two player but obviously, that has been a bit sporadic. He looks like a natural fit on the edge but may not have the necessary flexibility to work there consistently. Moon’s best projection might be as a SAM backer who has the ability to work on the line of scrimmage at times. The talent is unquestionable. It’s about staying healthy and putting it all together.
Q: Linebacker Ventrell Miller was seen as the defensive leader in the middle, but was injured early and isn't playing. How is he looked upon?
A: He’s well-liked for what he is. Miller is an energetic off-ball backer who brings his pad consistently. There is an extreme amount of physicality to him. Obviously, being a tad shorter than what is considered ideal at the position, with his limited length that could hurt him a bit, especially closing windows in zone coverage. As a depth piece, with special teams upside, Miller has a chance to stick long term with some starting upside.
Q: Trey Dean has really come on as a safety after starting his career as a corner. What is the book on him?
A: He has some insane flashes of physicality. He is long and has no problem throwing his body around. There is some discomfort working from the deep zone but he seems to be getting more comfortable. His experience at cornerback will do him well to potentially offer flexibility in the slot. An early-day-three pick isn’t out of question if he tests well.
Q: Finally, we have Kaiir Elam at corner. Most project him as a top 10 pick. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
A: Elam reminds me a lot of Patrick Surtain Jr. coming out of Alabama last year. He obviously has outstanding length for the position and uses it exceptionally well to disrupt at the line of scrimmage and at the catch point. There is a smoothness ton Elam. He is technically sound and always seems to be in the proper position. Whether in press man or zone, he just has a knack for making plays. Elam is about a safe of a projection in this cornerback group than you’ll find. Finding holes is just nitpicking. Is he the fastest player of all time? No. Is he going to be incredibly fluid in off man with his long limbs? No. Ultimately, it won’t really matter because both are sufficient enough.