UF expects quiet draft

Gators likely to have just two prospects selected in NFL's process

Updated: April 26, 2012, 12:36 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Chris Rainey and Jaye Howard aren't going to hear their names called on Thursday night.

They might not hear them called on Friday, either.

Rainey and Howard are Florida's top two NFL prospects, but neither is projected to go any higher than the third round and almost certainly will go later. They're likely the only two Gators who will get drafted, which would make this year's NFL draft the worst for the program since 2005 -- the last time the Gators didn't have at least one player drafted in the first or second round.

And if neither player is selected before the fifth round, it would be the worst draft class since 1993, when Lawrence Hatch and Will White were taken in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively.

It's just more proof of how much the program has dipped since the 2009 season, when nine players from that team were drafted, including six in the first two rounds.

"I said it before: I'm not asking for anybody to be patient. I'm asking for somebody to be realistic," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "We've dipped in talent.

"Again, let's be realistic of why we are 15-11 in two years."

The draft will air on ESPN, starting at 8 p.m. ET Thursday with the first round live from New York City's Radio City Music Hall. Rounds 2-3 will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, while Rounds 4-7 will begin at noon Saturday.

Jaye Howard, Chris Rainey
Getty Images, US PresswireJaye Howard, left, and Chris Rainey are the only Gators with realistic expectations of being drafted this weekend.
Rainey and Howard are rated low enough, according to Scouts Inc., that neither might get selected until the final day.

Rainey (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) is the No. 13 running back, but his role in the NFL will be as a special teams player and possibly as a receiver out of the backfield. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey, who played at Florida from 1980-82, compared Rainey to former UF standout and current Vikings receiver Percy Harvin.

"He's multi-talented," Mularkey said. "You just have to get him the ball in his hands and let him do his thing. He's a little bit like Percy, just comparing guys from the same school, same speed, same kind of qualities of a guy that can hurt you in many ways."

Rainey finished his career with 3,948 all-purpose yards (fourth in school history) and his six blocked kicks are a school and Southeastern Conference record. Even though he compiled those numbers in the nation's top conference, there are still concerns about his size and durability.

Rainey brushed those off, though.

"Only thing I've got to prove [is] that I'm worth being in the NFL, that's all," he said.

Howard (6-3, 301) had to prove that he could be a consistent player, which he did as a senior when he was fourth on the team in tackles (65) and second in sacks (5.5). He finished his career with 11.0 sacks and 131 tackles, which are good numbers for an interior defensive lineman. However, Scouts Inc. has Howard as the No. 34 defensive lineman and No. 16 defensive tackle, which projects into the fourth round.

After those two are drafted, former UF players -- including quarterback John Brantley -- will sign as undrafted free agents. It's never a good sign for a school when they have more players sign as undrafted free agents than players who are drafted.

"I've always said you find out what kind of football team you have in April," Muschamp said.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter