Florida schools may be shut out of NFL draft's first round
GAINESVILLE - Remember when they were called The Big Three? It could be the Big Zero this year. The state of Florida has developed hundreds of high draft picks over the years for the NFL and traditionally has been one of the top places for college recruiters and pro scouts to look for talent. But this year's NFL draft could be historic. It could be the first time since 1980 that at least one player from either Miami, Florida State or Florida is not drafted in the first round."I can't speak for the other two programs, but I know where we are,'' said Gators coach Will Muschamp, coming off a 7-6 record in his first year at the helm. "You look at last year's draft and we had three guys drafted (in all rounds), I believe. More than likely we'll have two drafted (this year). "I'm not asking for anybody to be patient, I'm asking for somebody to be realistic. We've dipped in talent. You look at our upper classes you've got seven seniors and we've got 14 coming up next year. Again, let's be realistic on why we are 15-11 in two years.'' In other words? Muschamp simply believes the talent level has been down in Gainesville and seemingly admits it could be again next year, as far as upper classmen. While there may not be as much top-flight talent, Miami and Florida State still should produce some good numbers in the draft. The Hurricanes are likely to have at least seven players taken in the draft, a high number despite a 6-6 season in 2011. UM running back Lamar Miller had a shot at going in the first round, but his star seems to have faded a bit. How far the state has fallen? Jacory Harris and John Brantley, the starting QBs at Miami and Florida, are unlikely to be drafted at all. "(Harris) has enough arm talent, so it's not to say that he won't one day land on a roster if he's able to continue to develop somehow, but it's just tough to develop as a quarterback because there's nowhere to really go and get good developing, if you will, from this point on,'' ESPN's Todd McShay said. Likewise, Brantley's only hope is to find a team somewhere that gives him a chance to improve. "I think he's probably a free agent,'' ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said. "I'd be surprised if he was drafted. Can he get to a camp? That's the thing. You don't know for sure if a guy, just because he's not drafted, will even get to a camp. There's only so many spots.'' FSU could have a couple of second-round selections if things fall right, led by defensive tackle Zebrie Sanders. But nobody projects to go earlier. That doesn't mean the state didn't produce talent. For example, Trent Richardson of Pensacola was a star at Alabama who should go in the first few picks. "I think he's the best back that has come out since Adrian Peterson from a talent standpoint and football character and just being a team guy and being able to catch the ball and block and everything you look for at that position,'' McShay said. So who will be the top pick who walked the campus of a state school last fall? It could be cornerback Josh Robinson of Central Florida, a probable second-rounder whose time in the 40-yard dash in the NFL combine (4.33 seconds) could push him into the first round because every NFL team values speed.