Florida Gators: Recruiting and Development Review

The Florida Gators had eight drafted players this year, as well as three undrafted free agents that signed with teams. Florida is producing NFL players, which can only help recruiting, but how are they doing when compared to their competitors. Compared to their competitors (Florida State, Miami, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Clemson), Florida is one of the best at developing lower-end recruits into NFL Draft prospects. Eleven players entering the NFL is tied for the second highest among this group. They also had the lowest average recruiting rankings of those players (special teams players not included due to their lower ranks). They were one of only two schools with zero five-star recruits in the span in which these players were recruited (2016-2018), the other being Texas A&M. They also had the second-lowest recruiting rankings on average ahead of only Texas A&M. Florida had the third most top-100 selections (considered to be the most valuable picks due to the likelihood of the player becoming a starter) behind only Alabama and Clemson. What does this mean for the state of the Florida Gators football program? While getting players into the NFL is not the end-all-be-all, it is a positive sign of good coaching and player development. More NFL success of former players, combined with winning, drives players to a program. Florida under Dan Mullen is developing lower-end recruits to compete with teams bringing in higher-end recruits, and putting them into the NFL at competitive rates. When a team can show a history of development, recruits will typically start to gravitate towards that program. It also goes the other way, which is why Florida State has had a worse recruiting class each of the last three years, most likely due to the poor development and coaching leading to just six draftees this year despite significantly higher recruiting rankings and 6 five-star recruits during the three year recruiting stretch in this draft. If Florida can pair this success in development with the greater on-field success of recent years to garner higher recruits, they can begin to ascend to a championship-level team. The top teams have players that on average are higher-level recruits that go pro, and their average NFL player is a top-100 pick, something that Florida needs to work on. Florida currently has an average draft position of 154.45 (with undrafted free agents weighing 260). To get to be a top-tier program, you have to not only put out NFL talent but high-end NFL talent. NFL starters. The other separator of on-field success between these teams has been the output of NFL talent at the quarterback position. Auburn, Florida State, and Miami have been the least successful of these teams in the past few years, and have not put out NFL-caliber quarterbacks. Georgia, Florida, and Texas A&M have all put out mid-round quarterback prospects, and have had success, but have not found championship success. The teams with first-round quarterbacks, Clemson, Alabama, and LSU, have all won championships. So while general high-end prospects are an indicator of success, the real key is to have that at the most important position, quarterback. In conclusion, Florida under Dan Mullen has had success in developing players to higher than expectations, and even higher than many of their competitors. While this is a good sign of a program on an upward trajectory, it is not the level of program Florida wishes to be. The level of recruiting must improve in total, and they must start producing NFL starters. They don’t necessarily need to produce more NFL players, but rather just have them be a higher caliber of player. The most important thing, however, is that they need to develop a first-round caliber quarterback, something that Florida has lacked since Tim Tebow. Kyle Trask was the closest thing that Florida has had since, and even he, a late-2nd round pick, was not enough. Modern championships are won by high-level quarterback play, and Florida will almost certainly not be an exception. Florida is ahead of most of its competitors that have not recently won national championships in its development, and it should lead to more success in recruiting. Other than a slight jump in recruiting, which could lead to a slightly better team all around, the main point of improvement remains quarterback. If they can improve there, then a National Championship is very much in the cards. Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson will look to be that for them. Both were high-end recruits with a lot of physical tools that Dan Mullen can shape into what he wants them to be. If they work out, Florida will be able to compete with and then recruit with the top teams in the country. 

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