Hargreaves, Neal Represent Gators in the First Round

Hargreaves, Neal Represent Gators in the First Round

The Florida Gators have had at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2012. This year, Vernon Hargreaves headlined the Draft in Gator-land when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him No. 11 overall.

Photo credit: Fox Sports
Photo credit: Fox Sports

The selection – which came after the Bucs moved down two picks in a trade with the Chicago Bears – welcomes Hargreaves back to his hometown. In fact, it was back in Tampa where the former-Florida cornerback first became such a highly-touted defensive back.

He’s now on his way to a Buccaneers team that finished 6-10 last season, last in the NFC South division. Although their passing defense was middle-of-the-pack, Sports Talk Florida’s own Jenna Laine tweeted out before the Draft that despite improvements in the offseason, the team was interested in continuing improvements at cornerback.

When that improvement included the hometown hero, Hargreaves was ecstatic.

With explosive acceleration, excellent hip movement, and the natural ability to make adjustments to the ball in the air, Hargreaves gives the Buccaneers an aggressive cornerback to anchor their secondary. He makes up for his size with instinct, displayed by 10 interceptions in his three-year college career.

Six picks later, the Atlanta Falcons selected former-Gators safety Keanu Neal to complete the defensive-back tandem from Florida taken in the first round.

With 96 tackles and a pair of sacks to his name out of college, Neal will likely make an immediate impact for an Atlanta secondary that was in need of a proven play-maker. His physical play-style will be welcomed by the Falcons.

The selections of the two Florida players continues a trend of first-round talent that the Gators have sent to NFL teams in recent years, even when the win-loss record wasn’t what we’re used to seeing.

Many will be quick to pin Jonathan Bullard as the next former-Gator to be drafted, as we’ll likely hear his name called tomorrow. A strong defensive end, Bullard can line up anywhere along the defensive end – his versatility will be a welcoming trait to a team looking to rotate him in as an effective pass rusher.

Either way, we’re not done hearing where the Gators’ standouts are headed. Two stars have already found their new homes, and the fun begins again tomorrow. Stay tuned to Sports Talk Florida for more Gators updates as we bring you the latest coverage on the NFL Draft.