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The Rally: Which Gators first-round NFL draft pick in past 10 years is best?

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Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 12:25 am | Updated: 5:35 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

The NFL Draft begins Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and former Gators Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam could both hear their names called on the first night. Nine Florida players have been selected in the first round since 2003. alligatorSports staff writers Adam Pincus and Phillip Heilman debate which former Gator has enjoyed the best NFL career so far.

Adam: As I write this sentence, a navy, orange and white No. 15 Denver Broncos jersey collects dust in my closet. I’m tempted to take the guy who left a year before I arrived on campus, and the quarterback with the statue at Ben Hill Griffin and the math on his eye black. Instead I’m channeling my inner Jeff Ireland and going offensive lineman. It may be a bore, but center Maurkice Pouncey has been the best UF first-rounder in the past 10 years since getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 18th pick in 2010.

Pouncey has started all but three regular season games in his three seasons with the Terrible Towels. He made three straight Pro Bowls and earned First Team All-Pro honors in 2011. He also helped Pittsburgh reach Super Bowl XLV in 2011. Whenever he comes back to Gainesville, he and his brother Mike throw parties at the Vault Night Club. Who wouldn’t want to pick this guy? #turntup

Phil: Let me start by saying I am glad you decided against the sentimental Tebow choice. This would have gotten uglier than some of the girls you try to take home from Midtown.

Choosing Pouncey makes more sense. He has been the rock in the middle of the Steelers’ offensive line since his rookie season. The problem? Pittsburgh is consistently among the worst offensive lines in football.

The Steelers averaged just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground last season. Even Mike Pouncey and your lowly Dolphins had better production than that. When Ben Roethlisberger isn’t out due to injury, he is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. Pouncey isn’t to blame, but it proves how little value one strong lineman has. He just can’t do it alone.

The clear answer is Percy Harvin, the 2009 NFL Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection that same season. Before an ankle injury knocked him out for the second half of last season, he was one of the most productive players in the NFL. His versatility allows for him to fill a number of roles, shown by him scoring rushing, receiving and kick-return touchdowns in only nine games last season.

I know you of all people appreciate a man that can score multiple ways.

Adam: Not sure if that last line was a backhanded compliment or an insult. Anyway, I’m all about versatility, but if I’m committing millions of dollars to a player, I better be sure he stays on the field. Harvin has had more migraines than my menopausal mother. He told NBCSports.com recently that he hasn’t had one in two years after being diagnosed with sleep apnea. Really? Since coming into the league in 2009, the receiver has missed 10 games.

The Seattle Seahawks gave him a six-year contract worth $67 million after acquiring him from the Minnesota Vikings for a first-round pick and a seventh round pick in 2013 and a third round selection in 2014. That contract pays him $11.2 million annually, making Harvin the fifth highest-paid receiver in the league behind Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe. You honestly think Mercy Percy is on that same level?

That’s a fat wad of cash and checks. If I were playing in GM mode on Madden ’13 (not saying I do), Harvin would be a hot commodity. He’s fun to juke with, but he’s not reliable. Winning football teams are built from the inside out. You get the center, quarterback and running on offense, and the nose tackle, middle linebacker and safety on defense. It’s that simple.

Phil: Harvin’s injury concerns are a bit overblown compared to his talent. He is 24 years old and entering the prime of his career, which makes his contract pricey but not inflated. 

Prior to the 2012 campaign, he played in at least 14 games in each of his first three seasons. In 2011, he suited up for all 16. I believe your choice missed the 2010 Super Bowl with his own injury problems, so let’s slow down a minute. 

The Seahawks have one of the top front offices in the NFL. They had the cojones to draft and start Russell Wilson ahead of Matt Flynn and have hit on several first-round picks in the past few years. Because of that, they are on the short list of teams capable of winning a Super Bowl. 

Your blueprint for success would have been great in the 1970s. But in today’s game, teams win with elite quarterbacks and playmakers at the skill positions. You can get by with a shoddy offensive line if the rest of your talent is strong enough.

Harvin brings that type of play-making ability. Besides, when was the last time Urban Meyer mentioned Pouncey to land another five-star recruit? 

Contact Adam Pincus at [email protected]. Contact Phil Heilman at [email protected].

Welcome to the discussion.