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<p>Florida defensive back C J Henderson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)</p>

Florida defensive back C J Henderson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The NFL Draft begins tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network.

Florida has a decorated draft history with 52 first round picks all-time and 17 first-round picks since 2007, which is the third-most behind Alabama and Ohio State.

NFL experts expect Gators cornerback C.J. Henderson to add to that list tonight. The alligatorSports staff compiled projections from media members for UF hopeful draft prospects and profiled each player ahead of the draft.

CJ Henderson, CB

After a stellar showing at the NFL Combine, CJ Henderson has been projected as a mid-to-early first-round draft pick. ESPN has Henderson ranked No. 15 overall, while CBS Sports has pegged him as the No. 16 player. According to Gator Maven, former NFL cornerback Eric Crocker has Henderson as the top cornerback prospect in this year’s draft, while has him at No. 2. Out of all 12 Gators eligible for this year’s draft, Henderson is the only one projected to get picked up in the first round.

The 6-foot-1, 204-pound junior posted a 4.39-second 40-yard dash time last month in Indianapolis, Indiana — a top-10 time among all prospects in attendance.

While at Florida, Henderson had 93 stops — 66 of which were solo — four sacks, two forced fumbles and six interceptions. 

Should he go 15th or 16th overall, Henderson would end up in Atlanta, Georgia or Denver, Colorado, respectively. However, there has been talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars reaching for him with the No. 9 overall pick, as they have needed help at the cornerback position ever since Jalen Ramsey’s departure to Los Angeles. Should he fall, though, the Jags could scoop him up at No. 20.

- Payton Titus

Jonathan Greenard, EDGE

Greenard transferred to Florida after suffering a season-ending wrist injury at Louisville during the season opener in 2018, and he immediately became one of the most dominant players in the conference. He led the Gators in both tackles for loss (15.5) and sacks (9.5) during his lone year in Gainesville in 2019, in addition to notching four pass breakups, forcing three fumbles and even snagging an interception.

According to Draft Wire, he lacks an elite get-off but makes up for it with strong snap anticipation and the length to bat down passes at 6-foot-3. However, his health is a cause for some concern, as he played with his wrist heavily wrapped in 2019 and appeared hesitant with it at times.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox praised Greenard’s athleticism and intelligence, and believes that if his hesitation to use his wrist is more mental than physical, that he will develop into an overall starter. Analyst Lance Zierlein projected him as a third- or fourth-round pick.

Analysts for The Draft Network all similarly praised Greenard’s hustle and fundamentals but were also wary of his average first step and inability to be dynamic.

He is considered a Day 2 prospect by most mock drafts.

- Tyler Nettuno

Van Jefferson, WR

Wide receiver Van Jefferson led the Gators in every major statistical category in Florida’s 2019 campaign. The redshirt senior finished his season with 49 catches for 657 yards and six touchdowns to lead the team’s impressive receiving corps.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein has Jefferson going in the third round of this week’s NFL draft.

Zierlein believes that Jefferson will do most of his damage from the slot and his route running is a skill that showcases his readiness for the pro level.

However, Zierlein says that Jefferson needs to prove that he can deal with NFL defenders and the punishment they can bring. Zierlein thinks Jefferson will fit in as a WR3/WR4 wherever he lands.

Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber and The Draft Network’s panel of analysts all raised similar concerns for Jefferson.

All mention that he is an incredible route-runner with good footwork but agree that he struggles against bigger and stronger corners. As a fifth-year senior, that strength should have come by now.

Nevertheless, his experience and ability to fit into any NFL offense are the reason for his respectable round three projection. Sports Illustrated has Jefferson ranked as the No. 15 receiver in this year’s draft.

- Joseph Salvador

Jabari Zuniga, EDGE

Jabari missed the field plenty, which raises concerns heading to the NFL, but when he was healthy, he was a wrecking ball off the edge. He finished his career at Florida with 118 tackles (54 solo), 34.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in 42 appearances. He’s long-limbed, athletic and an draft analyst said he looks like an NFL dude.

Zuniga could be a liability against the run, due to his lack of power and size, according to Pro Football Network. But his explosiveness and athleticism will make him a problem for quarterbacks.

According to, he’s the No. 6 edge prospect. PFN’s Tony Pauline calls him a second-day pick. He said teams most interested in Zuniga are the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets. They all have top-six picks in the third round, where he is projected to be drafted. 

- Christian Ortega

Lamical Perine, RB

Former Florida tailback Lamical Perine made the decision to come back for another season a year ago, and in doing so, really helped his standing for the 2020 NFL Draft toward the end of his senior campaign.

Perine ran for 676 yards and trotted in for six scores in 2019. He also added 40 receptions, 262 receiving yards and five touchdowns through the air.

The 5-foot-11, 216-pound Alabama native, has the prototypical feel of a third-down back, according to CBS Sports reporter Barett Sallee.

Sallee praised Perine's ability to stay balanced while shading tacklers. He also loves his versatility, citing his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

However, Perine lacks that second-level burst, and usually won't make people miss in open space.

A huge plus that's going to work in Perine's favor when teams are considering drafting him is his low tread. He only had 493 career carries during his time in Gainesville.

To compare, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor carried the rock over 900 times as a three-year starter for the Badgers.

Projections for Perine's selection in the draft are in the fourth to fifth-round range.

And, according to FantasyPros, that's due to his average combine numbers (4.69-second 40-yard dash) and a very deep running back class (ranked the 13th-best running back prospect by CBS Sports).

However, due to his overall versatility, Perine could be picked as high as the third round.

- Evan Lepak

Freddie Swain, WR

Swain had his most-productive season in 2019, despite UF's receiving corps being one of its deepest positions on the team.

The senior from Ocala, hauled in a career-high 38 receptions, 517 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.

At 6-foot, 199 pounds, Swain has the size of an every-down slot receiver in the NFL.'s Lance Zierlein has Swain getting selected on the third day of the draft as a seventh-round pick.

Zierlein likes his quick burst and speed off the line of scrimmage, is a fan of his footwork and likes the fact that Swain has experience at the punt-return position.

However, his size handicaps Swain to a role only in the slot at the next level.

And although Zierlein likes Swain's footwork, he thinks he needs to become "less predictable" out in open space when running his routes.

A strong combine performance paired with sure-handed ability and experience on special teams makes Swain a versatile option for teams at the back end of the draft.

- Evan Lepak

Tyrie Cleveland, WR

Cleveland was highly-touted out of high school, and while he was productive at Florida, he never could climb to the top of the depth chart on a consistent basis.

Because of this, his career numbers leave much to be desired (79 catches, 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns).

His above-average size at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, and the special teams experience he brings to the next level makes him a trendy pick toward the end of this year's draft.

The Draft Network believes Cleveland's route-running leaves a bit to be desired, especially from a four-year player. He also fails to create consistent separation, but his big-play ability coupled with his strength and athleticism make him a prime candidate to be a developmental player worth taking a chance on in the sixth or seventh round of the draft.

- Evan Lepak

Florida defensive back C J Henderson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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