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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Five Gators find NFL homes on final day of draft

Marco Wilson, Evan McPherson, Stone Forsythe and more heard their names called in the final four rounds of the NFL Draft

<p>UF cornerback Marco Wilson stands on the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2017.</p>

UF cornerback Marco Wilson stands on the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2017.

Five former Florida football players received the phone call of a lifetime Saturday.

Marco Wilson and Evan McPherson were among those who heard their names called and saw their professional football dreams realized during the final four rounds of the NFL Draft. Read more below about where each Gator ended up.

Cornerback Marco Wilson - Arizona Cardinals, fourth round (136th overall)

The fourth Florida player picked, Wilson’s career at UF was notable to say the least. A three-year starter, the 6-foot-1 corner amassed 17 pass deflections across four years in The Swamp. All three of Wilson’s interceptions came during 2019, and he played in 23 of Florida’s 25 games the previous two years.

Infamous for a thrown shoe against LSU, Wilson’s draft stock soared after his viral pro day. He leaped 43.5 inches on the vertical jump, maxing out the board. He benched 225 pounds for 26 reps, recorded a 136-inch broad jump, and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash to top it off. According to Mockdraftable, all four measurements ranked in the 92nd percentile or higher of all cornerback prospects.

Arizona traded up for Wilson, who now finds himself in a secondary with playing time up for grabs after the departure of perennial All-Pro Patrick Peterson.

Kicker Evan McPherson - Cincinnati Bengals, fifth round (149th overall)

The first kicker off the board, McPherson left Florida as one of the most successful kickers in school history. McPherson made 17 of 22 field goal attempts his final year in Gainesville and actually converted 17 field goals all three years in the orange and blue.

McPherson declared early, a feat rarely seen as a kicker. He made 51 of 60 field goals for a career percentage of 85%, the highest all-time for any SEC kicker. McPherson tagged a career long of 55 yards and went 4-7 from beyond 50 yards in 2020. He missed just a single extra point in 150 attempts.

Cincinnati’s kickers struggled in 2020. Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard effort to lose on opening week, and although he made 21 of 26 kicks on the year, he now finds himself a Detroit Lion. The Bengals made 27 of 34 field goals as a team, and the job should be McPherson’s for the taking.

Safety Shawn Davis - Indianapolis Colts, fifth round (165th overall)

Davis, the second member of Florida’s secondary drafted, lost time in 2020 due to an injury but tallied 123 tackles, deflected 10 passes and intercepted five in his four years in Florida. He picked off a pair of passes in Kyle Trask’s debut comeback victory against Kentucky in 2019.

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Known for his trademark dreads and wince-inducing hits, the Colts grabbed Davis much earlier than the safety was projected to get a call. According to NFL Mock Draft Database, which complies averages of mock drafts across the country, Davis wasn’t projected to be drafted at all. However, Davis had the highest PFF grade of any Florida safety and the second-highest of any Florida defensive back with 63.2, including a 72.5 grade on rush defense.

Davis joins one of the most complete rosters in the NFL in Indianapolis, and he’ll slot in comfortably behind new teammates Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis.

Defensive Tackle Tedarrell Slaton - Green Bay Packers, fifth round (173rd overall)

Slaton stands 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds but is quick for his size. Mockdraftable ranked his weight in the 92nd percentile of defensive tackles, but his 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds raises eyebrows. Slaton’s quick acceleration over the initial few yards found him in the 85th percentile of all prospects at his position.

Slaton came to UF as an offensive guard, and a four-star prospect at that. 247’s 3rd-ranked OG in the class of 2017, Slaton made the move across the line to defensive tackle immediately. Across 38 games, Slaton reached opposing quarterbacks for 3.5 sacks and stopped opposing playmakers with 99 tackles and 10.0 tackles for loss

Slaton was projected into the sixth round by NFL Mock Draft Database, and his 68.8 PFF rating dwarfed any other interior defender for Florida. PFF graded Slaton out at 70.1 in pass rush, and he earned the ninth-highest overall grade among interior lineman in the SEC.

Slaton won’t start much as a rookie with the middle of the Packers defensive line populated by the likes of Kenny Clark and Damon Harrison in a 3-4 scheme but can sit and learn for a few seasons.

Offensive Tackle Stone Forsythe - Seattle Seahawks, sixth round (208th overall)

The anchor of Florida’s offensive line in 2020, the aptly named Stone Forsythe fell farther than many expected in the draft. NFL Mock Draft Database slotted the left tackle into the 4th round, and his player ranking skyrocketed over 600 spots to 106th in their rankings in just 20 days.

The 6-foot-8 Goliath weighs in at a lean 307 pounds for his size, somehow in the 95th percentile for OT prospects in height yet the 27th percentile in weight. His 71.2 PFF grade in 2020 led Florida’s offensive line and was the 10th-highest among SEC tackles. He excelled in pass protection, his 76.2 pass-block grade finishing third-best grade in the SEC among tackles. Forsythe allowed just two sacks in 2020 and didn’t allow first-round pick Azeez Ojulari from Georgia to sack Trask in their rivalry showdown.

Seattle’s offensive line struggled for the entirety of quarterback Russell Wilson’s career, and the star signal-caller’s been taken down in the backfield 394 times in nine years. Forsythe offers pass protection and a pro-ready solution on one corner of the line.

Contact Ryan Haley at rhaley@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.


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