Three Gators land on Mel Kiper’s latest 2022 NFL draft big board

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The 2021 college football season is just around the corner, meaning that conversations about the 2022 NFL draft can only be avoided for so long. Though Florida had eight players selected in the NFL draft last year (including two in the first round), it once again has a number of players that could push to be early selections.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper released his preseason big board for 2022, and in his list of the top 25 players in the class, he includes Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam at No. 17 overall.

Elam’s tape is a little inconsistent, but he has flashed enough over the past two seasons to be considered one of the top defensive backs in the 2022 class. At 6-foot-2, he has long arms. He had five interceptions over the past two seasons and broke up 11 throws in 2020. Florida is known for producing defensive backs, with its last first-rounder in 2020 (CJ Henderson to the Jags at No. 9). Elam could be next.

Elam has seen a lot of NFL draft hype this offseason, with some mock drafts showing him being selected as high as the top five. Elam was thrust into early playing time due to injuries as a true freshman in 2019, and he didn’t look back. He eventually developed into the best defensive back in a struggling unit last year.

Elam ranks No. 2 on Kiper’s draft board among cornerbacks, behind only LSU‘s Derek Stingley, who will almost certainly be a top 10 pick next spring.

NEXT: Who else made Kiper’s list?

Though Elam is the only UF player in Kiper’s overall top 25, two others crack his positional top 10s. Defensive tackle Zachary Carter and inside linebacker Ventrell Miller rank ninth and 10th at their positions, respectively.

Both could have been drafted last offseason and made key decisions to return to school. Carter led the team in sacks a year ago and should be a major part of the pass rush yet again, while Miller was the team’s leading tackler and should be the face of the front seven in 2021.

Last year’s Florida team was known for offense, and that should be the strength of the team once again. But with several potential Day 1 and 2 picks on defense, UF could improve tremendously in that regard.

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