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Why Florida Didn't Succeed More With Eight Draft Picks

Shouldn't a team with that many future pro players be better?

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Florida was third overall among all teams, and first in the SEC, with eight players taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Six of the eight were offensive players. Despite the team's offensive struggles, that was more than any single draft of offensive players from the Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, and Urban Meyer eras.

The initial reaction to that was: how? How is that possible?

The easy answer is: well, that's why Will Muschamp is back to being a coordinator. Also, the pedant in me would point out that it'd be eight wins if not for weather canceling 2014's opener against Idaho. Anyway, there was also some of this:

To begin with, it really was only five offensive players. The sixth was Andre Debose, who nominally was a wide receiver. He tallied just 30 receptions and seven carries, though, with only four of those catches coming in his final two years of play. By contrast, he had 37 career punt returns (one touchdown) and 80 career kickoff returns (four touchdowns). The Dallas Cowboys didn't draft him in the seventh round due to his receiving capabilities.

The other five consisted of four offensive linemen and a running back. The back was Matt Jones, who is a power back. He had a good 2014, his only year both healthy (mostly) and in the primary ball carrying role. He averaged a shade under five yards per carry and showed an ability to carry an offense in wins over Kentucky (29 carries, 154 yards, 5.4 per) and Georgia (25 carries, 192 yards, 7.7 per). He also had just four carries due to a knee injury in the team's three-point loss to LSU. That was Jones's college career in a nutshell: tantalizingly good when at full strength, but just not at full strength often enough.

As for the linemen, they did a good job. Both primary running backs in Jones and Kelvin Taylor hit 4.9 yards per rush. Treon Harris averaged 5.3 yards per rush if you eliminate sacks from his rushing totals. Speaking of sacks, UF was fourth in the SEC in 2014 in sack percentage (sacks divided by pass attempts plus sacks). That mark was despite pass blocking for Jeff Driskel, who never did develop pocket awareness, and Harris, a true freshman.

The 4.9 yards per rush for both Jones and Taylor isn't spectacular, but it's pretty good considering Florida's passing game was again awful. Teams could load up on the rush knowing that the chances of a completed pass beyond the line of scrimmage were literally worse than a coin flip.

The Gators' passing game has been a disaster for a while now. The last quarterback the Gators have signed who starred as a quarterback in Gainesville faxed in his LOI in 2006. They've signed only one wide receiver, Demarcus Robinson in 2013, since that same year who's been anything above average. Florida hasn't had a quarterback drafted since 2010, and it has had one (1) pass catcher drafted since that same year if we're not counting Debose, which we shouldn't. The only tight ends to catch passes last year were converted defensive ends.

Basically unless you build your offense around the triple option, which Muschamp didn't, you have to have a functional passing game to compete. Florida didn't have a functional passing game. The best offensive linemen in the world can't make an inaccurate quarterback hit his targets or get lackluster receivers to run the right routes, gain separation, and catch passes that hit them in the hands.

And as for the 4-8 year in 2013, several of those guys drafted weren't even available for much, if not all of it. Chaz Green and Debose missed the entire season. D.J. Humphries missed three games and part of a fourth. Jones only played in four games and part of a fifth. Plenty more guys were hurt that year, which killed a team that was lacking depth to begin with.

Toss in a rotating door on the offensive staff—four each of offensive coordinators, QB coaches, and OL coaches in five years, plus six WR coaches in six years (two of which were basically GAs in the role)—and the mystery is solved. All but the OL coach has turned over since 2014, so expect even more continuity issues for at least another year.

It's hard for the Big Three state of Florida teams not to acquire talented individuals. As we saw with Muschamp's Florida, or in the late years of Bobby Bowden's Florida State, or with both Randy Shannon's and Al Golden's Miami (which had seven guys drafted this year), it takes more than just a collection of good players to win games.