Tracking NFL draft 2022 and free agent Gators

The 2022 NFL draft has come and gone and another crop of talent is headed to the pros from Gainesville. Three players heard their names called over as many days of the draft, but several more former Gators are finding deals as undrafted free agents.

There’s no guarantee that any of the recent signees make it on an opening day roster or even a practice squad for that matter, but it’s the opportunity most of these players have been working toward for most of their lives. Squandering this chance to fulfill the dream of being an NFL athlete is something they aim to avoid.

There could be more to come too. While names like linebacker Jeremiah Moon and running back Malik Davis are already locked up, players such as offensive lineman Stewart Reese and wide receiver Rick Wells are still available.

With that said, let’s take a look at each member of the 2021 Florida Gators football team that currently finds himself with an NFL team.

Perhaps surprisingly, Zachary Carter was the second Gator drafted over the weekend ahead of running back Dameon Pierce. The Bengals made Carter a third-round pick based on his versatility on the defensive line. Over the course of his career at Florida, Carter routinely moved positions along the defensive line. It’s something he says has prepared him for the rigors that come at the next level.

Cincinnati was in the middle of the pack last year in regards to pressuring the quarterback. The Bengals finished 2021 with a QB Hurry Percentage of 10.8 (T-14th) and should be able to improve on that after adding Carter and other defensive players in the draft.

Dameon Pierce got a ton of pre-draft hype but he somewhat shockingly slipped to the fourth round and landed with the Houston Texans at No. 107 overall. The Texans are in the process of rebuilding and it seems there’s a focus on the running game early on. Pierce is the second back added to the team since the season ended, with the other being former Indianapolis Colt Marlon Mack.

Many have said that Pierce has a legitimate chance to become a three-down back in the NFL given his hard-nosed running style. He’ll have to split carries early, likely as a third-down back behind Mack, but he could be one to watch as the season goes on.

Jeremiah Moon was expected to be the fourth and final Gator drafted in the 2022 NFL draft, but his name was unfortunately never called. The phone did ring almost immediately after the draft ended though, and Moon joined the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent.

If Moon can stay healthy (he suffered three season-ending injuries in six years at Florida), there’s a chance for him to make the roster. He’s big for a linebacker but too small to play defensive end in the league, so he’s very much a developmental signing.

As mentioned above, Valentino joined the New York Giants following the conclusion of the draft. He saw more playing time than Truesdell did in their one year at Florida, but that may have been because Valentino got to campus first and had more time to learn the scheme. He finished the season with 23 total tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack.

Malik Davis didn’t quite have the hype that Pierce had coming into the draft, but he put up some solid numbers in 2021, especially over the first few games of the season when it looked like Florida had an elite run game. He averaged 5.3 yards a carry for 487 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

The Dallas Cowboys took a chance on Davis as an undrafted free agent after seeing him fall through the cracks on the third day of the draft. There are speed concerns and a lack of pass blocking ability to consider if you’re Dallas, but the reliable hands out of the backfield and vision Davis possesses could be enough to earn him a spot.

Good offensive linemen are a commodity in the draft, but Jean Delance wasn’t graded high enough to be selected this year. That opened the door for the Chicago Bears to sign him as an undrafted free agent and bolster their roster with some players that will compete for opportunities on the squad.

His 21 bench press reps at UF’s Pro Day should mean that he’s fully recovered from lingering injuries and ready to make the most of his shot in Chicago.

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