Where will Florida State players go in the NFL Draft?

Kelvin Kuo-Oncea-USA TODAY Sport

We welcome staff addition Brendan Burres with his NFL draft piece.

Did you know the NFL Draft was this weekend? Because of the later draft date due to poor planning by the National Football League, this year’s draft is more prone to over-analysis and nitpicking of prospects than in years past. Former No. 1 prospects like Teddy Bridgewater have tumbled down the draft order for seemingly no reason at all. If there’s something the Internet doesn’t need, it’s another piece about this year’s QBs or Jadeveon Clowney’s work ethic or any of the other first round draft intrigue. 

But what about former Florida State players, the guys last seen winning a National Championship against Auburn? Is their stock rising or falling and which NFL teams are intrigued? Furthermore, why are teams interested in these former ’Noles? With a quick breakdown, here’s how the former Seminoles look headlining into this weekend’s draft. 

Kelvin Benjamin | WR | 6-foot-5 | 234 pounds

Reported Team Visits: Steelers, Panthers, Jets, Eagles, Patriots, Ravens

Potential Draft Selection Range: Pick No. 15 (Steelers)-2nd round 

He was known by high school recruiters as a “beautiful freak,” which serves as an apt representation of Benjamin’s current draft status. His talent and skills have been well documented: He has a massive, hulking frame with an ability to separate from defenders with his long strides as a runner. His big hands provide a bread basket for quarterbacks to throw the football and his jump ball ability, as evidenced by the game-winning touchdown catch in the National Championship game, is invaluable in the red zone and against NFL secondaries. 

But the extended duration of this year’s buildup to the draft has hurt Benjamin; he’s become a polarizing prospect for some reasons known, others not so much. He reportedly blew off an NFL coach who made a special visit to watch Benjamin work out, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. Benjamin was “tired,” according to the report, and that’s why he missed the workout, but his agent denies Brandt’s report. With more time for analysis, Benjamin has been labeled as a “risky” pick by draftniks, and some of them have suggested a potential move to tight end in the NFL

Is it all smoke and mirrors or is the criticism legitimate? While Benjamin did explode last season, transforming into a go-to playmaker, it was only one season. That Benjamin is an intriguing physical specimen with potential unrealized is a label he had in his first few seasons at FSU, and its label that has followed him to the draft. There’s some real risk involved with Benjamin, enough to push him back a few picks, but his size and numbers are enough to mitigate most doubt NFL teams will have about him. 

Timmy Jernigan | NT | 6-foot-2 | 298 pounds 

Reported Team Visits: Titans, Cowboys

Potential Draft Selection Range: Mid-first round-second round

Let’s start with the failed drug tests in the room: According to FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, Jernigan and former Seminole linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones all failed their drug tests at this year’s NFL combine. There were 10 players total flagged either testing positive for drugs or having a diluted sample. Jernigan reportedly had a diluted sample. 

Jernigan’s buzz was palpable once he declared for the NFL Draft, so much so that ESPN’s Todd McShay had him as the No. 5 prospect overall in an early mock. Now, Jernigan won’t attend the NFL Draft as he had previously intended and is slated for a mid-first round selection, or perhaps falling to the second round.

His aggressive strength, ability to eat gaps and bullrushing technique have kept teams interested, though. Despite having a reaction to medication, Jernigan played his best game in the National Championship, recording nine tackles and disrupting Auburn’s offensive line throughout the game. At 21 years-old, he’s a long-term investment, but can make an impact in the correct scheme right away. A lot of mocks have shown the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys taking a heavy interest in Jernigan. 

Lamarcus Joyner | DB | 5-foot-8 | 184 pounds

Reported Team Visits: Cowboys

Potential Draft Selection: Rounds 2-6

Not many teams have publicized meeting with Joyner privately, at least to our knowledge, and here’s a theory why: Teams are trying to keep Joyner under wraps. Every year, there’s a few guys who teams don’t want to call attention to despite having a heavy interest in them, hoping he “falls” to them or they get him as a “steal.” 

Joyner may be one of the most captivating prospects in this year’s draft—he’s short and small, but has demonstrated playmaking abilities and position versatility that he pops in any game tape and any team could find a fit for him. He’s been compared to other shorter NFL cornerbacks like Antione Winfield and Tyrann Mathieu, a guy whose ferocity and aggressiveness more than makes up for any physical shortcoming. He excels in both the nickel or slot role and can shift back to play safety. 

Joyner overcame a lot to reach this point, which is another boost for his stock. Mockers seem to have no clue where to put him. He ranks No. 34 in CBS Sports Dane Brugler’s Top 100 players while falling to a No. 65 spot in NFL.com Mike Mayock’s Top 100. Grantland’s Bill Barnwell has him as a great second round pick-up for the 49ers and Dolphins, but NFL.com has him projected for Rounds 4-5. In other words, some people love Joyner, but just as many doubt him, a position he’s likely used to by this point in his career. 

Terrence Brooks | S | 5-foot-11 | 200 pounds 

Reported Team Visits: Unknown; Brooks has visited with NFL teams, though

Potential Draft Selection: Round 2

No Seminole has had a better offseason leading up to the draft than Terrence Brooks. He impressed scouts and coaches at the Senior Bowl and had an incredible combine, posting a 4.42 40-yard dash and finishing first in the vertical (38 inches) and broad jump (119 inches) for safeties. Initially pegged as a Round 4 or 5 selection, Brooks has been firmly labeled as a Round 2 selection, thanks to his impressive workouts. He’s an aggressive run-stopper and can be physical with wide receivers, although his hands and history of dropping interceptions need to improve. 

Telvin Smith | LB | 6-foot-3 | 218 pounds

Reported Team Visits: Broncos, Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers, Panthers 

Potential Draft Selection: Rounds 3-5

The failed drug test aside, all anyone can discuss when it comes to Smith is his size—he’s not big enough and he knows it. Here’s how he described his daily routine to the Tallahassee Democrat: “A normal day is 6:30 waking up, eatin’, workout, eatin’, speed training, eatin’, snack, eatin.’ A lot of eatin’ going on, that’s about it.” 

Some have suggested a move to safety due to his frame, but Smith’s instincts, anticipation and fluid movement to the ball should keep him at linebacker. He’s a leader on and off the field and has good lateral speed. But if he doesn’t bulk up, Smith will be abused by tight ends like Jimmy Graham and a healthy Rob Gronkowski. With Smith, more so than other FSU prospects, his NFL success is contingent upon the correct team drafting him to fit a scheme that best displays his strengths. 

Devonta Freeman | RB | 5-foot-8 | 206 pounds

Reported Team Visits: Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots, Falcons, Steelers

Potential Draft Selection: Rounds 2-3

Freeman has always projected better as an NFL running back than a college running back. He’s a workhorse-type back, can pass-block efficiently, has great hands out of the backfield, and runs “like his hair is on fire,” writes ESPN’s Todd McShay. He may not have breakaway acceleration, which is likely why he’s not considered a first-round pick. Analysts consider Freeman as close to a sure thing a team could draft in the running back position and holds little risk and almost no surprises. 

Christian Jones | LB | 6-foot-3 | 240 pounds

Potential Draft Selection: Rounds 2-3

While the failed drug test may knock Jones down a round, he remains an intriguing prospect because of his size and position versatility. Some critics have pointed out that such a nomadic college career presents ceilings for a player’s NFL capabilities, but as a “hybrid” player, Jones could fit with either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, as seen during his time at FSU. While he’s not the most dynamic linebacker prospect, and doesn’t have the ceiling Telvin Smith does, Jones could see a long NFL career as a role player. 

James Wilder, Jr. | RB | 6-foot-3 | 232 pounds

Reported Team Visit: Buccaneers 

Potential Draft Selection: Round 7 or Priority Free Agent

If there’s one theme with FSU’s players entering the draft, it’s that they are all physical specimens with a couple red flags that could limit their productivity in the NFL. In college, some shortcomings can be hidden or masked, but will be exposed on the professional level. Wilder is no exception to this rule, as his upright running style and durability will be issues in the NFL, but his frame and physicality will earn him a shot. 

However, off-the-field character problems will drop Wilder from where he should be drafted. In early March, he was arrested in Tampa for an outstanding warrant due to a missed court date. During his time in Tallahassee, he was arrested for resisting arrest (Feb. 2012), underage drinking (probation violation, June 2012) and for a suspended license (Jan. 2013). Whether teams believe he can overcome his history will determine where Wilder goes in the NFL. 

Remaining FSU prospects: C Bryan Stork, DL Demonte McAllister, DL Jacobbi McDaniel, FB Chad Abram, WR Kenny Shaw

While integral parts to FSU’s championship this year, these remaining prospects all have something to prove if they’re to succeed at the next level. Expect all of them to be picked up in the 7th round or land somewhere as undrafted free agents. 

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