NFL draft recap: Elam goes in 1st round; Carter & Pierce hear their names called

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NFL draft recap: Elam goes in 1st round; Carter & Pierce hear their names called

Three Gators were selected in the 2022 NFL draft, a year after eight were drafted.

Florida continues to be one of three schools (the other two being Michigan and Southern Cal) that have had a player picked in every draft in the common era, which began in 1967.

Florida also leads the state with the most selections in the last 10 drafts (2013-22), with 63. Florida State follows with 49, and Miami has had 43.

Let’s get into the draft recap.

🔵 Elam selected in 1st round by Bills

Cornerback Kaiir Elam was selected Thursday night in the first round of this year’s NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills with the 23rd pick.

Buffalo traded up to the 23rd pick with the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for the 25th and 130th overall picks.

The Associated Press reports Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane said Elam was the final player Buffalo had on its draft board with a first-round grade.

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“I told them to put the playbook on the plane,” Elam said. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can right away and just get better and contribute to the team and try to strive for immediate impact right away.”

Elam left Florida following his junior year in 2021. A three-year letter winner, he played in 35 career games with 26 starts. He was a Coaches All-SEC First Team and AP All-SEC selection along with a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist in 2020. He totaled 79 tackles with 26 pass breakups and six interceptions. He was also a member of the Coaches All-Freshman team in 2019.

Beane cited Elam’s experience of being comfortable facing some of college football’s more elite receivers in the SEC. He also noted the maturity the player showed during his pre-draft visit to Buffalo.

Elam then traveled from his home in South Florida to Buffalo to meet with the Bills, and he feigned disappointment the Bills didn’t have a copy of their playbook for him on the plane.

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“They told me I’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn,” he said, noting he was finally handed one at the team headquarters. “Now I can strive to learn as much as I can so I can play fast, make plays and get the ball turned over for the offense to score.”

FILE – Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam (5) sets up for a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama on Sept. 18, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. Elam was selected by the Buffalo Bills during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, April 28. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MORE DAY 1 DRAFT COVERAGE: Breaking down players selected in 1st round of NFL draft | Trading post: 9 draft-day trades shake up 1st round

The selection marks Florida’s third straight year with a first-round pick. Florida is one of only two schools in the nation to have had at least one first-round selection in nine of the last 10 NFL drafts (2013-22).

Elam is the Gators’ 54th first-round draft pick since 1967.

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🟠 Bengals pick Carter in 3rd round

The next Gator off the board this year was defensive lineman Zachary Carter, who was drafted Friday evening in the third round to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 95th overall pick.

Carter left Florida following his redshirt senior season. Across 46 career games for the Gators, Carter totaled 107 tackles, 28.8 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. In the 2021 season opener, he had three sacks to total 23 yards of loss along with a forced fumble to earn one of two career SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week awards. His 11.0 tackles for a loss this past season ranked tied for 39th in FBS as he recorded one in every game except for three. The Reese’s Senior Bowl invitee and member of the 2021 SEC Community Service Team, he ended with 21 quarterback hurries.

He played in every defensive alignment at various times in three years at Florida, and the AP reports Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said Carter will start out as a traditional defensive tackle.

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“I’m a versatile playmaker,” Carter said. “I can line up anywhere and make plays anywhere rushing the passer and in the run game. I’m a disruptive defender.”

FIEL – Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter (6) encourages fans during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, on Sept. 18, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. Carter is opting out of the team’s bowl game to begin preparing for the NFL draft. He made his announcement on social media Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, thanking coaches from two regimes, fans, teammates and relatives (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MORE DAY 2 DRAFT COVERAGE: 2022 NFL Draft Day 2 ends with yet another receiver picked

Carter’s selection marks the 11th-straight NFL draft that a Gators defensive lineman has been selected, tied for the second-longest active streak.

🔴 Pierce taken in 4th round by Texans

The final Gator to receive a call during this year’s draft was running back Dameon Pierce, who was picked Saturday in the fourth round by the Houston Texans with the 107th overall selection.

Houston finished last in the NFL in yards rushing last season after ending the 2020 season ranked 31st.

Pierce is an aggressive runner who doesn’t shy away from contact.

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“I like to fight for my yards,” he said, via the AP. “I like to punish the defense.”

The senior from Bainbridge, Georgia, totaled 1,806 rushing yards, 422 receiving yards, 23 rushing and five receiving touchdowns in his 50-game career at Florida. He had a team-leading 16 touchdowns last season to tie sixth all-time in a single season. Pierce averaged 5.5 yards per attempt as his 23 rushing touchdowns are tied for 10th all-tine in program history. He concluded his senior year with five multi-scoring performances and a score in nine of 13 games. Like Carter, he was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Florida running back Dameon Pierce (27) celebrates his touchdown against Central Florida with wide receiver Xzavier Henderson (3) and offensive lineman Richard Gouraige (76) during the first half of the Gasparilla Bowl NCAA college football game Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MORE DAY 3 DRAFT COVERAGE: Kickers & running backs take NFL spotlight in Day 3 of draft

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Pierce is the 31st Florida running back to be drafted and the 135th offensive player from Florida to be drafted since 1967. He is also the third Gators running back drafted in the past four years.

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters recaps Elam, Carter and Pierce getting their names called during the 2022 NFL draft and looks ahead to the 2023 draft.

🐊 More Gators sign as undrafted free agents

Here are the Gators who signed as undrafted free agents:

  • Linebacker Jeremiah Moon – Baltimore Ravens

  • Defensive lineman Tyrone Truesdell – New York Giants

  • Defensive lineman Antonio Valentino – New York Giants

  • Running back Malik Davis – Dallas Cowboys

  • Offensive tackle Jean Delance – Chicago Bears

✉️ Send us your Gators thoughts & questions

David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here, and we’ll share our responses to your questions.

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