2016 NFL Draft: Decision to return to Gators for senior season worked out for DL Jon Bullard

Jon Bullard was told he wasn’t ready for the NFL after his junior season.

Jonathan Bullard #90 of the Florida Gators celebrats a defensive stop during the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Jonathan Bullard #90 of the Florida Gators celebrats a defensive stop during the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

“It varied,” Bullard said Tuesday at Florida’s Pro Day of what he heard regarding his NFL draft stock last year. “NFL told me to come back, that’s all that matters.”

That was all the motivation Bullard needed entering his senior year. After moving from defensive end to a full-time defensive tackle, he put together the best season of his college career with 66 tackles, including 17.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks — all career highs.

The result?

Bullard said he’s heard that he will likely be drafted late in the first round or early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. CBS Sports projects Bullard as a second-round pick.

“When the NFL comes and tells you you’re not good enough to be what you want to do for the rest of your life, that puts a chip on your shoulder,” Bullard said. “So I used that chip, went in, worked hard and just proved that I’m one of the best D-linemen in the country.”

Along with his impressive numbers, Bullard’s move inside is also helping his draft stock. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Bullard said he knows how to play every position on the defensive line after lining up as a defensive end for the first half of his Gators career.

“Every team I’ve met with has talked about it or asked me how I learned every position,” said Bullard, who revealed he probably won’t attend the NFL draft. “They just did a good job of me playing two years outside, two years inside. After you learn something you never forget. We didn’t change scheme wise or nothing like that, so it was kind of easy for me. So now until this day, I still know every position on the DL, every play like the back of my hand.”

All of that paired with Bullard’s reputation as a positive influence on and off the field has NFL teams looking at him differently this time around.

“He’s just a hard worker, a student of the game, a great guy on and off the field,” Gators defensive line coach Chris Rumph said. “You’re not going to have to worry about the phone ringing at night or reading something on the ticker. He’s that kind of guy. He can babysit my kids.”