Will Florida Gators have three players selected in first round of 2016 NFL Draft?

The Gators might have been picked by the media to finish fifth in the SEC East last season, but talent was never the issue.

Vernon Hargreaves III #1 of the Florida Gators asks the crowd for noise during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Vernon Hargreaves III #1 of the Florida Gators asks the crowd for noise during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

As you all know by now, Florida went on to exceed expectations last season to win the SEC East for the first time since 2009. Need further proof that the Gators had top-end talent on their 2015 roster?

Florida could have three of its players drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Thursday. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard and safety Keanu Neal each have a legitimate chance of being selected in the first round.

You have to go back to the 2010 NFL Draft to find the last time the Gators had three of their players taken in the first round. Cornerback Joe Haden (7th overall), center Maurkice Pouncey (18th overall) and quarterback Tim Tebow (25th overall) were the first-round picks in that draft.

So how likely is it that Florida has three go in the first round this year? Let’s break it down.

Hargreaves is pretty much a lock for the first round. The three-time All-American corner is predicted to be drafted at No. 9 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by all eight mock drafts posted on NFL.com.

Bullard is considered a borderline first-round pick. Although NFL.com lists Bullard as a second-round pick, CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang ranks him as the 28th-best available player in the 2016 NFL Draft and some believe he could jump into the first round.

“Bullard is aptly named as he possesses brute strength to control opponents at the point of attack, gumming up rushing lanes,” Rang wrote. “He’s quick enough to challenge the corner and split gaps but isn’t a traditional speed rusher. Bullard inspired this season by playing through shoulder and knee injuries to emerge as Florida’s most consistent defender.”

As for Neal, his rise up draft boards has been impressive.

Neal began the process by some calling him a fourth or fifth-round pick. After an impressive evaluation period that included a standout combine performance, Neal is listed as a second-round pick but “may hear his name called earlier than some might project,” according to NFL.com.

On the eve of the draft, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora tweeted that Neal is a “player who could be selected way, way higher than anyone in media is projecting and is in play in first round.”

Is it likely all three of these guys will be first-round picks?

Probably not, but there’s definitely a chance and it’s worth monitoring. The Gators have had three first-round picks in just two drafts — 1989 and 2010.