Florida’s Taylor, Polite going opposite ways as draft nears
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida teammates Jawaan Taylor and Jachai Polite have been big movers in NFL mock drafts.
One up, one down.
Taylor, a 6-foot-5, 314-pound offensive tackle from Cocoa, has steadily improved his draft stock since the start of last season. He followed a solid junior year with an impressive performance at the NFL combine earlier this month and has seemingly become a first-round lock — maybe even a top-10 pick.
Polite was once considered an early selection, but the 6-foot-2, 254-pound defensive end from Daytona Beach struggled physically, mentally and socially at the combine and possibly cost himself millions along the way.
Both got another chance to impress NFL scouts and decision-makers, including New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, at the school’s annual pro day on Wednesday.
Taylor did little outside position drills because of a lingering hamstring injury. Polite tweaked his right hamstring during the 40-yard dash and was slowed the rest of the day. The same injury prevented him from doing everything at the combine in Indianapolis.
“Where they pick me, I don’t know,” Polite said. “But I believe in myself, first and foremost. Whoever gets me, whoever’s taking a chance from my terrible interviews and combine, they’re going to get a great player. That’s all I know.”
Taylor was a three-year starter at Florida and part of an offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks in 2018.
He announced his decision to turn pro hours after the Gators beat Michigan in the Peach Bowl. Taylor has since worked to hone his technique with veteran NFL offensive line coach Bob Palcic in Pensacola.
Taylor played two games at left tackle in 2017 and would welcome a chance to play either at the next level. He has visits lined up with Buffalo, Jacksonville and Atlanta to start what’s sure to be a whirlwind month before the draft.
“I’m looking forward to just coming in and helping the team right away,” Taylor said. “Whatever position they want me to play, I’m going to play it. ... Playing in the SEC, I had 35 career starts playing against some of the best competition in the country every single Saturday. So I feel like that definitely prepared me for the next level.”
Polite admittedly was unprepared for the combine.
He put on about 20 pounds in an effort to bulk up, but pulled his hamstring running 10 days before the combine.
It showed in the 40-yard dash as Polite covered the distance in 4.84 seconds. He also posted a 32-inch vertical. But neither of those compared to his lackluster interviews in Indianapolis.
Polite called out several NFL teams for “bashing me” during interviews. He also said teams questioned him about his character and accountability, and he seemed surprised when they showed him some of his less-than-flattering plays.
“It’s been pretty tough, but it’s a major learning experience for me, something I’ve never been through in my life,” Polite said. “I just keep learning every day. Nobody in my family has been through anything like this, so I had nobody to help me, really, other than my agent.
“But I never knew how serious and how mentally tough you had to be for this moment. But I’ve learned from it and I’m doing better now.”
Polite said he took all the probing questions as criticisms and didn’t respond well.
“My answers weren’t explained, detailed enough,” he said. “It’s put a big chip on my shoulder, just with all the negativity. But I’m used to adversity in my life, everything. It just makes me grind harder, it gives me a why, a stronger reason to do it.”
Polite has several interviews ahead and realizes those will be big for him to better represent who he is.
“I’m a humble guy, caring, outgoing,” he said. “I’m just a great dude, great football player. I didn’t really show them that, and I have to show them next time. I’m ready to do that.”