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Miami’s Brad Kaaya, UF’s Caleb Brantley among NFL Draft’s biggest losers

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Most of the Miami, Florida State and Florida players were chosen at or near their projections in the NFL Draft with two glaring exceptions. Yes, Dalvin Cook was thought to be a first-rounder, but the other state players drafted in the second or third round went as expected.

The exceptions were Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley and Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya. Brantley was not taken until the first pick of the 6th round by the Cleveland Browns while Kaaya lasted until the 32nd pick of the 6th round and 215th overall.

In the end, Kaaya was probably the only real surprise. After Brantley was accused of punching a woman less than a week before the draft, the question was not whether he would drop, but how far.

The Browns finally pulled Brantley’s ripcord before he hit the ground. His act of rage cost him dearly.

Brantley had every bit of the talent necessary to be a second round draft choice. Some mock drafts had him as a first rounder.

He was a second-team all-SEC in 2016, which is fine when looking at all of the SEC defensive talent in this draft. He was rated the 8th best defensive lineman in the draft, but nearly two dozen were taken ahead of him. By comparison, Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker was ranked below Brantley, but was a solid second round choice.

If he can control himself and use his physical talent in a positive way, Brantley has a chance to earn back the millions he lost with his alleged indiscretion. Whatever he earns, he can, and should, fork over a substantial sum to this woman if found guilty (or settles).

Kaaya’s situation was painful to watch. He was not accused of doing anything off the field.

He wasn’t the best quarterback in the ACC, a conference full of pretty good ones. But coming into the draft, he was the 6th-highest rated quarterback.

Four of those (North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Pitt’s Nathan Peterman,) ranked and drafted ahead of him were from the ACC. Three others ranked below him were drafted ahead of him.

He is what NFL scouts look for; a pro-style pocket passer and is good with a play action offense. His 6-foot, 4-inch frame is a prototypical NFL quarterback.

The down side, not to be minimized, is accuracy, which can be improved upon with experience. His arm strength is labeled around average by scouts.

Still, in weighing the upside and downside, Kaaya was projected as a third or fourth round pick. That was clearly not the case.

A lot of young men are happy just to be drafted, including these two. They now know that they have more to prove just to stay in the league.

Kaaya needs to prove he can lead an NFL team, while Brantley has to make amends and show his new teammates he can control himself off the field so he can be there for them on the field.

They should not be surprised about that.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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