2021 NFL draft prospects: Florida WR Kadarius Toney

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Eric Edholm
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Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Florida WR Kadarius Toney

6-foot, 193 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.95 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Electric, make-you-miss offensive weapon who requires some development and trust following injuries, off-field incidents

Games watched: Georgia (2020), Kentucky (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Vanderbilt (2020), Missouri (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit as an "athlete," Toney’s recruitment heated up late after South Alabama offered him, and he accepted a scholarship with the Gators. As a freshman in 2017, Toney saw time as a wildcat QB, receiver and running back, catching 15 passes for 152 yards; running 14 times for 120 yards with one TD; completing 1 of 2 passes for 50 yards; and returning one 15-yard kickoff in eight games (two starts). In 12 games in 2018, he caught 25 passes for 260 yards and one TD; ran 21 times for 240 yards; returned six kickoffs for 133 yards, 22.2 average); and threw for a 20-yard TD pass.

Toney was limited to seven games in 2019, catching 10 passes for 194 yards and one TD; ran 12 times for 59 yards; and had returns of 21 yards (kickoff) and 12 yards (punt). In 2020, he broke out as the Gators’ leading receiver with 70 catches for 984 yards with 10 TDs; ran 19 times for 161 yards and one TD; returned seven kickoffs for 155 yards and 11 punts for 139 yards and one TD; and completed 1 of 2 passes for 12 yards in 11 starts, earning second-team AP All-America honors (all-purpose player), first-team all-SEC as a returner and second-team as a receiver and he was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award (most versatile performer).

Toney opted out of the Gators' bowl game and attended the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Possesses quickness, explosiveness and elusiveness you can’t reach. High school track star who posted huge numbers in the vertical (40 inches) and broad jumps (136 inches), along with strong times in the 40-yard dash (4.41 seconds) and 3-cone drill (6.88 seconds). Has vertical speed, even if Florida didn’t feature him that way often — reached 19.43 mph as tracked during Senior Bowl practices.

Bursts off the line, shakes corners with get-off quickness and can accelerate to top speed in a flash. Rare change-of-direction ability. Gumby in space with loose joints and shocking flexibility. Brutal to cover him in open space — and doesn’t require much room to make defenders miss. Quickness really taxed SEC athletes as well as Senior Bowl defenders.

Makes ridiculous, vicious cuts to make would-be tacklers look foolish — 29 missed tackles on 55 catches over the last two seasons, which is the most in college football despite missing six games in 2019 and one in 2020.

Surprising toughness to fight through arm tackles on screens, slants and various runs — plays bigger than his size would suggest. Experienced ball carrier (66 rush attempts) who can be featured in a variety of ways as an extension of the run game. Played hurt against LSU and ate them alive, then turned around the next week and did the same to Alabama.

More reliable receiver than given credit for — hauled in 80 percent of his career targets and credited with a mere three drops on 150 targets. Good ball tracker who can adjust to poorly thrown balls. Makes the catch and instantly transforms into YAC mode without gearing down.

Gifted punt returner once given the opportunity in 2020. Also a quality kick returner who can change field position. Should get more chances to expand this facet of his game in the NFL — Gators had multiple return options the past few years.

Dual-threat prep QB who has a very good arm — regarded to be stronger than Florida’s past two starting quarterbacks, Feliepe Franks and Kyle Trask. Says he can throw a football “80 or 90 yards” in the air, and 60 from his knees. Career numbers: 3 for 6 passing (with one drop) for 82 yards and a TD.

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Considered a smart, instinctive player. Strong competitiveness and game temperament. Versatile weapon who has lined up just about everywhere and made his impact felt. The kind of player defenses must gameplan heavily for.

Downside: One-year starter who only settled in fully at wideout as a senior. Not yet a polished receiver — has made strides in his craft but isn’t yet refined or nuanced enough. Occasionally chaotic route runner with uneven tempo and false steps. Even by his own admission has had trouble grasping certain route concepts.

Still learning how to defeat press coverage outside of his quick release. Given limited responsibilities as a wideout — more of a gadget player at this stage of his development. Suffered multiple catchable drops in Senior Bowl one-on-one drills.

Lined up in the slot nearly 90 percent of the time the past two seasons and hasn’t run a full or complex route tree. Only targets 20-plus yards downfield 17 times in four seasons, per PFF. Only scored three TDs his first three seasons combined. Might need his touches manufactured early on.

Can run out of control and off balance at times — all gas, no brakes. Can almost look uncoordinated when he presses the issue. Will freelance and lose yards just as easily as he makes the first man miss. Could fine tune his situational awareness at times. Didn’t always earn coaches’ full trust for a heavier offensive diet prior to 2020.

Small, lean frame. Short arms (31 1/4 inches) and small hands (9 1/4 inches). Not ideally built for contested catches. Turned in disappointing testing numbers on the bench press (nine reps) and short shuttle (4.25 seconds), which should have been a drill he excelled at.

Sep 7, 2019; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators wide receiver Kadarius Toney (1) runs with the ball as Tennessee Martin Skyhawks defensive back DaVonte Maura (2) defends during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Florida WR Kadarius Toney is a dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands. (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Medical evaluation could hurt his stock — battled through injuries most of his career and missed big chunks of the 2017 and 2019 seasons. Suffered multiple shoulder injuries in college and is at higher risk for future subluxations.

Battled immaturity early in career and multiple off-field incidents. Was suspended for 2018 season opener following an altercation on campus between multiple players and local residents, having painted an “air gun” to look like an AR-15 rifle that spring. Also was pulled over with a real (loaded) AR-15 rifle in his car two months later, claiming his needed to protect himself against the residents involved in the first incident.

Best-suited destination: Toney fits bets as a versatile, jack-of-all-trades weapon early in his career while he develops more feel and understanding for an NFL route tree. He’d be a major weapon in the slot, however, and should be used as a runner, returner and trick-play threat — yes, even as a thrower.

Any team looking to generate instant yards with Toney’s rare burst and skill should be in on him, but he might also require a patient, creative coaching staff willing to work through some of his development and possible stumbling blocks (injuries, off-field concerns) along the way.

Did you know: Toney attended the 2021 Senior Bowl, but it was hardly his first connection to the vaunted all-star game. In fact, his mother actually went into labor while attending the 1999 Senior Bowl.

Player comp: Toney compares himself to Alvin Kamara, and we can see why. Ultimately, though, he’s more likely to play a similar role in the league to the one Percy Harvin played, even if Toney initially resisted comparisons to Harvin early in his Florida career. Traits-wise, Toney is a less-fast, more-shifty version of the Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman, whose lack of development as a route runner has held him back from maximizing his talent.

However, one evaluator we spoke with uttered the name Devin Hester in terms of Toney’s rare skill with the ball in his hands. Toney’s return ability isn’t nearly as lethal yet, even if his all-around game is a bit more polished entering the NFL.

Expected draft range: Top-40 pick