ESPN personality Tony Kornheiser often cites a producer who once told him, when it came to television decisions, that “the answer to all your questions is money.” Let’s steal and tweak that: When it comes to the recent struggles of the Georgia football team – including this past weekend’s NFL draft, the answer to all your questions is the 2013 signing class.
Why did the team only go 8-5 last year? Plenty of factors, but front and center was the smoking crater left by the 2013 class left very little experienced talent. The seniors and redshirt juniors who should offer leadership and playing experience were sorely lacking.
This year’s NFL draft was an embarrassment for Georgia, which only had one player picked, the least in 25 years. What happened? The answer to all your questions is the 2013 class, a year that lives infamy.
UGA signed 33 players that year, and 18 have since transferred or taken a medical disqualification. The ones that have stayed, well … Leonard Floyd was good, and declared after his junior year and was a top 10 pick last year. Four others were undrafted this year, while next year Davin Bellamy offers up the best shot to be drafted. Perhaps the only one.
One more player from that class was picked: Cornerback Brendan Langley as a third-rounder. But that was after Langley transferred to Lamar, an FCS school. It’s possible that the most highly-rated member of the class, safety Tray Matthews, will be picked next year — as an Auburn Tiger, where he is now.
Predictably, there were many hyperbolic statements thrown out about this draft being an indictment of Georgia’s recruiting over the previous few years, mainly laying it at Mark Richt’s feet, and blaming it for the poor talent base that Kirby Smart inherited. Is this fair?
Again, the answer to all your questions is …
Here’s the truth: If NFL teams were allowed to raid Georgia’s current roster, they gladly would. The talent is there. It just wasn’t in the draft.
Five players who could have entered didn’t: Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Bellamy and fellow outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, and safety Dominick Sanders. Maybe make it six if you include Aaron Davis, the versatile defensive back.
Those guys will be in next year’s draft. So could a handful of rising juniors: Defensive linemen Trent Thompson (who’s still on track to return to the team), Jonathan Ledbetter and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick.
A few more rising seniors could improve their stock this year: Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, receiver Javon Wims, tight end Jeb Blazevich and nose tackle John Atkins.
A prediction: Georgia will either tie or break the school record for most players ever drafted. That is eight, which has happened twice (2002, 2013). Only two Georgia players were drafted in 2014, but in 2015 it was five and last year it was again five.
There’s every reason to believe the draft this year was a mere blip on the radar for a program that annually has among the most alums in the NFL.
This isn’t to say there’s no shame in what happened this weekend. The most damning stat is the state of Georgia itself producing the most draft picks (29). Three went in the first round, including Clemson QB Deshaun Watson.
In fact the draft was almost a who’s-who of recruiting misses for Georgia: Watson, Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State), Alvin Kamara (Tennessee by way of Alabama), Montravius Adams (Auburn), Carl Lawson (Auburn). Here’s a full list from the AJC’s Todd Holcomb.
There were big names that Georgia just couldn’t land. There were other misses in the evaluation process.
The 2013 recruiting cycle was the last at Georgia with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. He was replaced by Jeremy Pruitt and a completely overhauled defensive staff, which over the next two years helped replenish the talent base.
That will be reflected in next year’s draft, and probably the one after that. This past weekend wasn’t a good advertisement for the program. But it’s nothing to get too worked up about. But if you have any other questions … you know the answer.