One of sports’ oddest traditions is the intense criticism potential first-round picks seem to get just before the NFL draft begins. This year is apparently no different, and one of the targets of that criticism has been former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker.
That’s the subject of this edition of DN90.
A reporter on the UGA beat recently spoke to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay about Baker, and McShay painted an unflattering picture of Baker stemming from Baker’s decision not to participate with the rest of his Bulldogs teammates in the Sugar Bowl.
McShay was apparently relaying what had been told to him by NFL executives. But given the way these kinds of campaigns have played out in the past, one could wonder if the characterization of Baker comes authentically, or if it was another in a long line of attempts to deflate the value of top prospects in the hopes they’ll fall to a certain team.
Either way, one of Baker’s former teammates quickly came to his rescue.
Former UGA linebacker Davin Bellamy — who signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent last year and spent 2018 as part of the Texans’ practice squad — noticed the discussion and offered a strong defense of Baker.
Most UGA fans will probably be glad to hear that.
However, there’s also another group of fans who were greatly dissatisfied with the Bulldogs’ 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas, and there were plenty of questions about how Baker’s absence could’ve influenced the team’s focus.
Ultimately, Baker’s decision not to play is probably more of a reflection of the modern age of college football. Players with reasonable certainty of being drafted in the first round are going to protect their status. Baker wasn’t the first player to make this decision, nor will he be the last.
As disappointing as the Sugar Bowl loss was, there’s also a chance UGA uses that experience to its benefit this season. It seemingly has already contributed to a rallying cry that’s become popular this offseason, as the Bulldogs challenge themselves to “Do More.”
As for Baker, most of this chatter will probably die down by Thursday — like it usually does — and Baker will eventually get drafted where he was always destined to be: which is likely somewhere in the first round.
For more of what Bellamy had to say about Baker, click the video linked above.