It’s tough to believe, but Georgia had never produced three first-round picks in the same NFL draft until last Thursday. The latest draft class — led by Roquan Smith (No. 8 to Chicago), Isaiah Wynn (No. 23 to New England) and Sony Michel (No. 31 to New England) — has the makings of a special one, especially when you factor in Nick Chubb (No. 35 to Cleveland).
Such an impressive group got us thinking: Which year produced the greatest draft class in Georgia history?
A close examination reveals that the bar is not so high. Recent classes in 2013, 2015 and 2016 have been solid but have only yielded a total of two Pro Bowl appearances (both by running back Todd Gurley). Players such as linebacker Thomas Davis (2005), defensive back Tim Jennings (2006) and quarterback Matthew Stafford (2009) served as lone bell cows in recent years. Ditto for defensive end Bill Stanfill (1969), wide receiver Hines Ward (1998) and cornerback Champ Bailey (1999).
There have been a pair of impressive duos. Quarterback Fran Tarkenton and punter Bobby Walden were the only Georgia players taken in the 1961 draft. Tarkenton, of course, went on to a Hall of Fame career, while Walden — aka The Big Toe From Cairo — kicked in 194 NFL games.
Three decades later, linebacker Mo Lewis and kicker John Kasay were the lone Bulldogs taken in the 1991 draft. Lewis became a three-time Pro Bowl selection and New York Jets legend while Kasay appeared in 301 games (!) and also earned a Pro Bowl nod.
Notable classes without any superstars include:
- Offensive lineman Guy McIntyre (five Pro Bowl selections, three Super Bowl rings and 125 starts)
- Tight end Clarence Kay (126 starts)
- Defensive back Terry Hoage (Super Bowl ring and 65 starts)
- Defensive back Daryll Jones, guard Winford Hood and defensive end Freddie Gilbert (109 combined games and 19 combined starts)
- Linebacker Will Witherspoon (153 starts)
- Tight end Randy McMichael (150 starts)
- Defensive lineman Charles Grant (Super Bowl ring and 106 starts)
- Defensive back Jermaine Phillips (Super Bowl ring and 74 starts)
- Defensive back Terreal Bierria, running back Verron Haynes, defensive end Josh Mallard and cornerback Tim Wansley (two combined Super Bowl rings, 150 combined games and 21 combined starts)
That leaves just two prominent classes to select from. Let’s begin with the runner-up:
- Wide receiver A.J. Green (7 Pro Bowl selections and 102 starts)
- Linebacker Justin Houston (22 sacks in 2014, 4 Pro Bowl selections and 84 starts)
- Guard Clint Boling (93 starts)
- Linebacker Akeem Dent (90 games and 32 starts)
- Wide receiver Kris Durham and running back Shaun Chapas (33 combined games and 17 combined starts)
Some will say that the 2011 class is the greatest, and that’s fair. Green and Houston are two of the best NFL players in the last decade. But there’s a class with three Pro Bowl players that stands a little bit taller.
- Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (NFL All-2000s Team, 7 Pro Bowl selections, 3 Super Bowl rings and 157 starts)
- Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud (3 Pro Bowl selections and 129 starts)
- Linebacker Kendrell Bell (Pro Bowl selection, 72 starts)
- Tackle Jonas Jennings (75 starts)
- Quarterback Quincy Carter (34 starts)
- Defensive back Jamie Henderson and defensive tackle Tyrone Robertson (44 combined games)
2001 and 2011 are awfully close. But Seymour’s Hall of Fame-caliber résumé helps set the former apart. Stroud, Bell and Jennings were mainstays in the 2000s, while Carter’s 34 starts were — at the time — the most of any Georgia quarterback since Tarkenton.
Really good … but great? Legendary? Not quite.
No matter who they’re chasing, it’s easy to envision the most recent crop of Bulldogs draftees at No. 1 on this list in 10 years. Here’s a recap of the 2018 class:
- Linebacker Roquan Smith (No. 8 overall to Chicago)
- Guard Isaiah Wynn (No. 23 to New England)
- Running back Sony Michel (No. 31 to New England)
- Running back Nick Chubb (No. 35 to Cleveland)
- Linebacker Lorenzo Carter (No. 66 to New York Giants)
- Wide receiver Javon Wims (No. 224 to Chicago)
Which class was your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.