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Georgia football still has a gap to close on Clemson and Alabama as 2019 NFL Draft shows
For the most part, the 2019 NFL Draft was a successful one for the Georgia football program. It produced seven NFL draft picks, the most in the Kirby Smart era. The school produced a draft class that saw Deandre Baker become the top cornerback taken and had multiple teams try and trade up to land speedster Mecole Hardman.
But most of the Georgia action came on Saturday. During rounds four through seven, Georgia saw five of its seven guys come off the board. For comparison, Alabama also had five players taken during these rounds. But the Crimson Tide saw five players get taken in the first three rounds of the draft.
Clemson meanwhile only saw six players get taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. But four of them came off the board in the top 40 picks. Over that same span, Georgia saw just one player get taken.
Related: 2019 NFL Draft provides cautionary tale for prospects seeking to optimize pro potential
Georgia’s done a good job of producing draft talent, especially as more and more of Kirby Smart’s signees enter the program. The Bulldogs have come a long way since just one Georgia player was taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. But as Smart gets more and more established, he needs to not only continue to churn out draft picks as he did in 2019. He also needs to produce high-end talent like Georgia did in 2018. The 2018 NFL Draft saw four Bulldogs get taken in the top 35 picks of the draft.
Georgia has recruited better than anybody as of late. That’s a factual statement, given Georgia is the only program that has signed a top three recruiting class in each of the last three recruiting cycles. The Bulldogs are brimming with talent, and that recruiting success is a big reason why Georgia has been able to go toe-to-toe with Alabama in each of the last two seasons.
But part of the reason for that recruiting success was the ability to promise early playing time. Georgia’s had no problem playing freshmen in the past two seasons. But even as Georgia continues to recruit at an elite level, it’s no longer going to be able to sell early playing time as easily. Smart will continue to play the best players, even if they are a freshman. But the talent already in Athens is elite, and certainly better than when Smart first arrived
It’s going to become harder and harder to offer the allure of playing time right away to incoming recruits. Sure the likes of Nolan Smith and Nakobe Dean can make early impressions. But guys like Clay Webb or Tyrique Stevenson now may have to wait their turn behind the likes of more established stars. That wasn’t the case when Andrew Thomas signed in 2017 or Tyson Campbell did in 2018.
So you’re going to need to sell something else. Like an easy path to the NFL draft.
Related: Nakobe Dean, Nolan Smith standout in spring practice
If guys can’t get on the field right away, they want to at least see that you can get them into the draft. Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams redshirted as a freshman and played a rotational role in his second season. He became a star in his redshirt sophomore season and went on to become the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.
Georgia needs to be able to develop guys like that. It might have someone in that mold in Eric Stokes, who could blossom this year at cornerback.
The Bulldogs are incredibly close to joining the truly elite ranks of college football. They’re the only team not named Clemson or Alabama to win a playoff game since Ohio State won the first College Football Playoff back in 2014. But for Georgia to really close the gap on Alabama and Clemson, it needs to continue to both recruit at an elite level and develop those guys into high-end draft picks.
Possible good news for former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason
The University of Washington wrapped up its spring practices this past weekend with its spring game. And there’s been some major news to come out of the Washington quarterback competition, as two candidates have reportedly put their names in the transfer portal.
According to multiple reports, quarterbacks Jacob Sirmon and Colson Yankoff have both put their names into the transfer portal and intend to transfer from the school. Both quarterbacks were 4-star recruits in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
Should Sirmon and Yankoff follow through on their reported decision it would likely mean they see the writing on the wall when it comes to former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason. It looks like he’s going to end up becoming Washington’s starting quarterback.
Eason didn’t have a stellar spring game, as he completed 7 of his 12 pass attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown. Eason is hardly the only quarterback to put up unimpressive spring game numbers. Justin Fields, Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa didn’t exactly light the world on fire this spring.
Should Eason win the job as he’s projected too, he’ll be replacing one of Washington’s most successful quarterbacks in recent memory in Jake Browning. Eason has more physical tools than Browning, but the departed Washington quarterback still was able to guide the Huskies to a College Football Playoff appearance back in 2016.
While Eason is no longer a Bulldog, a number of Georgia fans would like to see him play well with the Huskies. Winning the starting job would be a very nice start for the former Bulldog. In his time at Georgia, Eason started 11 games during the 2016 season. He completed 55 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions.
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