Would you like to receive DawgNation news alerts? Excellent! News alerts will be displayed in your browser.
Alyssa Pointer/AJC
Kirby Smart is entering his fifth season as head coach

What the 2020 NFL Draft tells us about the state of the Georgia football program

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

What the 2020 NFL Draft tells us about the state of the Georgia football program

The 2020 NFL Draft is now in the books, with seven new Bulldogs getting selected and many more finding new homes as undrafted free agents.

The only schools with more players selected in this year’s draft was LSU (14), Ohio State (10), Michigan (10) and Alabama (9). That’s a sign that the Bulldogs are one of the top programs in the country when it comes to developing players for the next level.

But looking a little bit deeper at the draftees, there are some trends that are worth examining when it comes to the Georgia program, both for the 2019 season and what might become of the team in 2020.

On offense it wasn’t the players, it was the plays

When James Coley first met with the media during the 2019 season, he said that it would be players, not the plays, that made the difference for the Bulldogs

“I think in the pro-style game you coordinate to your players,” Coley said. “Players, not plays, right? It’s a little cliché in the coaching profession but it’s the truth. Players, not plays. Coach Smart is all about players, not plays. He definitely preaches that to us.”

Well the 2020 NFL Draft said that the players on offense were not the problem. The only team with more offensive players drafted was LSU, who set a number of records and won a national championship. The Tigers has the No. 1 scoring offense in the country last season.

Georgia ranked 49th. Talent was not the issue last season.

Yes, Jake Fromm fell farther than expected, though a poor performance at the scouting combine could be as much to blame as his five-straight games with a completion percentage of under 50 percent. And Georgia’s only pass-catcher that was drafted was tight end Charlie Woerner, who had a total of nine catches a season ago. Lawrence Cager, who spent much of the season as Georgia’s best wide receiver, went undrafted.

That draft only further reinforced the move to change offensive coordinators, as Coley is now the tight ends coach at  Texas A&M, while Todd Monken is the Georgia offensive coordinator and quarterbacks. It will be worth watching, whenever college football resumes, to see how much Kirby Smart lets Monken dictate the plays.

Because the players at Georgia aren’t the problem. And given the recruiting success, it won’t be going forward.

Georgia’s defense is still crazy loaded, and maybe scary good

The 2019 defense for Georgia ranked first in the country in scoring defense and first in rushing defense. It came in third in total defense.

The defensive unit had just a single draftee this year. That was Tae Crowder, who came off the board with pick No. 255 to the New York Giants. That was the final pick in the draft.

J.R. Reed went undrafted. So did Tyler Clark. These were all valuable pieces for the Georgia defense last year.

But the lack of draft success this year wasn’t unexpected. Prior to the draft, only Reed was a safe assumption to get pick — and his father told Chris Tomasson of St. Paul Pioneer Press that the reason he didn’t get selected was due to being medically flagged stemming from a high school ACL injury.

That means some of the more talented players from this past season’s defense are all set to return. This includes the likes of Richard LeCounte, Eric Stokes, Azeez Ojulari, Monty Rice and Jordan Davis, just to name a few.

A great defense has helped Georgia win a lot of games. It’s why even with all the turnover on the offensive side of the ball, many still see Georgia as one of the top teams entering the 2020 season.

The unit will still have to force a few more negative plays next season. But with all the talent both coming in and coming back, the Bulldogs might have the most talented defense they’ve had under Smart.

Dave Gettleman seems to love the Georgia football program

For the second-straight season, Dave Gettleman used a first-round pick on a Georgia Bulldog. In the 2019 NFL Draft, the New York Giants’ general manager made Deandre Baker for the first cornerback off the board with pick No. 30.

This year, Gettleman took Andrew Thomas as the first offensive tackle with the No. 4 pick. While there were players with better athletic tools at both positions, Gettleman seemed to like the high-floor and safeness that both Thomas and Baker offered.

Throw in Crowder and 2018 draft pick Lorenzo Carter and the Giants now have four Bulldogs on the roster. Hopefully, they can turn around a Giants team that has been mirrored in mediocrity in recent seasons.

It should also be noted that D’Andre Swift will join fellow Bulldogs Matthew Stafford and Isaac Nauta in Detroit next season.

Georgia needs to get better at consistently developing wide receivers

This was an incredibly deep wide receiver class this year, with eight wide receivers coming off the board in the first 34 picks and a total of 35 wide receivers taken.

Georgia did not have a single one drafted at the position. That probably goes a long way into identifying some of the offensive issues last season.

A year ago, Georgia had three wide receivers taken in the NFL draft, with Mecole Hardman going in the second round, Riley Ridley in the fourth and Terry Godwin in the seventh.

One only has to look at Alabama as to why it is important to continue to develop players at the position every year. The Crimson Tide had the first two wide receivers taken in Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. But Alabama still brings back Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle next season. There will be some drop-off, but not as chasmic as there was for Georgia this year.

Now the Bulldogs do have George Pickens, but he’s still two years away from being draft eligible. Dominick Blaylock flashed some as a freshman, but he’s coming off an ACL injury and is also two-years away from being drafted. The Bulldogs did sign five wide receivers this past cycle, but who knows how ready they’ll be when the season starts.

Georgia has done a better job recently of recruiting the wide receiver position. But it needs to continue to develop players, as it has at running back and the offensive line, if the Bulldogs are going to make that next step and join the likes of LSU, Alabama and Ohio State.

More Georgia football players from around DawgNation

Dawgs on Twitter

Good Dawg of the Day