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Rodrigo Blankenship will look to build on a strong 2019 season.

Top of the class: Identifying Georgia football’s best seniors for 2019

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Who is the best senior for Georgia football in 2019?

It’s hard to believe, but the first batch of players signed by Kirby Smart in 2016 will be seniors this fall. Time has flown by for the likes of Julian Rochester, Tyler Clark and Tyler Simmons — who may or may not have been onside.

The class has already seen quite a bit of attrition, with Jacob Eason — the crown jewel of the 2016 class — transferring to Washington. Georgia also lost four juniors from last season to the NFL draft, as Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta and Elijah Holyfield all left school early.

All of these guys will exhaust their eligibility following the 2019 season, so they’ll be looking to make the most of their final season in Athens. Below we’ve picked out the best senior on offense, defense and the overall best senior for Georgia football in 2019.

Offense: Charlie Woerner, tight end

You could pick a number of players here. Brian Herrien seems like he’ll have a very good chance of filling Holyfield’s shoes. Given that Zamir White’s health is in question, he certainly figures to have a big spring practice.

Simmons is also someone who could take on a bigger role with Hardman and Terry Godwin no longer with the program. Some have penciled in Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens as breakout stars at the position, but neither will be with Georgia till the summer. Smart has spoken at length about how good Simmons is as a blocker, and we could see him take on a larger role at wide receiver.

But our pick is tight end Charlie Woerner. He’ll have plenty of opportunities given he’s the only Georgia tight end on the roster with more than 10 career tight ends. When you factor in that James Coley’s past offenses have made tight ends a focal point, it’s easy to see Woerner becoming a potential key contributor for Georgia’s offense in 2019. He has a chance to not just be Georgia’s best senior, but perhaps one of Georgia’s best players on offense come the end of the season.

Related: After mass exodus at tight end, Georgia’s Charlie Woerner is ready to step into limelight

Defense: J.R. Reed, Safety

You could pick a number of Georgia’s defensive linemen, whether it be Clark, Rochester or David Marshall. You could also pick linebacker Tae Crowder or defensive back Tyrique McGhee, who both made contributions as starters in 2018.

But really, the biggest name to know on Georgia’s defense in 2019 is safety J.R. Reed. Since coming over from Tulsa, Reed has been a vital part of the Georgia secondary. Last season he finished with two interceptions to go along with his 66 tackles. He bypassed the NFL draft this season, and thus he’ll enter the year as one of Georgia’s unquestioned leaders.

Reed will play a big role in making life easier for whoever ends up replacing cornerback Deandre Baker. Reed will likely be tasked with making sure the secondary is aligned to Smart’s liking. Very few projected Reed would have this kind of impact when he first arrived at Georgia. But look for him to be a big-time player on the defensive side of the ball in 2019.

Overall: Rodrigo Blankenship, kicker

As good as Reed and Woerner are, Blankenship deserves the spot as top senior. He’s gone from cult hero who was beloved for his rec specs, to one of the best college football kickers.

He was so money during the 2017 College Football Playoffs, as he nailed big kick after big kick. In his junior season, Blankenship converted 19 of his 23 field goals while finishing third in the country in touchback percentage with 85 percent of his kickoffs going for touchbacks.

Blankenship was a legitimate weapon for Georgia in 2018 and will be a key part of Georgia’s special teams in 2019. Given his status as a fan-favorite and his kicking abilities, Blankenship has a legitimate claim as Georgia’s top senior for the 2019 season.

Deandre Baker still in first round of most mock drafts of 2019 NFL Draft after combine

Former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker didn’t exactly light the world on fire at the 2019 NFL Combine. But it appears he’s done enough to still be considered a first round draft pick by many in the 2019 NFL Draft cycle.

Related: Winners and losers for Georgia from the NFL combine

ESPN’s Todd McShay has Baker set to land in Kansas City with the No. 29 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

“Andy Reid has to find a way to improve the secondary, and Baker does a nice job reading routes with terrific instincts in coverage,” McShay wrote of Baker.

Baker posted a 4.52 at this week’s NFL combine in the 40-yard dash. Athleticism isn’t Baker’s biggest selling point, but he’s played better than just about any defensive back in the country the past two seasons. He’s brought in five interceptions, while also not surrendering a single touchdown to an opposing wide receiver.

McShay does have Baker tabbed as the third cornerback off the board. His first cornerback is Washington’s Byron Murphy. McShay has the Oakland Raiders taking Murphy with the No. 24 pick. Baker did post a better 40-yard dash time than Murphy. McShay also has Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin going No. 25 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kansas City is a popular destination for Baker, as 25 percent of all NFL mock drafts have Baker being taken by the Chiefs, according to SB Nation’s mock draft database. The Chiefs drafted Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley in the 2015 NFL Draft and also have outside linebacker Justin Houston on the team as well.

The next big day for Baker will be March 20, as that is Georgia’s Pro Day. It will allow Baker a chance to impress scouts in Athens. The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft is set for April 25 and will take place in Nashville, Tenn.

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