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The 3 Georgia football 2019 NFL Draft picks who could have strong rookie seasons
A number of former Georgia Bulldogs had strong rookie seasons in 2018. Sony Michel played a key part in the Super Bowl run for the New England Patriots. The performances of Nick Chubb and Roquan Smith were big reasons the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears were able to make significant improvements last year.
So with a new crop of Bulldogs officially entering the NFL this weekend, we’re going to look at which ones are best poised to have strong rookie seasons. A total of seven Bulldogs were taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, with many others landing free agent contracts.
Mecole Hardman, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
Prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, some had compared Hardman’s skill set to that of Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. Now Hardman might be replacing Hill, given the fallout from some disturbing audio tapes that came out about Hill this weekend. Hill is currently suspended by the Chiefs with more discipline likely coming from the NFL. Many in the NFL community feel Hill may have played his last down for Kansas City.
Some, like ESPN’s Todd McShay, felt that Hardman was a slight reach at pick No. 56. But he’s going to have a good chance to prove his worth early. He’s only had two real seasons as a wide receiver in college, so he’s got room to grow as a route runner. He’s also got tremendous athletic gifts, as his 4.33 40-yard dash time shows. And he can function as a dynamic special teams player, as he did at Georgia.
Given how dangerous the Kansas City offense was a year ago when quarterback Patrick Mahomes was able to extend plays with his legs, Hardman should be able to play well on the fly. It’s not an easy task to keep up with a player of Hardman’s speed for that long of a time. It’s easy to see Mahomes scrambling, uncorking a ball with his rocket launcher of an arm, and find Hardman streaking away from some exhausted defensive back in 2019.
“He can play inside and outside, he played both at Georgia,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said according to the Kansas City Star. “This is somebody (general manager Brett Veach) had his eye on from the get-go.”
The Chiefs pretty clearly thought highly of Hardman as they used their first pick in the draft on the Georgia wide receiver. Whether he becomes the replacement for Hill or not, it’s clear Kansas City — already one of the most potent offenses in the league — has plans for Hardman to contribute right away.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with things going on now,” Reid said when discussing if the move stemmed from the Hill situation. “It’s player he’s felt very good about. The way the board fell, (we were) in a position to do it.”
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 27, 2019
D’Andre Walker, edge rusher, Tennessee Titans
Based on the way he played in the SEC championship game against Alabama, Walker is a much better player than his draft slot would indicate. But given that he’s a bit of tweener when it comes to the next level and the fact that he missed the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, Walker was still available when the Tennessee Titans selected him with No. 168 pick in the draft.
But all things considered, Walker landed in a very good spot where he’ll be able to potentially contribute away while growing into a bigger role over time. The Titans don’t have a ton of depth at the outside linebacker spot, as Brian Orakpo retired this offseason. Derrick Morgan, another key outside linebacker for Tennessee, is entering his 10th season in the league and on the back-9 of his career.
Outside of 2018 second round pick Harold Landry, the Titans don’t have a lot in terms of pass rush help. That’s where Walker can potentially come in.
“He’s not a really tall player, but he plays long,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said of Walker. “I think he has value on all three downs. He has good strength, good speed to power. He can set the edge and has a lateral agility to work the line of scrimmage.”
Walker may not be an every-down player to start his NFL career. But he wasn’t that at Georgia until senior year, as he sat behind Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. But even as a situational pass rusher, Walker still found a way to be productive. In his junior season, he still finished second on the team in sacks.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 28, 2019
If Walker can show that he’s able to provide a pass rush, even in a situational role, he’s got an excellent chance of seeing the field early for the Titans.
Deandre Baker, cornerback, New York Giants
So the Giants might be the laughing stock of the NFL after a calamitous first few months of 2019. They traded their best player in Odell Beckham. They took Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick, which was one of the most head-scratching moves of the draft.
But New York did also give up some of its draft capital to move up and acquire Baker. New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman has said that they saw Baker as the top cornerback in the draft. And the move up may prove to be wise given that the start of the second round saw a number of defensive backs get taken.
It’s clear the Giants saw they had a need at the cornerback position, given that Baker was one of three taken by New York in the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker should get the first crack at lining up opposite of Janoris Jenkins in New York, and likely hold the spot for a long time.
Baker also has one former teammate already on the Giants, as Carter was a 2018 third draft pick by the team. Carter had a solid first season for the Giants as he saw action in 15 games. He finished the season with 40 tackles and 4.0 sacks.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 26, 2019
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