ATHENS — Georgia football looks to figure prominently in the 2019 NFL Draft after nine Bulldogs took part in the NFL combine in Indianapolis earlier this offseason.
“The best thing that could happen for us is for each one of those guys to be drafted as high as possible,” Kirby Smart said. “We’re looking forward to having a helluva draft because we have the potential to have a lot of guys drafted.”
The Bulldogs have twice had as many as eight players, drafted, in 2002 and most recently in 2013.
Georgia All-American and Thorpe Award winner Deandre Baker will be in attendance when the first-round selections begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday (TV: ESPN, NFL Network) in Nashville, Tenn.
Baker has universally been projected to be picked in the first round, having proven himself a lockdown corner who’s solid in run support.
Other Georgia players have also drawn the attention of some analysts as potential first-round picks. Receiver Riley Ridley and outside linebacker D’Andre Walker have both been mentioned as having first-round potential.
Ridley is considered a strong route-runner who has shown a knack for making contested catches.
Walker led Georgia in sacks and was enjoying an MVP-type performance in the SEC Championship Game before going down with a sports hernia in the third quarter with Georgia up 28-21.
Walker recently completed his rehab from Jan. 23 surgery, working out for NFL scouts on April 12 in Athens.
Most believe Ridley, Walker and receiver Mecole Hardman -are likely to be selected on Friday with other second- and third-round picks.
Hardman, sill relatively new to the receiver position, opened eyes with a 4.33-second time at the NFL combine and has proven himself an elite special teams return man.
The NFL draft concludes on Saturday, with rounds four through seven.
Georgia players Lamont Gaillard, Isaac Nauta, Jonathan Ledbetter, Terry Godwin and Elijah Holyfield are all expected to be drafted.
Receiver Jayson Stanley had an impressive Pro Day workout, running a 4.37-second 40, and might also be selected in the draft. If not, he will surely sign a free agent contact.
Linebacker Natrez Patrick, receiver Ahkil Crumpton and lineman Kendall Baker are also expected to sign as free agents immediately if they don’t hear their names called in the draft.
Georgia had three first-round picks in last year’s draft:
•LB Roquan Smith (8th overall, Chicago)
• OT Isaiah Wynn (23rd, New England)
• RB Sony Michel (31st, New England).
Three more Bulldogs were chosen by the end of the 2018 NFL Draft:
• RB Nick Chubb (Round 2, 35th overall Cleveland)
• LB Lorenzo Carter (Round 3, 66th overall N.Y.G)
• WR Javon Wims (Round 7, 224th overall Chicago)
Deandre Baker is expected to be the first UGA player taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. Who will be second?
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) April 25, 2019
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) April 25, 2019