ATHENS — And the star of UGA’s Pro Day was …
That’s right, the same Jarvis Wilson who did not start a single game in his four-year career as a Georgia safety. Based on the “measurables” that the NFL holds so dear, Wilson “blew it up” Wednesday at UGA’s Pro Day. He had 24 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — better than all the Bulldogs, linemen included — then put up a sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard dash.
Can’t miss prospect, right?
No, we all know that it’s highly unlikely that Wilson will get drafted. And that’s no knock on the young man from Tupelo, Miss. All he’s ever done is everything his coaches and counselors told him to do, from high school through college. He’ll graduate sometime over the next few months, probably get a few camp invites here and there, then go about the business of living his life.
Jackson Harris is another Bulldog who had a great day Wednesday. He was clocked at 4.71 seconds in the 40. That’s an incredible time for a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end. It was considerably better than the tight end about which there was the most fuss coming into this exercise.
That’d be Isaac Nauta. The junior who chose to enter the draft early was thanking his lucky stars for breaking 4.8 seconds in the 40 this time. He was unable to do that when he went through this same round of testing a month ago at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Jordan Jenkins, as he has been for the last couple of years, was inside Georgia’s Payne Athletic Facility Wednesday taking in all the festivities. He was smiling and laughing a lot. It wasn’t just because he was happy to be back at UGA, which he was. It was because it wasn’t him having to go through the testing this time.
“I hated it; hated it,” Jenkins said, repeating himself for emphasis. “I always sucked when it came to testing. I don’t why, but I never did as well as I thought I could.”
You know what Jenkins doesn’t suck at? Playing football. Fortunately for him, the New York Jets saw through his testing numbers and drafted him in the third round in 2016. Since then he has played in 46 NFL games, with 37 starts.
Jenkins said he ran a 4.8 at the combine the year he came out of Georgia, with a top time of 4.77. He was incredulous on Wednesday when he heard Harris’ 40 time.
“No way is Jackson faster than me,” Jenkins said with a hardy laugh. “I know that for a fact. No way!”
Not to play total cynic here but, from what I’ve witnessed over the years, I’m thinking it doesn’t matter a whole lot what kind of numbers one posts at these events. It’s my belief that the NFL execs already have a pretty strong idea who they want and what direction they’re going to go in the draft before they put these guys through the paces.
All the testing and everything they do primarily gives them ammunition to de-value prospects wherever they can. Of course, it’s the NFL’s game and their rules, so they can make prospects do anything they want. There’s nothing make-believe about the money they pay and what can be bought with that money.
But football is football and one can either play the game or not. And when you’re coming out of a program like Georgia — or Alabama or Florida or most any Power 5 school — they have all the proof they need to that end from three or four years of playing genuine, meaningful games.
Which brings us to the case of Deandre Baker. Baker is Georgia’s most promising prospect for the draft class of 2019. When he finished up with the Bulldogs in December, won the Jim Thorpe Award and All-America honors and then decided to skip the Sugar Bowl, he was considered a lock to be an early first-rounder and likely the first cornerback taken in this year’s draft.
Since then, most of what we’ve heard about Baker has been negative. He didn’t test well at the combine. We’re told from “NFL insiders” that he hasn’t been preparing hard enough and hasn’t “helped himself” as far as his draft position. The “word” on Baker coming in was that draft stock has “slipped,” and that 4.52 time at the combine didn’t help.
Fortunately for Baker, he appears to have helped himself Wednesday with a 40-yard time reportedly in the 4.4s. Neither UGA nor the NFL shared any “official” data in real time during the proceedings, so we’re going on second-hand intel. But Baker, for one, said he ran “a 4.4” was he happy with all that he was able to show scouts Wednesday.
“It was a good day overall,” Baker said afterward. “It’s been a hard process, but you’ve got to love it because it’s for better things.”
Good for him. Then again, just how necessary was it for Baker to show he could run a sub-4.4? I mean, doesn’t he have four years worth of real football data to show scouts?
Let’s see, Baker played in 51 football games while at Georgia. Considering the defense was on the field for about half of those, that’s roughly 1,530 minutes — or 25½ hours — of game video available to review. The Bulldogs also video every minute of every practice so, that’s another 280 hours of video to look at over four years.
Of course, Baker has produced all sorts of statistical data produced over that span, too. You can google them up by the dozens, but the plainest and most impressive stat to me is this one: Zero TDs allowed in more than 700 snaps over the last two seasons. One might note, the Bulldogs have played some pretty good teams for some pretty high stakes these past two years.
Apparently this is something on which Baker and I agree.
“You know, they just want to see your raw speed, your raw ‘vert. It’s just another way to to test you,” Baker said, still sweating from the going through Wednesday’s DB drills alongside Wilson. “But you always have to put it together on film and I do that all the time. My film is undeniable. You can’t overlook what I do on the field. So I don’t really pay attention that other stuff.”
To be sure, evaluating football players is a tough task. I read somewhere that the NFL gets it right on draft prospects less than 50 percent of the time. But NFL almost always gets it right is once players make a roster. After that, you can either play or you can’t. One can either hang or they can’t. In Baker’s case, you can either cover or you can’t.
I’m thinking Baker can cover. And regardless of where he gets drafted next month, early first round, late-first, second, I believe he’s going to play in the league for a while.
Maybe then he can come back to Georgia for some future Pro Days and join Jenkins on the sideline some good laughs.