What happened to Georgia’s NFL Draft prospects?
Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. In today’s edition, we try to nail down why Georgia has so few draft prospects this season and figure out which Georgia recruit was named one of the “47 reasons to love New York.” (Hint: He’s the one from New York.)
Georgia’s NFL Draft class sinking fast
The health and strength of a college football program can be measured partially by the number of its players that are drafted into the NFL. It is far from the only indicator of success, but common sense dictates that if you have a bunch of players on your team good enough to play in the NFL, you’re going to win a helluva lot of football games. But if we’re going to use players drafted as a barometer of success, Georgia is looking sick as a dog … pun, sort of, intended.
UGA’s 2017 draft class is shaping up to be the worst since only Arthur Lynch and Aaron Murray were drafted in 2014. It’s going to be the first time in three seasons Georgia hasn’t had a player taken in the first round. In the senior class, only Greg Pyke seems draftable, so the total number of players drafted will depend on how many of the few NFL-ready — or at least quasi-NFL-ready — prospects jump.
So, what gives? The one word answer is “attrition.” The more complicated answers involves exactly whom attrited. We can get a firmer grasp on this by looking at Georgia’s 2014 and 2013 recruiting classes — ranked 12th nationally by 247 — which should be the class supplying most of Georgia’s top draft prospects right now.
The 2013 class is where all the problems stemming from the Todd Grantham era surface and rear their ugly heads again. 2015 is the class of current seniors and redshirts juniors. Considering you want the bulk of players who log significant minutes to be redshirt sophomores or older, it’s no surprise Georgia has struggled so mightily the last two seasons.
Of the top 10 players who signed with UGA in 2013, according to 247, five transferred or left the program, one was a junior college signing and graduated two years ago, one was drafted early on Day 1 in the 2016 NFL Draft, one is a starter on the offensive line, one is a solid contributor who hasn’t lived up to his billing and one was a blue-chip quarterback who now punts. That is not what you want out of your 10 best players in a recruiting class.
To be fair, some of the lower-ranked players have been really good players for Georgia: John Atkins, Davin Bellamy and Reggie Carter to be exact. Bellamy and Atkins both have futures in the NFL, probably this year for Bellamy if he so chooses, but even with Leonard Floyd being a top-10 pick last season does this class come anywhere close to living up to its billing?
The good news here is that this figures to be a temporary problem. For one, if you look back in Georgia’s draft history, you’ll see how cyclical Georgia’s number of players selected is. The Dawgs will have one taken one year, eight the next and three the year after that. This isn’t like Alabama, that reloads and pumps out about eight drafted players every season.
The current crop of true juniors and redshirt sophomores is actually fairly rife with NFL talent as well. The two most obvious players from this class who could make the jump are Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Michel always seemed somewhat likely to stick it out until his senior season, but that thought was predicated by the notion that Chubb was definitely leaving after his junior year. Now that Chubb’s junior season is over and draft experts are saying he likely won’t go before the third round, that thinking might change. If he does decide to go, though, he won’t go as high as people were saying he would before the subpar campaign.
Elsewhere in class, Lorenzo Carter and Dominick Sanders could both make the early move to the NFL, and may decide to do just that, but they’d probably be better served by another year of fine-tuning. Isaiah Wynn and Lamont Gaillard could possibly see some time in the league if they improve sufficiently in their last years in Athens. Jeb Blazevich has an NFL body but has underwhelmed after a solid first season, so he seems unlikely. And Isaiah McKenzie should garner at least a late-round selection for his return skills alone. It’s a solid, if unspectacular, class of NFL prospects.
Another reason for optimism is the Grantham factor. (You never thought you’d hear that.) The problems and attrition in the Georgia program circa 2013 eroded the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, which should have been UGA’s backbone the last two years, rendering them shells of what they were when the players first inked with Georgia. Georgia’s lack of NFL prospects right now isn’t an illness; it’s a symptom. And, thankfully for Georgia fans, based on how Smart has recruited in his first two years, barring more crazy attrition, UGA’s backbone should be much stronger and more stable going forward.
UGA hoops returns with a win
After a long layoff because of finals, Georgia hoops was back at it once again on Wednesday, resuming after the break with a comfortable 73-60 win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) December 15, 2016
Yante Maten continued his fantastic season with another big stat line, scoring 18 points while pulling down 15 boards and swatting 5 shots. That’s crazy stuff and it also puts him in crazy elite company in the SEC, alongside former Kentucky Wildcats and current New Orleans Hornets big man Anthony Davis.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 15, 2016
A nod for Jacob Eason
Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports named Jacob Eason among his “potential 2017 breakout players to watch this bowl season.” Mandel seems to think Kirby Smart could take the reins off Eason and let him pitch it around the field in the Liberty Bowl.
The Dawgs struggled through a 7-5 season, but their much-hyped freshman starter performed admirably (55 percent completions, 2,266 yards, 14 TDs, eight INTs). I would not be surprised if coach Kirby Smart lets him cut it loose a bit more in the bowl than he would in an SEC game, especially given TCU has allowed more 30-plus yard passing plays (24) than all but 17 teams nationally.
Brooklyn Go Hard
It isn’t every day you see a potential Georgia Bulldog profiled in New York Magazine. Brooklyn 5-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson — who seems a better bet to pick the Bulldogs every day — was 37th on New York’s list of “47 reasons to love New York,” under the heading “Because the No. 2 College Football Recruit in the Country Is From Canarsie and Wears a SpongeBob Backpack.” Here, in part, is what Reeves Wiedeman wrote about Wilson.
Wilson spent the past month on visits to Alabama, Georgia, Florida State and Michigan, but he has yet to decide where he will go and prefers to keep coaches and fans, who scrutinize his every tweet, in the dark. After the film session, and before the team went to the weight room, Wilson changed out of an Alabama shirt and sweats and into a similarly matching outfit from the University of Georgia. Wilson says he doesn’t want to rush his decision, and that wherever he goes, he isn’t worried about being pushed around. “I don’t want to come off cocky or anything, but I am confident in my abilities,” he says. “I know what I can do.”
- Georgia has a numbers issue, and that’s a good thing (probably) (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- While one Georgia freshman embraces his shot, the other still waits (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- Georgia begins preparations for yet another up-tempo offense in TCU (Jason Butt, Macon Telegraph)
- 3 things to know: Lady Bulldogs at Cincinnati (Nicole Saavedra, Athens Banner-Herald)
- Tray Bishop discusses contenders after opening recruitment (Brandon Sudge, Macon Telegraph)
- Two former Georgia players will return as opponents in 2017 (Seth Emerson, Dawg Nation)
- Mark Richt: ‘Thirty-three years in a row coaching can wear you down’ (Andrew Astleford, Dawg Nation)
I don’t even …