ATHENS — Kirby Smart thinks the discourse surrounding Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims is wrong.

Much of the pre-draft chatter about the talented offensive tackle has stemmed from the fact that he only started eight games at Georgia.

Never mind that he rotated plenty on Georgia’s 2022 National Championship-winning team with NFL offensive tackles Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon.

“What does that matter if you’ve blocked Travon Walker, Nolan Smith, Robert Beal your whole career,” Smart said. “What does eight starts matter? Would you rather have someone who started 27 games and played against nobody, or somebody who played against first-round draft picks every day in practice? I know which one I’m picking.”

While Mims wasn’t as emphatic as his head coach, the offensive tackle didn’t indicate there’s nothing he can do at this point to change the past.

He’s much more focused on the future and what he can do for teams.

“I know my sample size of starts and snaps isn’t as great as everybody else but I’m fortunate enough to go to the best university in the nation, where they prepared me on and off the field,” Mims said. “So I fell like that will help.”

Mims is still rehabbing from a hamstring injury he suffered during the NFL combine and was not a full participant in Wednesday’s pro day. He did do the bench press but did not partake in any on-field drills.

That will come on April 10, when he and Brock Bowers both take part in a separate pro day with NFL teams.

Even with the lack of starts, Mims is still seen as a first-round pick, in large part due to his immense physical upside. He measured in at 6-foot-8 and 340 pounds. He ran a 5.07 40-yard dash at the combine but was confident in speaking to reporters that he could’ve run in the 4.9s.

While much has been made about his lack of starts, Smart spoke about what Mims will bring to the next level.

“He started last year for me. The year before last he started almost every game in terms of he was in the second or third series,” Smart said. “I think when you look over the history, there have been some really successful linemen that have been three-and-out that didn’t start in that window. He’s uber-talented. He works really hard. He’s really intelligent. He’s going to play a long time in the NFL.”

Mims has already had success against some NFL defenders, as he matched up against first-rounders Travon Walker, Nolan Smith and Jalen Carter during practice at Georgia.

While it was unfun to block those standouts as a college freshman, he knows it made him better as he goes through this process.

“Those guys, highly touted guys, they’re doing very well in the league right now,” Mims said. “Going against those guys definitely prepared me. I remember coming in freshman year and practice was miserable. They made my life very miserable freshman year going against those guys. I’m very thankful for what they did for me.”

Mims still chats with Jones, a Georgia offensive tackle who had a similarly low number of starts. Yet he was taken with the No. 14 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft.

The first round of the 2024 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 25. We’ll find out then how much Mims’ starting experience really mattered.

Amarius Mims talks 2024 NFL Draft, his lack of starts