ATHENS — ESPN analyst Todd McShay is making a case for Georgia’s Jalen Carter as the “real deal,” and PFF analytics are backing him up.

Team needs always play a role in a player’s NFL Draft stock, and that is especially true this year with many projecting the Chicago Bears will trade their No. 1 overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts and move down to nab either Carter or Alabama linebacker Will Anderson.

That’s how McShay says he sees it, though the veteran NFL Draft analyst allows for the possibility that if the Bears don’t trade down, they might still take Georgia’s self-styled “Bread Man.”

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“Carter’s production might not wow you (six sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss over the past two years), but he dealt with a knee injury this season and was behind numerous first-rounders on Georgia’s 2021 depth chart,” McShay said, noting how 2022 NFL first-rounders Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt started ahead of Carter.

“Make no mistake: Carter is the real deal. He fires off the ball and uses his excellent strength to push blockers backward.”

PFF states Carter is “Arguably the best defensive tackle prospect PFF has graded in nine years of charting college football, Carter has the blend of quicks and power that can be a headache for opposing offensive coordinators.”

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While McShay believes the Bears can trade down to No. 4 and still get Carter, PFF projects the Arizona Cardinals will grab Carter with the No. 3 overall pick.

Both McShay and PFF project the Colts will trade for the No. 1 pick and take Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

McShay sees Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud as the No. 2 overall pick to the Houston Texans, while PFF is projecting Kentucky QB Will Levis to go No. 2 overall to Houston.

Both McShay and PFF agree that Georgia left tackle Broderick Jones will be the No. 13 overall pick in the NFL Draft and land with the New York Jets.

“If New York does find a way to bring in Aaron Rodgers or another veteran QB, it will need to protect him,” McShay penned in his ESPN pay-site article.

“Jones didn’t allow a single sack over 15 starts last year, showcasing the ability to stall both speed and power off the edge.”

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PFF notes that, “Jones is an ascending tackle with grown-man play strength already at only 21 years old. He allowed only nine pressures this past season in his first full year as a starter.”

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McShay projects Kelee Ringo to go No. 18 overall to the Detroit Lions, a welcome change from a trend that has seen some draft analysts dropping Ringo into the second round.

“There will be a lot of opinions about his game, but Ringo has a lot of upside,” McShay said, likely aware that Ringo projects to be one of the top performers at the NFL Combine in 2 1/2 weeks. “He has speed and length, and he’s very good in press coverage.”

PFF does not have Ringo projected in its current first-round mock draft, but it does have outside linebacker Nolan Smith in the No. 30 overall slot to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Smith is undersized but explosive as can be, and he plays with great leverage,” PFF notes. “He would ensure the Eagles’ third-down package remains scary.”

Other NFL mock drafts have projected tight end Darnell Washington as a possible first-round pick.

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Washington, like Ringo, figures to open some eyes at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Georgia will have 12 players at the NFL Combine (Feb. 28-March 6), while its Pro Day is currently scheduled for March 15 in Athens.

Coach Kirby Smart might still adjust that date to help provide his Georgia players with the best possible exposure, as the NFL announced that March 15 will also be the first day of NFL free agency.

That being the case, the number of head coaches and key decision-makers who normally turn out for the Georgia Pro Day might not be in attendance, as that is typically a busy day at franchise headquarters.