ATHENS — The 2021 NFL Draft was as unforgiving as those before it in many respects, bringing harsh doses of reality around the country to players who learned their real value for the first time.
The Georgia football program turned out a record nine NFL draft picks, bettered only by Ohio State (10) and Alabama (10) among the 259 selected over seven rounds the past three days.
Bulldogs’ cornerback DJ Daniel and defensive lineman Malik Herring were the two notable UGA players not selected who will go the free-agent route, both effected by injuries.
Daniel was ranked by ESPN as the sixth-best prospect not to be drafted, and Herring was the top-rated DE not drafted.
There were other big names on the list that will be signing as free agents.
• Alabama LB Dylan Moses
• Florida WR Trevon Grimes
• Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks
• Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman
RELATED: Jamie Newman explains why he left Georgia
• Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello
• Arkansas RB Rakeem Boyd
• Florida State DT Marvin Wilson
Daniel suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason that limited him early in the season but appeared to be 100 percent when he was named tops at his position at the Senior Bowl in January and ran a 4.46-second time in the 40-yard dash.
Herring, meanwhile, suffered a torn ACL during the week of Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala.
The NCAA allowed a one-time eligibility exemption this year on account of COVID-19 that would have enabled any and all players to return for another season.
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Georgia has had several players who weren’t selected in the NFL draft still make NFL rosters, most recently:
• FS J.R. Reed
• PK Rodrigo Blankenship
• WR Lawrence Cager
• TE Eli Wolf
• CB Tyrique McGhee
• DT Tyler Clark
• DT Michael Barnett
• WR Tyler Simmons
RELATED: Georgia has 7 selected in 2019 NFL Draft
• RB Elijah Holyfield
• DL Jonathan Ledbetter
• LB Natrez Patrick