With the NFL draft now in the rearview mirror, it’s safe to say that decisions made by Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy to return for their senior seasons worked out for all parties involved. That’s everyone, the players, the 2017 team and — according to Chubb — the future of the Georgia football program.
Had the four come out a year ago, there was certainly the chance that all four would’ve been drafted. But there’s almost no chance they would go as high as they did. That seems particularly true with Chubb and Michel given that last year the only running backs taken in the top 35 were Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey. With Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt all drafted later than that but having strong rookie seasons, it showed that running backs might more valuable in the NFL today. Thus, Michel went No. 31 overall to New England and Chubb was taken four picks later by Cleveland in the 2018 NFL Draft.
As for the team benefiting, Georgia won the SEC with a freshman quarterback, beat the Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 overall draft pick in the Rose Bowl, and went toe-to-toe with Alabama in the title game.
The team success obviously plays a part in Georgia football looking as healthy as it does. The four who returned were an integral part of the 2017 season’s success. And when speaking with Chubb last week about his decision to return, he said that his decision to stay was also going to help everyone else in the program.
“I thought it helped a lot, but not just for me,” Chubb said on his decision to return to school. “Just the big picture and showing guys that we can be a championship-caliber team and we’re a team that’ll continue to be good into the future.”
To an extent, we already have seen a few players make the same decision this offseason and that will no doubt make the team better. Deandre Baker had an excellent 2017 season and was a big reason why first-round pick Calvin Ridley had his lowest receiving output of the year in the national title game. Given his size and his play, Baker likely would’ve been picked, especially considering some are mentioning him as a possible first-round pick in 2019. Much of the same can be said for wide receiver Terry Godwin, who made a number of huge catches throughout the season, most memorably his one-handed touchdown grab against Notre Dame.
Both came back, and they’ll help offset some of the losses that their respective position groups face, much how Chubb, Michel, Carter and Bellamy did the year before.
When asked to give a prediction on how Georgia would possibly fare without him next year, Chubb didn’t downplay expectations that he help set.
“I think they can win it all; they just have to get the job done. Definitely a lot better,” Chubb said.
Georgia football won’t be better without Chubb or Roquan Smith or Isaiah Wynn. But given what Georgia has returning in guys such as Baker, Godwin, quarterback Jake Fromm and most of the offensive line, Chubb isn’t too far off in saying that the 2018 team is a national-title contender. A year ago, it did seem a little unrealistic to say that about the 2017 team.
But Chubb’s final season showed that the infrastructure is there to be a championship team. And even though he won’t play a snap for Georgia next season, Chubb — and his now-NFL bound former teammates — are a big reason that Georgia fans can legitimately believe in winning a national title.