ATHENS — Isaiah McKenzie is going pro, which isn’t good for Georgia, but there were no late surprises, which is good for Georgia.
The NFL on Friday released the official list of underclassmen who declared for the draft. As expected, the only Georgia player on it was McKenzie, a junior who was the team’s leading receiver in 2016 and is also the school record-holder for career punt return touchdowns.
But the five other notable players who previously said they were returning all stuck to their word: Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, and safety Dominick Sanders.
Also missing from the list was defensive back Aaron Davis, a junior who has graduated and had previously revealed on social media he was coming back.
There are actually two players from Georgia on the list of 105 underclassmen who declared: Inside linebacker Tim Kimbrough is the other one, though he didn’t play last season. Kimbrough left the team last August, initially to transfer to another school, then later decided to try the draft.
Kimbrough was a starter for most of the 2015 season, but was set to be a second-teamer his junior season after the emergence of Roquan Smith.
The returns of Chubb and Michel are obviously the biggest lift for the Bulldogs, as they should be the focal point of the offense. The return of the defensive players isn’t anything to shrug about either, as it means the team is set to lose just one starter: Senior nickelback Maurice Smith, who had a big year after transferring from Alabama.
The loss of McKenzie shouldn’t be shrugged off, either. He was the most dynamic presence on offense last season and won’t be easy to replace on special teams, either. He has signed with the agency run by Pat Dye Jr., which also represents former Georgia and current Los Angeles Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree.
But all in all, to lose only one player while gaining back more who many had expected to leave, that’s a win for the 2017 team.