ATHENS – From the moment Leonard Floyd arrived at Georgia, the prevailing feeling was that he was something special. Everyone called him “Flo,” as in, I can’t believe what Flo did today, or I get better trying to block Flo in practice, and so on.
The one person you couldn’t get to talk up Flo was the man himself.
“I’m more like a Marshawn Lynch type of guy,” Floyd said last month at UGA’s pro day.
By all projections, Floyd will become a millionaire-in-waiting on Thursday night, as he will be picked in the first round of the NFL draft. Some projections have him going in the top 10.
But Floyd will be one of the few not in Chicago to walk across the stage and shake Roger Goodell’s hands. He wasn’t on the official invite list, and will be holding his own draft party somewhere in Georgia.
Barring a fall that no one foresees, Georgia is thus set to have a first-round pick for the second straight year, third time in four years, and fifth time in eight years.
But when the next round arrives, the guessing begins. There are a bunch of Bulldogs who had very good, even spectacular, college careers, who may not even be drafted. Here’s a look at where Georgia players are being projected to go:
FIRST ROUND (THURSDAY)
Floyd: If ESPN’s NFL Nation is right, a long drought will be made on Thursday night. The network’s mock draft has Floyd going 10th overall to the New York Giants, who haven’t drafted a Georgia player since 1993 – when it picked Todd Peterson in the seventh round.
NFL.com has Floyd going 14th overall to the Oakland (for now) Raiders. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has Floyd going one spot later, to Jacksonville. There are plenty more mocks out there, but the consensus appears to have Floyd going anywhere from 10th (where Todd Gurley went last year) to 17th (where Jarvis Jones went three years ago.)
SECOND AND THIRD ROUNDS (FRIDAY)
OLB Jordan Jenkins – For three years Jenkins was Floyd’s partner on the edge rush, after serving as Jones’ understudy for one year. Like Floyd, Jenkins never put up huge sack numbers, which Georgia coaches blamed on attention from other blockers. He’s got good size – he played defensive line at times for Georgia – and there are no character questions. Quite the opposite, actually. So why isn’t Jenkins projected to go higher? (NFL.com projects Jenkins in the third round, 86th overall to Minnesota.)
“The biggest thing for me to overcome is my closing speed and being more fine-tuned with my pass rush,” Jenkins said last month at UGA’s pro day.
FOURTH THROUGH SEVENTH ROUNDS (SATURDAY)
WR Malcolm Mitchell – Mitchell did everything he could last year to restore his draft stock, playing every game, avoiding injury and showing the dynamic abilities that made him a tantalizing prospect as a freshman and sophomore. But he might have to wait until Saturday to hear his name called – NFL.com projects him to go in the fourth round, 137th overall to Green Bay – because of the injury history and his height (6-foot-1). His age has been brought up too, but Mitchell, who turns 24 in July, is only two months older than Floyd.
RB Keith Marshall – Four years ago Marshall was higher-rated than Gurley, according to many (but not all) recruiting analysts. A couple knee injuries later, Marshall was an afterthought for the draft until his NFL combine performance in February, when he showed just how healthy he is. He’s projected as a fifth-rounder by NFL.com, 197th overall. Whether he could go higher or lower is immaterial; Marshall just needs to get in the right situation and get a chance, as history has shown that tailbacks can have productive NFL careers whether they’re picked in the first round (like Gurley) or undrafted (Isaiah Crowell).
OT John Theus – The former five-star recruit and four-year starter doesn’t actually appear on NFL.com’s seven round mock draft, which on its face is either an oversight or just hard to believe. But Theus’ stock does appear to have fallen, with an anonymous AFC personnel director telling NFL.com that Theus’ “skill level is just fine, but he’s extremely weak with no edge strength to help widen the pocket. He’s not soft, he just isn’t strong.” Maybe, but if some team gets an SEC four-year starting offensive tackle either late in the draft or as a free agent, they’re getting quite the flyer.
LATER ROUNDS/FREE AGENT
ILB Jake Ganus – Georgia’s official team MVP and leader in tackles last year realized how much he would still have to prove himself when he didn’t get an NFL combine invite. He had to do that after transferring from UAB last year, so he’s ready.
“There’s guys that can run a 4.4 and all that kind of stuff, and I’m not that guy. I’m just a guy that makes plays,” Ganus said last month. “I can run the defense, and I can be the leader in the locker room. I can do those kinds of things for a team. Coaches know that. All I need is one team to find that valuable enough to take me.”
DT Chris Mayes and DL Sterling Bailey – Mayes and Bailey did yeoman’s work the past few years, clogging the middle in Georgia’s mostly 3-4 scheme, while not racking up big stats in the process. They’ll hope some teams like their film enough.
FB Quayvon Hicks – File this under “you never know.” Hicks was one of eight Bulldogs invited to the NFL combine, and while he was second string for much of his junior and seniors seasons, he always has had a tantalizing combination of size and athleticism.
TE Jay Rome – Another former five-star recruit who had a solid career, and who is leaving UGA with a degree, Rome trained in Denver for the draft, and is hoping that pays off.