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Why the NFL draft plays a huge role in national recruiting for Georgia football
Kirby Smart is pretty clearly one of the best recruiters in the country. He’s the only coach in the country to string together a top-3 recruiting class in each of the past four recruiting cycles. No school has signed more 5-star prospects in that span.
The last two classes for Georgia have also seen a greater reliance on out-of-state talent. Georgia has brought in less than 10 in-state products in each of the previous two classes. For some programs, this seems less than ideal. But because Smart has the ability to go into every home in the country and show what Georgia can offer, he has an advantage that not every school does.
If you’ve been paying attention to the Georgia football twitter account this week, you’ve probably noticed one of those weapons that Smart is able to use when he and his staff dispatch across the country for talent.
It’s Georgia’s extensive success with producing NFL talent. The graphic department has put out a number of informational graphics that show every Georgia player ever taken in the NFL draft.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 22, 2020
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 21, 2020
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 21, 2020
Now, no recruit is picking a school because Jiggy Smaha was taken in the 14th round of the 1969 NFL Draft. But there’s been enough recent success between Roquan Smith, Deandre Baker, Nick Chubb and others where that might have a recruit take notice of how Georgia is able to develop them.
And while having more players taken in the later rounds helps as well, nothing grabs the attention of a prospect like having a player that attended school X get their name called on the opening night of the NFL draft.
It helps Smart and his staff that he can point to Deandre Baker — a 3-star prospect in the 2015 signing class — as the first cornerback taken in last year’s NFL draft. Landing 5-star prospect Nakobe Dean was likely aided by the fact that Smart and Dan Lanning could use Smith as a possible development track.
For as much as Georgia fans love to rave about the running back history of Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst and even Knoshown Moreno, the recent developments with Gurley, Chubb and Michel play a very important role in continuing Georgia’s pipeline of elite running backs.
The Bulldogs are certainly going to have at least one player drafted on Thursday night, as most see Andrew Thomas as a top-15 pick. Thomas arrived at Georgia as a 4-star recruit, started immediately at right tackle, then manned the left tackle spot for the next two years, all at a high level. That’s another success story for Smart and the Georgia program.
Thomas might not be the only offensive tackle drafted in the first round though. There’s been a solid amount of buzz that he could be joined at the end of the first round by Isaiah Wilson. While some were surprised by Wilson’s decision to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, NFL teams have become enamored with the massive tackle.
Imagine you’re Matt Luke and you’re armed with having two first-round offensive tackles as you walk into a living room — in say Cochran, Ga., hypothetically. That has to get the attention of a whole lot of offensive linemen across the country.
There’s D’Andre Swift, who is seen as the top running back prospect in the draft. He’s been mentioned as a first-round pick as well, though many draft analysts see him as a better player than his likely draft slot will give him credit for. Swift is yet another great story that Dell McGee can tell recruits when he’s out looking for the next great Georgia running back.
A year ago, Baker became Smart’s first defensive back in his time at Georgia to go in the first round. That had to help in the recruitment of Kelee Ringo, the No. 1 ranked defensive back in the country for the 2020 signing class.
Now, Georgia still has some work to do at some positions, as the defensive line and wide receivers come to mind. It does help to have George Pickens and Travon Walker in the pipeline, but Georgia needs to churn out elite prospects at the same level they do at running back and linebacker.
This is all cyclical. You bring in elite recruits, you turn them into high draft picks and then elite recruits pick your school because of your draft track-record. This is how the Alabama dynasty was built under Nick Saban. Eventually, it just starts running itself.
And if you’re producing enough first-round picks, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve gotten a national title out of them. The SEC Network posted a graphic of which schools produced the most first-round picks in a single year.
Alabama would be the first team in SEC history to have 5 players drafted in the first round. pic.twitter.com/U4os0PaLQd
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 23, 2020
What all those five schools listed above have in common is that the players in those classes at some point won a national title during their careers. There’s a chance Alabama could join them this year, and Georgia fans know all too well the role Tua Tagovailoa played on a national championship team.
If Smart and his assistants continue to develop and recruit at an elite level, Georgia will continue to produce elite NFL draft prospects. And in doing so, Georgia will continue to attract the best talent in the country, from Fresno, Calif., to Miami and everywhere in between.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Korey Foreman de-commitment another example that even the big boys suffer de-commitments
- WATCH: SEC Network anchor explains why Kirby Smart will win multiple national championships
- Former Tennessee rival tells tale of Jake Fromm’s leadership at Georgia
- Elijah Jeudy: The 5 things you haven’t read yet about the newest Georgia commit
- WATCH: Georgia OT and projected first-round pick Andrew Thomas showcases piano skills
- Georgia football podcast: Here’s why Monty Rice might be ‘special’ LB for UGA
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— B/R Kicks (@brkicks) April 21, 2020
2020 😤 pic.twitter.com/BJxhhZ9SPa
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— Rae Elle (@RaeElle) April 22, 2020