Metrics: Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, receiver George Pickens top freshmen at respective positions
ATHENS — Georgia football recruiting is as good as it gets on the front end, as evidenced by the most recent No. 1-ranked signing class.
And, it turns out, the Bulldogs’ freshmen impact players in 2019 were also among the best in the nation.
ESPN used Pro Football Focus (PFF), which grades and rates individual players at the NFL and FBS levels, to rank the Top 10 true freshman classes of 2019 and UGA came in at No. 3.
The Bulldogs’ 2019 Class was ranked No. 2 by the 247Sports Composite after signing day.
The ESPN rankings, however, take into account how the freshman actually performed on the field.
The findings in the pay site article were revealing. Some Georgia players graded higher than some might expect, and others didn’t measure out as high, per PFF.
LSU had the No. 1-graded freshman class, led by FWAA Freshman All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. North Carolina was No. 2 led by FWAA Freshman All-American quarterback Sam Howell.
The Bulldogs came in at No. 3, with receiver George Pickens leading the way to no one’s surprise.
Georgia fans knew early on Pickens was pretty good, from their own observations and a leaked practice picture.
After the season, former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda revealed the Tigers’ special “Pickens Plan,” and Stingley sang his praises.
Now more scientific proof via PFF: Pickens was the top-rated true freshman receiver, one of 10 receivers in the nation not to “drop catchable target beyond the first down marker,” per the ESPN article. PFF ranked him the 19th-best receiver in the nation, overall.
Dominick Blaylock, who had 18 catches for 310 yards, was also among the top 10-rated true freshmen receivers before suffering his season-ending knee injury.
Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean was also the top-rated true freshman at his position, and the article says “it wasn’t close.”
Kirby Smart used Dean almost exclusively on third downs, and with good reason. Dean allowed just five of 14 targets to be caught, and he had two pass break-ups.
It’s all the more impressive when one considers Dean didn’t feel completely over his high ankle sprain until October.
Nolan Smith came to Georgia in the 2019 class as the No. 1 overall-rated recruit in the country.
Smith had a good season, per PFF metrics, but not as dominant as maybe some expected. Smith was on the field for the second-most snaps (287) among the Bulldogs’ true freshmen in 2019, but he ranked only “slightly above average” as a pass rusher, per the ESPN article.