ATHENS – There’s a narrative about UGA and the NFL draft that this year that formed long ago, and will be repeated often as the next few days unfold: The paucity of Georgia players being selected is another reminder on the talent base that resulted in an 8-5 season.
There’s some truth to it. But it’s also not that simple.
Isaiah McKenzie, the team’s leading receiver last year and Georgia’s career punt return touchdown leader, is the closest there is to a certain draft pick. The projections for the 5-foot-7 McKenzie veer from being picked sometime Friday (when the second and third rounds are held) to sweating it out on Saturday.
After that, there is a group of players hoping to be drafted, with the most realistic scenario being the latter three rounds: Defensive backs Maurice Smith and Quincy Mauger and offensive linemen Greg Pyke and Tyler Catalina.
There were only two Georgia players selected in the 2014 draft, which came after the team’s previous 8-5 season. There were also only two selected in 2000 and 1991.
The last time Georgia had one or zero players drafted was 1992, when none were selected.
Who knows, perhaps the number of Georgia players drafted will surprise people, with teams grabbing Smith, Catalina or others in the late rounds. But what is obvious is this is not a banner year for Georgia and the draft, as the relatively subdued pro day in March showed.
Yes, there’s a connection between that and the team’s record last year. But there are other factors worth pointing out:
The Chubb and Michel factor
Star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel stunned many by returning for their senior years. While they weren’t guaranteed to be high draft picks, they would have been picked. The same probably goes for outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, and safety Dominick Sanders.
That’s five players who would have pushed Georgia’s draft number much higher this year, with several potentially going in the high rounds.
The former Georgia players
There are also other players who could be drafted who started their careers at Georgia:
Safety-outside linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemson, who started almost every game as a sophomore in 2013, then was dismissed from the team. He ended up at Louisville.
Cornerback Brendan Langley left the team after losing his starting spot during the 2014 season. Langley ended up at Lamar, an FCS program, and has a chance of hearing his name called on Saturday.
Then there’s the controversial Jonathan Taylor, whose career at Georgia was derailed by his 2014 domestic violence arrest. He ended up at Alabama, where he was also accused of domestic violence, then landed at a Division II school. Taylor almost certainly would be drafted somewhere if it weren’t for his track record, but someone may take a flyer anyway.
Wait until next year
The most Georgia players to ever be picked in a draft is eight, which happened in 2013 and 2002. That record could be threatened next year.
There are the five previously-mentioned players who passed on this year’s draft: Chubb, Michel, Carter, Bellamy and Carter.
Several other rising seniors could play their way into next year’s draft: Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, cornerback Malkom Parrish and nose tackle John Atkins, as well as some others.
There are also a number of talented players who will be draft eligible in 2018: Defensive linemen Jonathan Ledbetter, Trent Thompson and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick.
Those are all players that were around this past season. So perhaps it should be yet another reminder that the issue last year wasn’t talent. It was not having enough experienced talent.