Georgia football recruiting: 2023 NFL Draft shows it takes more than 5-star talent to go early
Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep shares another look at the 2023 NFL Draft. Getting rated as a 5-star isn’t always the yellow brick road to shaking Roger Goddell’s hand in the first round.
While glued to the NFL Draft over the weekend, there were a lot of names called.
They called the ‘Dawgs a lot. Like how DawgNation does on gameday. Or any time fans get together.
It led to the publication of a deep dive into Kirby Smart’s recruiting classes and what the NFL thought of their development during their time at UGA.
Georgia has seen 41 percent of signees from 2016-2019 get drafted by the NFL. That’s the most recent sample data. It is too early to judge the 2020 or 2021 classes because most of those players are still in college football.
With this year’s draft, there were a few eye-opening picks. Not just the ones the Atlanta Falcons did not make.
Why did former 5-star CB Kelee Ringo fall to the fourth round? He has sprinter speed, ideal length and was the nation’s No. 1 CB in high school. Yet we saw the same scouting thoughts pop up that have stayed with Ringo. Despite breathtaking 4.3 speed in the 40, he can look stiff at times. The way he moves and flips his hips lend itself more to playing safety on Sundays than as a pure cornerback.
We’ve heard that for years. Ringo still held down cornerback for the back-to-back national champions and made a few immortal plays in UGA history as he did.
The same head-scratchers followed the slide of former 5-star Darnell Washington to the third round. What happened there? Was it injuries? Not enough tape as a primary passing threat?
As a reminder here, the national recruiting services rank players based on a professional projection. They rank those 5-star guys based on the likelihood to project as future NFL first-round draft picks.
It is a lot harder than it looks. There is more to it than signing a 5-star and then watching them go in the first round in three or four years. Broderick Jones was an obvious 5-star eval, but so was Washington. There was not a more physically imposing tight end in this draft. Especially not with the short-space quickness that belongs to a first-round receiver.
Let’s think about Stetson Bennett. The former walk-on and then former 3-star JUCO transfer to UGA went in the fourth round. That’s higher than a lot of names that used to show up high on the national rankings.
Here’s a list of some very big names that goes to show that developing NFL talent isn’t so simple as signing the recruit that everyone was after.
You’ll remember a lot of the names below from DawgNation’s recruiting coverage over the last few years. Nobody saw this coming when they were high school All-Americans three or four years ago.
Check it out:
- Former 5-star DE Brenton Cox: Undrafted (Nation’s No. 23 overall prospect in 2018)
- Former 5-star WR Jadon Haselwood: Undrafted (Nation’s No. 1 WR and No. 4 overall in 2019)
- Former 5-star CB Elias Ricks: Undrafted (Nation’s No. 2 CB and No. 14 overall in 2020)
- Former 4-star DT Nesta Silvera: Seventh round (Nation’s No. 2 DT and No. 54 overall in 2018)
- Former 4-star QB Max Duggan: Seventh round (Heisman finalist)
- Former 5-star WR Kayshon Boutte: Sixth round (Nation’s No. 2 WR and No. 24 overall in 2020)
- Former 5-star RB Zach Evans: Sixth round (Nation’s No. 2 RB and No. 16 overall in 2020)
- Former 5-star EDGE KJ Henry: Fifth round (Nation’s No. 2 EDGE and No. 14 overall in 2018)
- Former 4-star QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: Fifth round (No. 2 QB and No. 36 overall in 2018)
- Former 4-star DT Jaquelin Roy: Fifth round (Nation’s No. 41 overall prospect in 2020)
- Former 5-star ILB Noah Sewell: Fifth round (Nation’s No. 13 overall prospect in 2020)
- Former 5-star WR Justin Shorter: Fifth round (Nation’s No. 1 WR and No. 8 overall in 2018)
- Former 4-star LB Henry To’o To’o: Fifth round (Nation’s No. 44 overall prospect in 2019)
- Former 5-star LB Owen Pappoe: Fifth round (Nation’s No. 1 OLB and No. 25 overall in 2019)
- Former 5-star DT Zacch Pickens: Third round (Nation’s No. 1 DT and No. 8 overall in 2019)
- Former 5-star DE Zach Harrison: Third round (Nation’s No. 2 DE and No. 12 overall in 2019)
- Former 5-star LB Trenton Simpson: Third round (Nation’s No. 1 LB and No. 26 overall in 2020)
- Former 4-star RB Tank Bigsby: Third round (Nation’s No. 40 overall recruit in 2020)
- Former 5-star OT Wanya Morris: Third round (Nation’s No. 6 OT and No. 28 overall in 2020)
For those that follow recruiting closely, there are a lot of jaw-droppers there and a couple of position groups that stand out.
Take a look at the RBs in the class of 2020. The top-rated RB, Bijan Robinson, was the first RB off the board at No. 8 overall by the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons did make a good pick this year even if that’s very high for a RB these days.
But look at the rest of the top backs. Zach Evans, a name Georgia fans will know, fell to the sixth round. Demarkcus Bowman, the No. 3 RB that year, has bounced from Clemson to Florida to UCF and has yet to score a college touchdown.
Tank Bigbsby was the No. 4 RB that cycle. He was taken in the third round after a solid career at Auburn. The third round isn’t necessarily a slide for a back like Bigsby, but it does continue the pattern. The NFL looks at the running back position differently unless you are a truly elite talent like Robinson, Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey.
Marshawn Lloyd was the No. 5 RB in 2020. He has 801 yards and 10 touchdowns in 20 games at South Carolina. He’s still in Columbia.
Jase McClellan was the next back on the rankings. He has 1,096 yards and 10 scores in his three seasons at Alabama. He will also be back in Tuscaloosa this fall.
DawgNation knows all about Kendall Milton. He was the No. 7 back nationally in the final rankings. That was a curious final HS ranking, but he had a robust 7.0 yards per carry and eight touchdowns last fall. This should be his year provided he avoids the injuries that have kept him out of games in his Bulldog career.
Yet we also saw Georgia native Jahmyr Gibbs come off the board with the No. 12 pick in the first round on Thursday. He was rated the No. 8 back in the country for 2020.
That’s not just a tough evaluation for the running backs. Former 5-star LB Noah Sewell was the No. 2 LB in the nation back in 2020. He was taken in the fifth round. Trenton Simpson was the No. 1 OLB in the nation that same cycle and Clemson developed him into a third-round selection. Former Georgia Bulldog Mekhail Sherman was the No. 2 OLB for that class and he just transferred to Nebraska to get more first-team reps.
Owen Pappoe, the nation’s No. 1 LB for the class of 2019, was taken by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round.
Clemson’s KJ Henry was the No. 3 weak-side DE back in 2018. He was right behind NFL Pro Bowler Micah Parsons, but he heard his name called in the fifth round over the weekend.
It happens every year, but there just seemed to be a lot more big names this year. There are a lot of reasons. Sometimes it boils down to each individual team’s needs or a draft strategy to just take the best player available.
Medical reports can also cause a slide. When it is close, sometimes a less productive player gets taken when they have simply shown the ability to suit up for every game. Talent isn’t always the main thing.
We saw that with both Ringo and Washington last weekend.
Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with key 2024 prospects like Daniel Calhoun, Dwight Phillips Jr., Dylan Raiola and Sacovie White.
(check on the recent reads on DawgNation.com)
- Drew Miller: The nation’s top punter now has a UGA offer and a couple of ties to the ‘Dawgs
- Georgia football: The NFL draft record for Kirby Smart’s recruiting classes is now on the mountaintop
- Cover 4 on Georgia football: Can the 2023 team really be the best one yet for Kirby Smart?
- Cover 4 on Georgia football: The big takeaways from G-Day that will last until fall camp
- Next Generation: Look for legacy TE Pearce Spurlin III when he returns in the fall
- KJ Bolden: 5-star priority 2024 target says UGA will “definitely” get an official visit
- BREAKING: 5-star TE prospect Landen Thomas flips his UGA commitment to FSU
- Georgia football recruiting: KJ Bolden leads a parade of headliners on G-Day visit list
- Next Generation: The Lawson Luckie family story will make one want to be a No. 7 jersey
- Ryan Puglisi: Longtime 4-star QB doubles down on his pledge to play for UGA
- BREAKING: Nitro Tuggle commitment means it is now “Showtime” in Athens
- Marquis Easley: Why “Big EZ” could be a bully on the line for the ‘Dawgs
- Big commitment from 5-star TE Elyiss Williams is another mic drop for Todd Hartley
- Eddrick Houston: 5-star in-state priority DL target has set his commitment date
- Fletcher Westphal: The 6-foot-8 OT with a 17-step spreadsheet to help him choose the right school
- Micah Debose: Anchor 2025 OL commitment has a reaffirming visit to check out UGA
- Dwight Phillips Jr: The electrifying RB commitment is now one of the fastest high school sprinters in America
- David Sanders Jr: Nation’s No. 1 junior prospect recaps weekend visit where he felt “loved and honored” by Georgia football
- Dylan Raiola: How Georgia football continues to ‘deliver’ in the recruiting of the nation’s No. 1 prospect