Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep takes a good look at the NFL draft record for Kirby Smart’s classes in Athens. We’ve now seen 44 players develop at UGA into a selection in the NFL Draft. That figure is just after his first five classes with the Bulldogs. For clarification, we used the 247Sports Composite rankings for this research.
Kirby Smart took the Georgia football job back on December 6, 2015. Then he went to work. That work started on the recruiting trail.
Smart has long maintained he doesn’t pay attention to where his future Bulldogs are ranked.
Or what number they are rated nationally at their respective positions.
What he does pay attention to is how they develop. How they develop as young men and future citizens, fathers and husbands. He also looks back after three, four, five or six years to see how many end up shaking Roger Goddell’s hand and getting drafted.
As for that last part, his ‘Dawgs have been stacking it up lately. Since the 2019 NFL Draft, Alabama has seen 46 of its players drafted. The ‘Dawgs have now celebrated 48 of their own picked during that same period, including 25 over the last two years. Alabama still holds an 18-12 edge over Georgia in terms of overall first-round picks during that span.
When a program is now sending more players to the NFL than Saban’s dynasty, that is the mountaintop.
How many of those were brought in by Smart? That’s a good topic.
Georgia signed 21 players in Smart’s first class and the program hasn’t looked back since. A deep scan of every one of Kirby Smart’s classes reveals that UGA has had 44 players drafted that signed and remained in Athens to develop until declaring for the NFL Draft.
That figure does not include upper-echelon players like Justin Fields (Ohio State), Jermaine Johnson (FSU) and Tyrique Stephenson (Miami) that were drafted after finishing their college years with another program.
With the 2023 NFL Draft in the books, let’s take a good look at that sterling track record so far. The 2021 UGA signing class is not yet draft-eligible so this walkthrough will only go through the 2020 signing cycle.
Did you know that 39 of the 94 prospects that signed to play for Smart from 2016 to 2020 were drafted after finishing their careers in Georgia? That’s 41 percent of the prospects that signed dreaming they would reach the NFL coming out of the program.
That figure is also weighed down by the many transfers that affect every major college program. It is also influenced by a program that finishes with one of the nation’s top three recruiting classes on an annual basis. That now leads to the Bulldogs dealing with double-digit transfers after every season.
It is very hard to play at UGA and there have been a lot of cases over the years in which talented players leave the program to find more immediate playing time elsewhere.
According to those averages, we can expect to see 12 of the 29 signees from the 2023 class reach the NFL coming out of Athens. That was the average over Smart’s first five classes in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. That figure does include the three transfer portal signees in 2023.
To place that figure in the proper context, the SEC just saw its 14 member schools produce 62 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. That’s an average of just 4.4 selections per SEC program. Georgia’s sending guys to the NFL at a rate that’s three times higher than the SEC average per school in each draft.
Smart’s program also signed 22 prospects with a 5-star ranking from 2016 to 2020. Georgia has seen 16 of those elite signees go on to become NFL draft picks.
Yet for every Jalen Carter, Broderick Jones or Nolan Smith, there has also been a yearly Jordan Davis or Eric Stokes case. That’s where Georgia’s player development takes that 3-star and turns them into a first-round NFL Draft pick.
Let’s take a look at Smart’s classes year-by-year:
Final class ranking: 8
Total players drafted/signed: 7/21
5-stars drafted/signed: 2/3
First-round picks: None
Three-and-out signees: 0
Offensive players drafted: 7
5-star WR Mecole Hardman (2nd round - Kansas City in 2019); 4-star OG Ben Cleveland (3rd round- Baltimore in 2021); 4-star WR Riley Ridley (4th round - Chicago in 2019); 3-star OG Solomon Kindley (4th round - Miami in 2020); 4-star TE Charlie Woerner (6th round - San Francisco in 2020); 5-star TE Isaac Nauta (7th round - Detroit in 2019); 4-star JUCO WR Javon Wims (7th round in 2018)
Defensive players drafted: 0
Percentage of top 10 signees developed and drafted: 30 percent
Key transfers out: 5-star QB Jacob Eason (4th round pick out of Washington in 2020)
Key misses: Nauta, a former top 15 overall recruit, lasted until the seventh round after a solid yet unspectacular UGA career. That was low, but the ‘Dawgs did not utilize the TE spot the way they do now. Former top 100 DL prospect Julian Rochester battled injuries during a long career at UGA and went undrafted.
Big developmental and evaluation sleeper: Former 3-star OL Solomon Kindley was a Sam Pittman special. He was rated as the nation’s No. 89 OG in his class and the No. 146 player in Florida that cycle. He went No. 111 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Key takeaways: Smart and his staff had basically two months to put together or retain this class. This group not seeing a defensive signee drafted is shocking compared to the rest of Smart’s time in Athens. I feel those two elements are connected as the ‘Dawgs had yet to establish their defensive reputation yet. That would change.
Final class ranking: 3
Total players drafted/signed: 11/25
5-stars drafted/signed: 3/3
First-round picks: 3 (2 offense, 1 defense)
Top 10 picks: 1 (OT Andrew Thomas)
Three-and-out signees: 4
Offensive players drafted: 5
4-star OT Andrew Thomas (1st round - New York Giants in 2020); 5-star OT Isaiah Wilson (1st round - Tennessee in 2020); 4-star RB D’Andre Swift (2nd round - Detroit in 2020); 4-star QB Jake Fromm (5th round - Buffalo Bills in 2020); 3-star OG Justin Shaffer (6th round - Atlanta in 2022).
Defensive players drafted: 6
3-star CB Eric Stokes, Jr. (1st round - Green Bay in 2021); 4-star LB Monty Rice (3rd round - Tennessee in 2021); 5-star S Richard LeCounte III (5th round - Cleveland in 2021); 4-star EDGE Robert Beal Jr. (5th round - San Francisco in 2023); 3-star CB Ameer Speed (6th round - New England in 2023); 4-star WR Mark Webb Jr. (7th round - San Diego in 2021).
Percentage of top 10 signees developed and drafted: 70 percent (Up 40 percent from 2016 class)
Key transfers: Former 4-star DB DeAngelo Gibbs is still in college football at South Carolina. He transferred from UGA to Tennessee and graduated there after a position switch to WR. He’s back playing DB for the Gamecocks as a grad transfer this fall. He was the nation’s No. 49 overall prospect.
Key misses: Gibbs would be included here. Former OG Netori Johnson was the nation’s No. 87 overall recruit but never make an impact in Athens. He transferred to Middle Tennessee. Former 4-star WR Jeremiah Holloman was a top 150 recruit. He was a very productive player during his time in Athens, but he was dismissed from the team due to an off-the-field incident.
Big developmental and evaluation sleeper: Former 3-star CB Eric Stokes was an in-state gem Georgia developed into a future first-round pick. He was rated as the nation’s No. 63 CB and the No. 669 overall prospect in 2017. Green Bay gleefully took him in the first round in 2021 with the 29th overall pick. Georgia also took WR prospect Mark Webb and developed him into an NFL safety in Athens.
Key takeaways: Things changed quickly with just one full cycle of recruiting on the job in Athens. The Bulldogs saw their top five signees eventually get drafted. They saw just three of their seven highest-rated signees get drafted from the 2016 class. The ‘Dawgs just saw two members of this class drafted over the 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.
Final class ranking: 1
Total players drafted/signed: 13/24
5-stars drafted/signed: 3/7
First-round picks: 3 (3 defense)
Top 10 picks: None
Three-and-out signees off to the NFL: 3
Offensive players drafted: 5
5-star RB Zamir White (4th round - Las Vegas in 2022); 5-star OG Jamaree Salyer (6th round - Los Angeles Chargers in 2022); 4-star RB James Cook (2nd round - Buffalo in 2022); 4-star OL Trey Hill (6th round - Cincinnati in 2021); 4-star TE John FitzPatrick (6th round in 2022)
Defensive players drafted: 7
3-star DT Jordan Davis (1st round - Philadelphia in 2022); 4-star LB Quay Walker (1st round - Green Bay in 2022); 4-star DT Devonte Wyatt (1st round - Green Bay in 2022); 5-star CB Tyson Campbell (2nd round - Jacksonville in 2021); 4-star LB Channing Tindall (3rd round in 2022); 4-star EDGE Azeez Ojulari (2nd round in 2021); 4-star CB Chris Smith (5th round in 2023)
Punter drafted: 1
3-star Jake Carmada (4th round - Tampa in 2022)
Percentage of top 10 signees developed and drafted: 50 percent (Down 20 percent from the 2017 class)
Key transfers: This was the year of transfers that sapped away which limited the future NFL draft potential of Georgia’s first No. 1 overall recruiting class. Justin Fields. Cade Mays. Brenton Cox. Luke Ford. Otis Reese. Those were all top 100 overall signees in the 2018 class.
Key misses: Former 5-star Adam Anderson is not so much a miss here, but an outlier. Anderson was a highly-productive player and a sure bet to be a top-20 overall pick in the 2022 draft. Yet his off-the-field troubles saw him dismissed from the Georgia program. Tommy Bush, the 16th-highest rated member of this signing class, is the first name that didn’t have a productive career somewhere in major college football. When that was the No. 196 overall recruit in the country, that says a lot about the talent evaluations here.
Big developmental and evaluation sleeper: Pick one. Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis were two of the six lowest-rated signees in Georgia’s 2018 class. They both turned out to be national champions and first-round NFL draft picks. Davis rightfully catches a lot of attention here as the No. 424 overall recruit in this class. Carmada, the lowest-rated signee in the class, was a rare punter draft pick among the first four rounds.
Key takeaways: This was the class that brought the first national championship to UGA in 41 years. There were a lot of talented players here that left UGA, but names like Carmada, Cook, Davis, Salyer, Smith, Tindall, Walker, White and Wyatt will never be forgotten in Athens. This signing class saw four of the top 10 signees transfer out and look what this group still accomplished.
Final class ranking: 2
Total players drafted/signed: 8/24
5-stars drafted/signed: 4/5
First-round picks: 3
Top 10 picks: 1 (5-star DT Travon Walker went No. 1 overall)
Three-and-out NFL draft picks: 4
Offensive players drafted: 4
5-star WR George Pickens (2nd round - Pittsburgh in 2022); 3-star QB Stetson Bennett IV (4th round - Los Angeles Rams in 2023); 4-star OL Warren McClendon (5th round - Los Angeles Rams in 2023); 4-star RB Kenny McIntosh (7th round - Seattle Seahawks in 2023)
Defensive players drafted: 4
5-star DT Travon Walker (1st round - Jacksonville in 2022); 5-star EDGE Nolan Smith (1st round - Philadelphia in 2023); 4-star S Lewis Cine (1st round - Minnesota in 2022); 5-star LB Nakobe Dean (3rd round - Philadelphia in 2022)
Percentage of top 10 signees developed and drafted: 50 percent (No change from the 2018 class)
Key transfers: Tyrique Stevenson, the nation’s No. 3 CB in 2019, was a top 40 overall recruit. He transferred to Miami prior to the 2021 season. He was selected in the second round by the Bears over the weekend. Jermaine Johnson, a future No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, transferred to FSU for the 2021 season.
Key misses: Georgia signed 5-star IOL Clay Webb out of Alabama here but he never cracked the two-deep in Athens. It was a rare evaluation miss, but everyone wanted him in this class. The tough luck of Dominick Blaylock also affects this 2019 class evaluation. He was the nation’s No. 36 overall recruit. But those two back-to-back knee injuries robbed him of his rare burst and elite change of direction ability.
Big developmental and evaluation sleeper: Have you heard of Stetson Bennett? The former walk-on signed as a 3-star recruit. He was the lowest-rated signee and went on to win the Offensive MVP honor in back-to-back national championship games. That had never been done before. Bennett cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players in UGA history and was just drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.
Key takeaways: We must also make note of the fact that two members of the 2019 class are still at UGA in Zion Logue and Tramel Walthour. There are also five members of the back-to-back national champions that just transferred out of UGA after the 2022 season.
*Editor’s note: We’re grading this class with an incomplete up to this point. There are still 12 members of this class expected to play key roles in the two-deep at UGA this fall.
Final class ranking:
Total players drafted/signed: 5/25*
Players on the 2023 team expected to be drafted: 10
5-stars drafted/signed: 4/4
First-round picks: 2
Top 10 picks: 1
Three-and-out NFL draftees: 4
Offensive players drafted: 3
5-star OT Broderick Jones (1st round - Pittsburgh in 2023); 5-star TE Darnell Washington (3rd round - Pittsburgh in 2023); 3-star transfer TE Tre’ McKitty (3rd round - Los Angeles Charters in 2021)
Defensive players drafted: 2
5-star DT Jalen Carter (1st round - Philadelphia in 2023); 5-star CB Kelee Ringo (4th round - Philadelphia in 2023)
Percentage of top 10 signees developed and drafted: Incomplete. We do see that four of the team’s top five signees in this class have already been developed and drafted by UGA.
Key transfers: Former 4-star WR Jermaine Burton was the nation’s No. 82 overall prospect in this class. He transferred to Alabama after the 2021 season and is still in Tuscaloosa. He was the 11th-highest-rated prospect in this class. Jalen Kimber, the next-highest-recruit in the class at No. 105 overall, also transferred to Florida after his second season in Athens. Former safety Major Burns, the No. 182 player in the country, also transferred to LSU after his second spring practice in Athens.
Key misses: We find ourselves going back to the recruitment of Mekhail Sherman a lot. The ‘Dawgs were absolutely loaded at EDGE in 2020 with Adam Anderson, Nolan Smith, Jermaine Johnson and Azeez Ojulari. They only had room for one OLB in this class. Sherman was as good a pick as any. Especially prior to the knee injury that cost him his junior season. A lot of revisionist history shows up here with the rise of 5-star Georgia product Will Anderson and another highly-touted EDGE in B.J. Ojulari. Ojulari also left the state to go to LSU. That said, when Sherman chose UGA in May of 2019 it was a significant recruiting win for the ‘Dawgs. His national rankings slid after a so-so senior year coming back from that knee injury, but he was still the nation’s No. 33 prospect. He still ranked some 50 slots ahead of Ojulari and Anderson only rose higher than he was after a late senior-year bump.
Big developmental and evaluation sleeper: Former 3-star WR Ladd McConkey will get drafted in 2024, but he really stands out in this category. He was the nation’s No. 169 WR prospect and the No. 121 player in the state of Georgia coming out in 2020. McConkey should hear his name called in the third or fourth round next year. Especially after he runs at the NFL Combine.
Key takeaways: Watch for former 4-star QB Carson Beck here. He is the prototype for an NFL QB. If he has a strong 2023 season taking advantage of all the weapons the ‘Dawgs have at receiver, he can very well be a first-round pick. The curious slide of Darnell Washington to the third round will limit the overall draft performance of this class. The same goes for the position fit at the NFL level that caused former 5-star Kelee Ringo to slide to the fourth round.
(check on the recent reads on DawgNation.com)
- Cover 4 on Georgia football: Which 2023 draft pick goes on to the best NFL career?
- 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