Come a long way, with a long way to go

Outside of being happy for those kids who get to chase their dreams further, the NFL draft holds little interest to me, other than what it has to say about the state of the Georgia program.  In that light, here’s an interesting note.

In Smart’s first year at UGA, Isaiah McKenzie was the only player drafted and he was taken in the fifth round. The next year, UGA had six players were taken overall and four inside the top 35 picks. A year later, seven Bulldogs heard their name called and two more key position players, Elijah Holyfield and Jonathan Ledbetter, signed free-agent deals soon after it was over.

Of the 14 players drafted since Smart has become Georgia’s head coach, only four of them are guys he signed. Mecole Hardman Jr. went the highest of those players, as he was taken No. 56 overall by Kansas City this year. Riley Ridley is next and was a fourth-round selection. Javon Wims and Isaac Nauta were seventh-round selections and Holyfield went undrafted.

That makes 10 players recruited and signed by the previous staff that were developed into NFL Draft picks and four of them were first-rounders — Roquan Smith, Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel, and Deandre Baker. Wynn, Baker, and Smith blossomed under the new staff. Michel and Nick Chubb, who was selected No. 35 overall in 2018, were known commodities but bought into Smart’s vision for the program and hung around an extra year, dramatically improving their draft stock. It’s safe to say that all 14, especially the ones drafted highest, benefited greatly from learning under the UGA staff.

Richt recruited well, just not as well as Smart has.  But there’s definitely an argument to be made that Smart’s doing a better job with player development, too.  Both make for a terrific sales pitch on the recruiting trail, and it would seem to be a message that resonates with high level recruits.

That being said, context is important.  This is the mountain Georgia still has to climb.


Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting, The NFL Is Your Friend.

13 responses to “Come a long way, with a long way to go

  1. Doug

    Tough weekend for the Georgia players who chose to jump to the draft early—Riley Ridley in the fourth round; Isaac Nauta and Javon Wims in the seventh; Elijah Holyfield (shockingly, to me at least) a UFA. Meanwhile, Deandre Baker surprises people by sticking around for his senior year, and he goes in the first round. Going forward, do you think this makes it easier for Kirby to convince guys to stick around? Or is even a baseline NFL paycheck, combined with fears of potentially career-derailing injuries, still enough to convince them to take the money and run?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gaskilldawg

      Javon Wims finished his eligibility in 2017 and went to Chicago in the 2018 draft.
      Were you thinking of Terry Godwin, who was drafted in the 7th round of the 2019 draft? Contrary to your theory Godwin played all 4 years at UGA.


  2. Mikey

    I disagree Couch Richt but a shit load in the NFL you can’t deny that


  3. Mikey

    Look back over the years all the players and don’t forget Coach Donnan teams all those players. Shit load of talent that went to NFL


  4. GruvenDawg

    The cupboard is stocked now. We definitely break the UGA draft record next year if several of the Juniors go early. Double edged sword, as a fan I want them to stay to get a NC this year or next, but early round draft stock is going to be hard to pass up and can’t say I blame them


  5. Macallanlover

    Not an NFL guy but it seems Nauta and Holyfield made an error in their timing. My opinion is Holyfield s an error by the NFL gurus, cannot believe the number of running backs taken and he wasn’t well up the list. I have read all the comments about his 40 times at the combine, and admit he won’t give you the 50+ yard threat against NFL speed but damn, you only get 2-3 of those year from anyone. He will get you 6-15 several times, and that is what makes a runner effective to me. Believe he will get get a job, physical runner who can hold onto to the ball, and no history of injury.

    I was surprised at Mecole’s draft success. I understand his speed and return ability, that certainly gives him value, but it was just two years ago he was about to lose his receiving opportunities in the first half of the season due to drops when wide open. Kudos for him to turning that around so quickly.

    Wish success to all of them. But I remain more concerned about the 2019 Georgia success. On rainy and cold Sundays I hope to see them show out.


  6. Bulldog Joe

    In the NFL, performance on combine weekend usually outweighs a career of performance in college.

    Combine numbers are a convenient CYA metric for NFL decision makers.


  7. ASEF

    Nauta surprised me in his combine numbers. Lifted like a receiving tight end, ran like a blocking tight end. Not good.

    Mullen’s Miss St team produced better draft numbers. And he will be all over that in recruiting heading into the next cycle.

    Liked by 2 people