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Post Decent – not great – draft for Georgia

Tuesday April 28, 2020

This year’s unusual NFL Draft was a welcome gulp of water while we are parched for live sports. It was hardly a return to normalcy, but it did give us a reason to look ahead to a time when sports and football would be back. I kind of liked the virtual format. Seeing all of the prospects in their homes surrounded by family gave the event a more raw and humanizing touch relative to the slick production the league had prepared in Las Vegas.

The Bulldogs had seven players drafted including two first-rounders. The seven players selected matched 2019’s total, and Georgia had one more player selected in the first three rounds this year than a year ago. Georgia’s draft showing could be called…fine.

A second straight season with seven draft picks seems like good news, but at the same time expectations might have been a little higher. The hype factory at the AJC speculated about a record draft, tying or surpassing the program-best eight picks. Instead it was a tough night for some of Georgia’s higher-profile draft entrants. Jake Fromm slid from high-round projections to the fifth round. He won’t be a lock to make the Buffalo squad. The lack of scouting opportunities outside of the combine due to the pandemic surely hurt Fromm as well as injured players like Lawrence Cager. Fan favorite and Lou Groza award winner Rodrigo Blankenship seemed like a lock to sneak into the late rounds, but he remained undrafted as other specialists came off the board. Defensive leader J.R. Reed also went undrafted.

Georgia’s defense might have relished the “no-name” label applied to the squad that led the nation despite no superstar standouts, but that anonymity also continued into the draft. Tae Crowder, selected with the draft’s final pick, was the only member of the productive defense to be drafted. In fact, let this sink in: Georgia has had more offensive linemen (4) drafted in the past two seasons than defensive players (3).

(How fantastic and improbable was it to see Crowder drafted? He was a converted tailback best known for his recovery of a squib kick in the Rose Bowl, earned a starting job at inside linebacker, and held off several 4* and 5* prospects as he became a Butkus Award semifinalist. Now he’s the only player drafted from the nation’s top defense. Kindley is a similar story. He didn’t switch positions, but as Georgia got better and better at recruiting offensive linemen, it was always assumed that the 3* Kindley would give way. He didn’t, and his left guard spot was one of the more stable positions on the offensive line.)

If there was a sure winner based on Georgia’s 2020 draft results, it was someone no longer associated with the program: three of Sam Pittman’s offensive linemen were among Georgia’s draft crop. Four of the five starting offensive linemen on the 2018 team have been drafted. That’s a testament to what everyone saw with their own eyes: Pittman was able to harness the resources available at Georgia to elevate the program’s offensive line recruiting. Kirby Smart identified that as a need from his opening press conferences, and the draft results speak to Pittman’s and Smart’s success. It also sets a bar going forward for Matt Luke.

When a program leans as heavily as Georgia does on its production of NFL players as a selling point for recruiting, the draft is the scoreboard. Numbers will be scrutinized especially relative to Georgia’s peers. National champion LSU had a record-tying 14 picks. Alabama, after a “disappointing” season that left them out of the playoff, produced nine picks – all in the first three rounds. Georgia’s seven selections placed fifth among all schools, tied with Clemson, Florida, and Utah.

The drafts of the past two seasons saw a large drain of talent from the offense at all positions. The pendulum should swing back towards the other side of the ball in 2021 as the offense retools and younger players from the 2018 and 2019 defenses become draft-eligible. Georgia has had three consecutive recruiting classes rated #1 by Rivals, and they’ll begin to become draft-eligible in 2021. Fans expect to see that influx of talent pay off in wins and titles, but it’s also important for Kirby Smart to see those top-rated classes turn into not just draft picks but *high* draft picks.

Georgia’s 2020 NFL Draft Picks

  • Andrew Thomas (1st – NY Giants)
  • Isaiah Wilson (1st – Tennessee)
  • D’Andre Swift (2nd – Detroit)
  • Solomon Kindley (4th – Miami)
  • Jake Fromm (5th – Buffalo)
  • Charlie Woerner (6th – San Francisco)
  • Tae Crowder (7th – NY Giants)

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