Twenty-one former Georgia high school football players were taken in the NFL Draft last week, the third-most all-time, and former Pace Academy tackle Andrew Thomas became the highest draft pick from the state since Cam Newton in 2011.
The 21 Georgians drafted represent a big increase from Georgia’s hauls in 2019 (14) and 2018 (12), though short of the record 30 from 2015.
Georgia has averaged 19.1 players taken in the draft since 2011. Georgia averaged only 13.6 players drafted in 2001-2010 and 12.0 in 1991-2000.
Georgia’s 21 this year rank fourth among states behind Texas (33), California (23) and Florida (22). The next-closest is Louisiana with 12, according to High School Football America. (Four of Florida’s 22 are out-of-state players from IMG Academy, a boarding school.)
Thomas, a University of Georgia All-American, was the first state player taken this year at No. 4 overall by the New York Giants. No Georgia player had gone higher since Newton from Westlake went No. 1 overall in 2011.
Thomas also is the highest Georgia offensive lineman ever taken. Antone Davis of Peach County in 1991, Royce Smith of Groves in 1972 and Ken Rice of Bainbridge in 1961 all went No. 8 overall.
Thomas’ alma mater, Pace, is the only Georgia school that had more than one player taken this year. Place-kicker Sam Sloman of Miami (Ohio) went in the seventh round to the Los Angeles Rams. Sloman and Thomas were first-team all-state players on Pace’s 2015 Class AA championship team.
For the fifth time, two state players were taken among the first 10 picks. After Thomas at No. 4 came defensive tackle Derrick Brown at No. 7. Brown was the AJC’s 2015 all-classification player of the year while at Lanier High and went on to become an All-American at Auburn.
Two Georgians in the top 10 also occurred in 2018 (No. 5 Bradley Chubb of Hillgrove and No. 8 Roquan Smith of Macon County); in 2005 (No. 2 Ronnie Brown of Cartersville, No. 6 Adam Jones of Westlake and No. 9 Carlos Rogers of Butler); in 1993 (No. 3 Garrison Hearst of Lincoln County and No. 6 Eric Curry of Thomasville); and in 1982 (No. 3 Chip Banks of Laney and No. 6 Jeff Bryant of Gordon).
Brown was one of five Georgia players who became the first from their schools to be drafted. The others were Kyle Dugger of Whitewater, Antonio Gibson of Eagle’s Landing, Antonio Gandy-Golden of Paulding County and Charlie Woerner of Rabun County.
Most of the 21 Georgia players were highly recruited out of high school. Thomas, Brown, A.J. Terrell of Westlake and Xavier McKinney of Roswell were top-100 national recruits. But many weren’t, some not even close. Dugger was an all-Fayette County player while at Whitewater but overlooked by major colleges. He wound up playing for Division II school Lenoir-Rhyne in western North Carolina.
Several former Georgia high school players that didn’t get drafted have signed free-agent contacts. Among those were Rodrigo Blankenship of Sprayberry with Indianpolis, Chauncey Rivers of Stephenson with Baltimore, Brian Herrien of New Manchester with Cleveland, Josiah Coatney of Chapel Hill with Pittsburgh, Marquez Callway of Warner Robins with New Orleans, Essang Bassey of Columbus with Denver, Tyrique McGhee of Peach County with the L.A. Rams, Tyler Simmons of McEachern with Houston and Tyler Clark of Americus-Sumter with Cincinnati.
Georgia players taken in 2020 NFL Draft (click to enlarge):
Players drafted by state
33 – Texas
23 - California
22 - Florida
21 - Georgia
12 - Louisiana
11 - Alabama
10 - Pennsylvania
9 - Michigan
8 - Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee
7 - North Carolina
6 - New Jersey, South Carolina, Wisconsin
5 - Virginia
4 - Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah
3 - Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Washington
2 - Arkansas, Canada, Connecticut, Massachusetts
1 - Colorado, Washington, D.C., Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, OH, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming
Georgia players taken in the NFL Draft since 1990:
2020 – 21
2019 – 14
2018 – 12
2017 - 29
2016 - 15
2015 - 30
2014 - 17
2013 - 20
2012 - 14
2011 - 19
2010 - 16
2009 - 13
2008 - 12
2007 - 12
2006 - 13
2005 - 13
2004 - 13
2003 - 13
2002 - 13
2001 - 18
2000 - 15
1999 - 14
1998 - 15
1997 - 9
1996 - 14
1995 - 9
1994 - 4
1993 - 14
1992 - 13
1991 - 13
1990 - 11
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