2021 NFL draft could leave Georgia with another rebuild

Credit: Anthony Walsh

Credit: Anthony Walsh

Depending on how the season goes — if and when that season comes — Georgia should be in position again to establish a school record for players taken in the NFL draft next year.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it could mean another rebuild.

The Bulldogs had seven players selected in the most recent draft, which concluded Saturday. They were offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (first round, No. 4), tackle Isaiah Wilson (first round, No. 29), running back D'Andre Swift (second round, No. 35 overall), guard Solomon Kindley (fourth round, No. 111), quarterback Jake Fromm (fifth round, No. 167), tight end Charlie Woerner (sixth round, No. 190) and linebacker Tae Crowder (seventh round, No. 255). The first five of those players were underclassmen.

The seven players fell short of Georgia's all-time record in a seven-round draft, which was eight in 2002 and 2013. Another eight players signed contracts as undrafted free agents.

The most amazing part of Georgia’s draft class was having two underclassmen offensive linemen selected in the first round. It was the first time in school history when UGA had two O-linemen go in the first round of the same draft. Also, it made the Bulldogs the first team to have two tackles selected in the first round since Tennessee in 1991, when Charles McRae and Antone Davis went seventh and eighth overall.

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Predicting which underclassmen might make the jump after the 2020 season makes it difficult to determine how many Georgia players might enter the 2021 draft. But between the potential early departures and a good-size senior class, it appears the Bulldogs easily could best their record.

Georgia fans might not want to hear it — or coach Kirby Smart, especially — but it might come down to the decisions of several offensive linemen. Several projected starters are underclassmen who might have a decision to make if they play like the Bulldogs hope they play next season.

In addition to Thomas, Wilson and Kindley being drafted, sophomore guard Cade Mays transferred to Tennessee. So, Georgia’s 2020 offensive line will consist of at least four new starters.

The competition to replace them will be fierce, but the Bulldogs have recruited for the moment. It would follow that three of the replacements would be seniors Ben Cleveland and Justin Shaffer and junior Jamaree Salyer. Salyer is considered a candidate to start at any one of the five positions on the line.

Also, center Trey Hill will be a junior next season. Having started 18 games his first two seasons at Georgia, including all 14 last season, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Warner Robins resident certainly will be viewed as one of the top offensive linemen in the SEC.

The other position likely will be filled by an underclassman. Third-year sophomores Warren Ericson and Owen Condon and redshirt freshmen Warren McClendon and Xavier Truss will be among those in the running.

Graduate transfer quarterback Jamie Newman definitely will get a close look from NFL scouts in 2020. So will receivers Matt Landers, who will be a fourth-year junior, and Demetris Robertson, a senior. Running backs Zamir White, a third-year sophomore, and James Cook, a junior, could play themselves into consideration.

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Another area of the team that could be hit particularly hard is the secondary. Starting cornerbacks D.J. Daniel (senior) and Eric Stokes (junior), starting safety Richard LeCounte (senior), and part-time starters/nickel backs Tyson Campbell (junior), Divaad Wilson (third-year sophomore) and Mark Webb (senior) all will be eligible for the next draft.

Nose guard Jordan Davis (6-6, 330), who will be a junior, certainly will be in position to be drafted off Georgia’s defensive line. The Bulldogs know they will be losing defensive ends Malik Herring and Devonte Wyatt, among other seniors.

Outside linebacker is another interesting position. There the Bulldogs have star Azeez Ojulari, who will be eligible as a third-year sophomore. Also, junior Adam Anderson (6-5, 225) will be an intriguing prospect.

All told, there will be more than two dozen draft-eligible players on Georgia’s roster next season. If the Bulldogs play like they’re expected to in 2020, odds are good they could have more than eight players selected in the draft.

Should Georgia approach LSU's all-time record-tying 14 set last week, you'll know it was a very, very good season.