With Wednesday’s news that sophomore starter Cade Mays is entering the transfer portal, next season the Bulldogs are going to be without four starters from this season’s offensive line. That’s not including the still murky situation surrounding junior Ben Cleveland.
Even with what is described as one of Georgia’s better offensive fronts in history, Fromm got hit a lot. And he and the Bulldogs got a big scare in the SEC Championship game when a second-half sack resulted in him spraining a knee. As it turned out, Fromm came out for one play and limped back in.
As for next season, Georgia already knows it is also going to be without its top two rushers, its top two tight ends and three of the top five receivers from this season. Even with Fromm back, it would’ve been a total rebuild on offense.
“Ultimately him leaving now probably bodes well for him,” said Shockley, who’s now a college football and pro football analyst for the SEC Network and other media outlets. “It’s probably the best time for him to go.”
There is and will continue to be a lot of debate about when Fromm might be selected. As Shockley alluded, the consensus seems to be he will be the fourth or fifth quarterback taken. When his name might come up is anybody’s guess. The three ranked ahead of him – Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert – are generally considered first-round guys.
UGA football history indicates it’s probably prudent to go earlier rather than later. It generally hasn’t gone well for previous Georgia quarterbacks who were tempting NFL prospects as underclassmen, but chose to return for their senior seasons.
Aaron Murray’s situation was most similar to Fromm’s. Murray said he had received a “second- to third-round grade” from the NFL when he chose to return to Georgia for his senior season, which was his fifth overall. Then he suffered a torn ACL in his final home game in 2013.
Murray still was drafted, but in the fifth round by Kansas City. He was out of the league by 2017 and has spent the past two years playing in alternative pro leagues. He’s currently in Florida training with the XFL’s Tampa Vipers.
Hutson Mason, who succeeded Murray in 2014, jokes that he tried to convince Murray to leave the year before. Like Shockley years earlier, he’d patiently bided his time as a backup, but knew he’d need to get on the field soon if he was to have any NFL shot.
“Scot McCloughan was the general manager of the Redskins when I got cut, and I remember him telling me one of the things I had going against me was experience,” said Mason, who now co-hosts an Atlanta daily radio sports-talk show.
“He told me they had a quarterback philosophy that they don’t invest in quarterback from a drafting standpoint unless they have a minimum of 25 starts, which is pretty much two years. That’s something that hurt me.”
Fromm has that and then some – 42 starts in 43 games. Georgia also had 36 wins in that span.
David Greene had a similar body of work, both in number of games and success. But he never considered coming out before then and never got a draft grade. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round in 2005 after sticking with the Bulldogs for five years.
“Back then, it seemed like the only guys coming out were first-round picks,” he said. “To be honest, it never even crossed my mind,” he said.
But Greene recognizes that landscape is different now.
“Jake has done this for three years already,” he said. “He was already like a coach on the field this year. Next year, he probably would’ve felt like a granddad out there. He’s hungry and wants to tackle the next challenge. Selfishly, I wish he would’ve come back. But it was tough for him this year, and it wasn’t going to get any easier.”
Only two of Georgia’s quarterbacks entered the draft as underclassmen, and it turned out really well for them. Quincy Carter was a second-round selection as a junior in 2001, and Matthew Stafford left after his junior season in 2008 and became the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NFL draft and is still playing 11 years later.
Fromm, for one, isn’t necessarily looking to become the NFL’s highest-paid player. But he’s definitely in position to command a decent signing bonus and make a roster. Mason and Shockley both said they think Fromm is the type of quarterback who could play in the NFL for 10 years as a backup or starter, depending on the situation he draws.
The only tangible enticement of returning to Georgia would have been the pursuit of a national championship. With the personnel losses on offenses, Fromm might’ve had some misgivings about that.
“The situation on the offensive line is changing, the way they struggled on the outside (at receiver), the way he’d have a bunch of young guys around him, I think he thought about all that,” Shockley said.