Lions draft Georgia’s Isaac Nauta in final round

Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta recovers a Jake Fromm fumble and returns it past Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland for a touchdown Saturday, Sept 29, 2018, in Athens.  Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta recovers a Jake Fromm fumble and returns it past Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland for a touchdown Saturday, Sept 29, 2018, in Athens. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Isaac Nauta came off the draft board in the seventh, and final, round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, when the Detroit Lions selected the Georgia tight end with the 224th overall pick.

The Lions earlier drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson of Iowa in the first round (eighth overall).

Nauta, who was the sixth ex-Bulldog drafted, caught 30 of the 31 passes thrown his way this season, and he had the highest grade among draft-eligible SEC tight ends as a blocker, per Pro Football Focus.

Nauta surprised some when he declared for the draft, forgoing his senior season of eligibility. Nauta factored heavily into the Bulldogs’ game plan in 2018, and that role was expected to grow under first-year offensive coordinator James Coley.

But Nauta always has been at the head of the class, going back to his days as a 5-star prospect out of the IMG Academy in Florida after starting his prep career in his hometown of Buford.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder improved each season at Georgia, and he showed a knack for stepping up in the biggest games last season.

Nauta had a season-high five catches for 73 yards in the Bulldogs’ 36-17 win over Florida.

Against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, Nauta caught four passes for a season-high 81 yards and a touchdown.

Indeed, Nauta proved to be one of Jake Fromm’s favorite targets in the red zone and on third downs.

Nauta ranked tied for third among SEC tight ends in combined first down and touchdown catches last season, with 18.

While some might still suggest Nauta should have stayed another year at UGA, Nauta has not looked back.

“I’m the most at peace with myself that I have been,” Nauta said in the days leading to his selection. “I’m enjoying the journey and soaking up every moment of it.”