Deandre Baker turned in spectacular performance at Pro Day

Holyfield, Nauta ran slow 40-yard times

Former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker and wide receiver Mecole Hardman turned in impressive performances at the school’s Pro Day on Wednesday.

Baker shaved some time off the slow 40-yard dash time he ran at the combine and proclaimed himself to be the best cornerback in the draft. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the combine and improved to 4.46 seconds Wednesday.

“I know I’m the best cornerback in the draft,” Baker said.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff heard some Baker hype, too.

“Deandre had a really good day today,” Dimitroff said. “He’s quick, fast and explosive. He can run. Cover the field. Very good range that way. He’s being (mentioned) as one of the best in the country in the draft. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.”

The Falcons are in the cornerback market after parting ways with Robert Alford, Brian Poole and Justin Bethel.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart believes that Baker’s talents project well to the NFL.

“He’s a competitor,” Smart said. “He’s physical. He runs well. He’s played in a system (where) he could play multiple coverages. We asked him to make a lot of checks. He’s going to be a really good pro player.”

NFL teams were impressed with Hardman’s shiftiness and ability to change direction.

“He ran so well out there,” Dimitroff said. “We know that he can fly. He’s another versatile guy who can not only catch the ball and run routes, but he can do some damage as a return guy. He did well.”

Former Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield and tight end Issac Nauta needed to improve on the 40-yard dash times that ran at the combine, but did not.

Holyfield, who ran a 4.78 at the combine had times that ranged from 4.76 to 4.89 on five different timings. Basically, he didn’t run any faster.

The target time for running backs is 4.55 seconds.

“Of course, it’s a concern and how high you determine that to be sort of the guiding light,” Dimitroff said. “Obviously, he’s a good football player. We have to keep an eye on that. He’s a good football player and knows how to play this game.”

Holyfield is leaning on film evaluations.

“I might not be able to run the fastest 40 in the world, but I can play football better than a lot of people,” Holyfield said. “I’ve heard 4.6, but I’ve heard 4.7 and 4.8. I don’t know the exact numbers. Teams have what they have, but they have the film, too.”

Smart believes that Holyfield, despite the slow times, can play in the NFL.

“Elijah is going to be a great pro,” Smart said. “He brings a lot to a team. He brings a toughness. He brings a demeanor about him. He loves to work. … The stripes of the players don’t change when they go to the next level. I know that he’s going to convert what he’s done well here into the same thing there.”

Nauta, who against the advice of the NFL draft advisory committee which recommended that he return to school, didn’t significantly improve his 40-yard dash time. He ran the 40 in 4.91 at the combine and ranged from 4.71 to 4.83 on Wednesday.

“I just sent him a text message that he’s got a lot of good tape out there,” Smart said of Nauta. “Not to get overwhelmed with one moment. Don’t be disappointed either way. You can run a great time and have too much expectation. Or you can run a poor time, worse than what you think you should, and you still have tape out there.”

There’s certainly more to playing in the NFL that running fast.

“I know from having worked in that league, there is a lot more than just the combine and times,” Smart said. “There’s a lot more of football tape to be watched. There’s a lot of background to be checked. Those are all strong points for Isaac and a lot of our players.”

Former Georgia defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter also worked out during the linebacker drills.

“He did well,” Dimitroff said. “He was working hard today. He was grinding it out. There are number of guys on this Georgia team that whether they get drafted (middle rounds) or wherever they get drafted, they are going to show their stuff I think as they get into the league.”

Former Georgia receiver Riley Ridley didn’t run the 40-yard dash. He elected to stay with a slow 4.58 time from the combine. He’s the younger brother of Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley.

“I looked at him once in awhile and I kept shaking my head,” Dimitroff said. “You see the similarities. He’s a little bit bigger.

“He had a good day as well. He ran the routes well and he’s got good size to him, too. It will be interesting to see where he plays out draft-wise, round-wide. I heard the buzz around there.”

Subscribe to "The Bow Tie Chronicles" podcast with the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.