Georgia likely to have significant presence in 2023 NFL draft

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (left) projects as a top pick in the 2023 NFL draft. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

ATHENS — It’s unlikely Georgia will produce 15 NFL draftees in the same class again anytime soon, if ever. Until this past weekend, nobody had.

But indications are the Bulldogs will have a large number of players under evaluation again this year, several of whom project as possible early selections. Including seniors who most certainly will get long looks and underclassmen who already have generated some buzz, at least two dozen Georgia players will be under draft consideration.

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That list starts with underclassmen Jalen Carter, Arik Gilbert and Kelee Ringo. A junior defensive lineman, third-year sophomore tight end and third-year sophomore cornerback, respectively, all three appear prominently on the early 2023 mock-draft lists that populate the internet.

Carter, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound tackle from Apopka, Fla., seems to be getting the most love. He’s listed No. 2 on CBS Sports’ early mock and gets No. 3 and No. 6 grades from compilations by The Athletic and Pro Football Focus (PFF). Former Bulldogs Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt often mentioned Carter as being the most athletic down lineman of their group, and Carter demonstrated as much with his presence in Georgia’s jumbo offensive package.

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Ringo – famous for his pick-six in the national championship win over Alabama – is a consensus top-10 projection as well, based on an unscientific survey of 2023 draft predictions. A 6-2, 205-pound cornerback, Ringo was projected as the No. 4 pick by CBS and The Athletic.

PFF really likes Gilbert, picking him to go No. 5. That’s an intriguing assessment considering the 6-5, 265-pound athlete will share playing time at tight end with Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington, among others.

Speaking of Washington, the 6-7, 265-pound rising junior from Las Vegas just slips into the bottom of the Top 100 composite rankings compiled by nflmockdatabase.com. But Washington doesn’t generally get the early-round love of some of his teammates. Injury concerns and a lack of receiving production to date likely have deflated his perceived value. He missed the first four games last season and spring practice this year with foot injuries. He’ll enter this season focused on allaying those concerns.

Georgia has a pair of third-year sophomore starters on the offensive line who might have decisions to make in left tackle Broderick Jones and center Sedrick Van Pran. Jones, who started four games last season, has drawn mock projections ranging from 18th to 66th. If accurate, that would suggest he might have a difficult decision to make. Van Pran got a No. 31 projection from Sports Illustrated.

As for Georgia’s 16 seniors (including walk-ons), outside linebacker Nolan Smith has the most promising outlook. The 6-3, 235-pound Smith projects as a first-rounder in at least four different mocks. CBS had him going eighth, while PFF had him 13th. Formerly the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting prospect, Smith’s decision to return for his senior season was a boon for the Bulldogs, who are rebuilding their defense.

Meanwhile, other seniors such as wideout Kearis Jackson, defensive backs Christopher Smith and Tykee Smith, linebacker Robert Beal and offensive lineman Warren Ericson enter their final college seasons hoping their play gains the notice of NFL scouts. Currently none of them rank particularly high.

For what it’s worth, sixth-year senior quarterback Stetson Bennett did not appear on any of the early assessments.

But averaging 8.6 players selected in the past five drafts, it’s safe to say Georgia will have a significant presence next year as well.

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