Georgia makes history with 15 selections, most in a seven-round NFL draft

1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) celebrates following their 33-18 win against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022.  Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) celebrates following their 33-18 win against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Entering the final day of the NFL draft, the Georgia Bulldogs already had tied a program record with nine draft picks.

By Saturday evening, Georgia’s draft class had become even more historic. Strong showings in the fourth and sixth rounds pushed the Bulldogs’ number of draft selections to 15, the all-time record for one program in a seven-round draft. The Texas Longhorns are the only program in the draft’s common era with more selections in a draft, with 17 players drafted in 1984, but did so in 12 rounds.

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The national champions’ impressive accomplishment became the dominant storyline of Day 3.

“They all showed it on tape, week in and week out,” TV analyst and former Falcons safety Louis Riddick said of Georgia’s class on ESPN’s broadcast. “That is remarkable recruiting, remarkable player development, both off the field and on the field. They have it humming along there in Georgia, man.”

Punter Jake Camarda emerged as one of the day’s biggest surprises in his rise to the fourth round. Though Camarda was one of the draft’s premier punting prospects, the low valuation of his position made the late rounds his most likely landing spot. Instead, the Baltimore Ravens used one of their fourth-round selections on another punter, Penn State’s Jordan Stout, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed suit three picks later by drafting Camarda with the 133rd overall pick.

Camarda is the first punter selected by the Buccaneers since 2010. He will compete with or replace Tampa Bay’s current punter, Bradley Pinion, who is due for a $2.9 million cap hit in 2022.

A four-year starter at Georgia, Camarda handled both punting and kickoff duties last season and finished his career as the Bulldogs’ leader in punting average (45.78). The Norcross native also showcased his athletic ability in the draft process by running the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds at the NFL combine.

ExploreGeorgia colleges, high schools represented in 2022 NFL draft

Camarda believes that his big-game experience will translate well as he joins one of the top teams in the NFC.

“It certainly prepared me for the next level, playing at Georgia for four years and playing in every single biggest game you can possibly imagine,” Camarda said in his press conference. “The Bucs are certainly a team that is looking to make a big run.”

The selections of Stout and Camarda marked only the second time since the 1993 draft that two punters were drafted in the fourth round or higher. The Buffalo Bills also added a punter, picking San Diego State’s Matt Araiza to open the sixth round.

“I know a lot of those guys and am friends with a lot of those guys,” Camarda said of Stout and Araiza. “To be able to go through it with them together and see the opportunities unfold and everything, going down the way it has, is really cool.”

Running back Zamir White was the Bulldogs’ other fourth-round selection, and their first pick of Day 3, going to the Las Vegas Raiders with the 122nd pick. White was Georgia’s leading rusher in 2020 and 2021 and recorded 11 rushing touchdowns in both seasons.

The selection is especially impressive considering the adversity that characterized White’s journey to a starting role in Georgia’s backfield. He overcame ACL tears in both of his knees, and though the medical history affected his draft stock, he said at his press conference that he doesn’t think about either injury now.

“I have waited my whole life for this moment right here,” White said. “This really means the world to me.”

A day after fellow Georgia running back James Cook was drafted by the Bills, White also landed in a situation where he could be in the mix for touches. Though the Las Vegas backfield already has former first-round pick Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, the Raiders have a new head coach in Josh McDaniels and declined Jacobs’ fifth-year option Friday.

“Those are both great backs that I have looked up to for years,” White said of Jacobs and Drake. “As far as me coming in, it’s coming in and just working, just grinding. I’m not worried about all that type of stuff, just want to come in and compete and meet new guys.”

After a fifth round that did not have any Georgia players selected, the Bulldogs returned in the sixth round to break the record. The Falcons added depth to their offense with two Georgia standouts, guard Justin Shaffer and tight end John FitzPatrick, while guard Jamaree Salyer and cornerback Derion Kendrick are headed to Los Angeles to play for the Chargers and Rams, respectively.

Shaffer, a graduate of Cedar Grove High School, was a fixture at left guard for the Bulldogs and received all-SEC second team honors in 2021. Salyer also was selected to the All-SEC second team as a senior but played across the line. The Atlanta native saw extensive action at left tackle, left guard and right guard over the past two seasons and was a team captain for the national champs.

Kendrick was Georgia’s only defensive player to be selected on the draft’s final day and will go from the national-champion Bulldogs to the reigning Super Bowl-champion Rams. A Clemson transfer and former wide receiver, Kendrick earned All-SEC second-team honors and started all 15 games as a senior. He was the only Georgia defensive back drafted.

FitzPatrick, another Atlanta product, was Georgia’s final draft pick and sealed the Bulldogs’ feat with his selection by his hometown team. In 2021, FitzPatrick took a back seat in the passing game in tight end Brock Bowers’ phenomenal freshman season, but contributed to Georgia’s offense as a run blocker, starting seven games. He will back up the Falcons’ 2021 first-round pick, tight end Kyle Pitts.

Georgia did not have any players selected in the seventh round, but had plenty to boast about by the draft’s end, from the draft’s top selection in Travon Walker to five first-round selections to having 15 players heading to NFL rosters.

BULLDOGS’ RECORD 15 PLAYERS DRAFTED

» Travon Walker selected with No. 1 pick

» Jordan Davis selected with 13th pick

» Quay Walker selected with 22nd pick

» Devonte Wyatt selected with 28th pick

» Lewis Cine selected with 32nd pick

» George Pickens selected with 52nd pick

» James Cook selected with 63rd pick

» Nakobe Dean selected with 83rd pick

» Channing Tindall selected with 102nd pick

» Zamir White selected with 122nd pick

» Jake Camarda selected with 133th pick

» Justin Shaffer selected with 190th pick

» Jamaryee Salyer selected with 195th pick

» Derion Kendrick selected with 212th pick

» John FitzPatrick selected with 213th pick

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