Ladd McConkey boosting draft stock at Senior Bowl

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) makes a move after a reception during the first half against Florida State in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Florida. Georgia won 63-3 against Florida State. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) makes a move after a reception during the first half against Florida State in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Florida. Georgia won 63-3 against Florida State. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

MOBILE, Ala. — There was No. 84 in his Georgia helmet, breaking quickly and slipping past defenders, just as he did in the SEC for three years.

Ladd McConkey shined during his first Senior Bowl practice Tuesday. His pristine route running was on full display. He looked smooth in 1-on-1 drills, unbothered by a once-ailing ankle that prevented him from playing at full strength during the pivotal SEC Championship game in December. McConkey even made a diving catch to show that despite his size — 5-foot-11, 187 pounds — he still has solid catch radius.

“Just making another impression on these coaches, scouts, general managers,” McConkey said. “It’s another chance to compete. It’s very fun, it’s not like I’m doing something I don’t like. So it’s another opportunity to go out and make some plays.”

McConkey felt he was rusty — he hasn’t played football in nearly a month since the Orange Bowl — but described his practice as “solid.” The general view was that McConkey helped himself, showing the skill set that made him one of Georgia’s more requisite playmakers during their brilliant three-year run.

There were questions about whether McConkey would enter the draft. A day before the Orange Bowl, he insisted he wasn’t sure. In the NIL landscape, and with quarterback Carson Beck remaining in school, there certainly was an argument for McConkey to stay, especially since his season had been largely spoiled by back and ankle injuries.

Ultimately, though, the NFL’s allure won.

“I just thought the time was right,” McConkey said. “At some point you have to close one chapter and open the next. I appreciate everything Georgia did for me. That’s the best decision I ever made in my life. So if all these recruits are looking for somewhere to go, go to Georgia. You’ll win national championships, you’ll develop, and I think you see that out here.”

McConkey is the No. 44 overall prospect on NFL Network scouting expert Daniel Jeremiah’s big board. Jeremiah praised McConkey’s route running and instincts, loosely comparing him with former Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who had 6,563 yards and 49 touchdowns over an eight-year career.

Jeremiah said McConkey “is a slightly undersized receiver with excellent speed, quickness and polish. He lines up both outside and in the slot. He is quick off the line, and he understands how to attack the leverage of his man. He changes speed throughout the route and is efficient getting into and out of breaks. He will utilize head nods to sell routes and create separation. He has an excellent feel to settle in space versus zone coverage. He has strong hands to pluck balls thrown away from his frame, and he is quick to transition up the field.”

This is another Georgia development success story. McConkey came to Athens a three-star recruit, impressing future NFL players on the scout-team offense before forcing his way onto the field. McConkey excelled during Georgia’s 2022 title run, earning 762 yards and seven touchdowns on 58 catches. He also had a 16.6 rushing average on 13 attempts in his career, scoring four times.

If an NFL team asked former Bulldogs safety Javon Bullard about McConkey, here’s what he’d say:

“Draft him,” Bullard said. “You saw it out here (Tuesday). The guy is a phenomenal player and a phenomenal person. You’re getting everything in Ladd McConkey.”

McConkey met with NFL teams Monday and will continue doing so throughout the week. He’ll also participate at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next month. ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller suggested McConkey could even work his way into the first-round mix with a strong pre-draft process.

The NFL draft begins April 25 in Detroit. McConkey will be the first Georgia receiver selected since the Steelers took George Pickens in the second round (No. 52 overall) of the 2022 draft.

“It’s the biggest interview in my life, so prepare like that and do everything I can to make the most of it,” McConkey said. “Hopefully they like me.”


SENIOR BOWL

Saturday, 1 p.m., NFL Network

NFL DRAFT

April 25-27 in Detroit

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