UGA’s Ojulari, Campbell hope for short waits on Day 2 of NFL draft

100320 Athens: Georgia defensive back Tyson Campbell breaks up a Auburn pass in a SEC college football game on Saturday, Oct 3, 2020 in Athens.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
100320 Athens: Georgia defensive back Tyson Campbell breaks up a Auburn pass in a SEC college football game on Saturday, Oct 3, 2020 in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS – The Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday night had a player selected in the first round of the NFL draft for the fourth consecutive season. But it almost didn’t happen, and it didn’t go down as expected.

Georgia fans had to wait until the fourth-to-last pick of the night before hearing one of the Bulldogs’ names called. When it finally did, it was Eric Stokes who NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced from the podium in Cleveland.

Stokes, a 6-foot-1, 194-pound junior cornerback, went 29th overall to the Green Bay Packers. Watching the draft at home in Covington with friends and family, Stokes went into the day with promising prospects, but they appeared to be lesser than teammates Azeez Ojulari and Tyson Campbell, according to pre-draft prognosticators and handicappers. Betting houses had Ojulari, an outside linebacker, consistently in the 20s on their over/under boards, while the cornerback Campbell generally was in the 40s and 50s. Stokes was in the 60s of several.

But it was Stokes’ who went first from the UGA contingent. Because he did, it marks the fourth consecutive year under coach Kirby Smart that the Bulldogs have had at least one first-round pick and the seventh time in the past decade. Stokes is the sixth Bulldogs defensive player selected in the first round since 2013.

Stokes also is the first Georgia player ever that the Packers have selected in the opening round. Green Bay hadn’t taken a UGA player since defensive end Jarius Wynn went in the seventh round in 2009. Overall, Stokes is the 17th Bulldog to be drafted by Green Bay.

Day 2 of the NFL draft begins at 7 p.m. Friday and will feature the second and third rounds. It’s not likely UGA fans will have to wait as long into the night to hear another Bulldog called.

Odds are Ojulari will be the first off the board Friday. Seven outside linebackers, defensive ends or “edge-rushers” were selected ahead of the sophomore from Marietta. The first was a surprise in Zaven Collins of Tulsa, who went 16th to the Cardinals. That began a bit of a run that included Miami’s Jaelan Phillips (18, Washington), Michigan’s Kwity Paye (21, Colts), Miami’s Gregory Rousseau (26, Bills), Houston’s Payton Turner (28, Saints), Penn State’s Jayson Oweh (31, Ravens) and Washington’s Joe Tryon (32, Washington).

It appears that Ojulari’s size hurt him in comparison with the others. While listed at 6-3, 240 at Georgia, he measured in at 6-2, 249 for NFL scouts. The six players chosen ahead of Ojulari averaged around 6-5, 250.

Campbell also shouldn’t have to wait too long Friday. His 40 time was one of the best among the cornerbacks that tested for this year’s draft, with Stokes’ 4.25 being the fastest. Stokes was the fifth DB taken in the opening round. He followed South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn (8, Pathers), Alabama’s Patrick Surtain Jr. (9, Broncos), Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley (22, Titans) and Northwestern’s Greg Newsome (26, Ravens).

Georgia offensive linemen Ben Cleveland and Trey Hill also could hear their names called Friday. The Bulldogs have 11 players in the draft pool this year.

A 2020 first-team All-SEC honoree, Stokes had a career-high four interceptions and 94 return yards in nine games last season. He was one of only four FBS players to return two of those picks for touchdowns. Stokes finished with 78 career tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble on a sack against Tennessee in 2019 that resulted in a Bulldogs defensive touchdown.

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