5 former Georgia high school players could go in NFL first round

Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Cartersville. Lawrence was named the AJC all-classification player of the year after leading Cartersville to its second consecutive state championship and 15-0 season.
Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Cartersville. Lawrence was named the AJC all-classification player of the year after leading Cartersville to its second consecutive state championship and 15-0 season.

Credit: Chad Rhym

Credit: Chad Rhym

Trevor Lawrence is expected to be the third former Georgia high school football player taken in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, and as many as five Georgia players might go in the first round, which would tie a record.

ExploreHistory of Georgia high school quarterbacks in NFL

Lawrence, formerly of Cartersville High and Clemson, is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Past No. 1 picks from Georgia are quarterback Cam Newton of Westlake to the Carolina Panthers in 2011 and running back George Rogers of Duluth to the New Orleans Saints in 1981.

Another almost certain first-round pick from Georgia this year will be Justin Fields, formerly of Harrison High, Georgia and Ohio State. Fields and Lawrence would be the first pair of Georgia quarterbacks to go in any NFL draft first round. Both were five-star QB recruits out of high school in 2018.

The other Georgia quarterbacks who’ve been taken in the first round are Deshaun Watson of Gainesville in 2017 and Newton.

Five Georgia players are showing up as first-rounders on several mock drafts. Aside from Lawrence and Fields, they are Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari of Marietta, Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman of Tift County and South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn of Alpharetta.

Lawrence, Fields and Horn are consensus first-round projections. PFN draft analyst Tony Pauline ranks all three among the best 10 NFL prospects in the draft. Ojulari and Bateman are borderline first-round prospects, and Pauline projects both in the top 25 overall. The first round has 32 picks.

The only time that five Georgia players have gone in the first round was 1995. That group featured Carlos Rogers of Butler, Ronnie Brown of Cartersville, Thomas Davis of Randolph-Clay, David Pollack of Shiloh and Adam Jones of Westlake.

Other Georgia players to watch include Stanford quarterback Davis Mills of Greater Atlanta Christian, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes of Eastside and Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble of Wesleyan. All are generally viewed as second- or third-round picks.

Below are some of Georgia’s top prospects as compiled last month by D. Orlando Ledbetter for the AJC

Rashod Bateman, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, WR, Tift County (Minnesota): He caught at least one pass in all 31 games (fifth in school history) he played in and made 147 receptions (sixth in school history) for 2,395 yards (sixth in school history) and 19 touchdowns (fifth in school history).

Shakur Brown, 5-11, 190, CB, Woodland-Stockbridge (Michigan State): He played in 26 games with 12 starts (five at cornerback in 2019; two at nickel back and five at cornerback in 2020). He had seven interceptions, nine pass break-ups, 54 tackles and two sacks. He finished his career ranked eighth in Michigan State history with 186 interception return yards. He declared for the draft Dec. 14.

Michael Carter, 5-11, 190 CB, South Paulding (Duke): In 46 career games (36 starts), Carter had 135 tackles, 7.5 tackles for losses, four interceptions and 24 pass breakups. He was third-team All-ACC last season. He played 2,581 career snaps for the Blue Devils.

Tory Carter, 6-0, 244, FB/TE, Lee County (LSU): A powerful lead blocker, he played in 35 games and made five starts. He scored two touchdowns on receptions.

Ben Cleveland, 6-6 3/8, 354, G, Stephens County (Georgia): He came up short in his quest to break the the NFL’s all-time bench-press record of 49 repetitions of 225 pounds. He had 30 lifts, but ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds. “It’s just hard to find size, and he meets all of that criteria,” Smart said. “He’s hard to move and get around. It’s a passing league. So, when he pass (protects), he’s a hard man to get past. I’m excited to see what he does.”

D.J. Daniel, 6-1, 185 CB, Spalding (Georgia): He played in eight regular-season games and finished with nine tackles, one for lost yardage, and one pass breakup. “I feel like I’m one of the best man-to-man press coverage (cornerbacks),” Daniel said. “I feel like there is no corner in this draft (who) is better than me man-to-man.”

Jamin Davis, 6-4, 234, ILB, Long County (Kentucky): He played in 36 games and made 11 starts. He made 144 tackles, five tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks and five interceptions.

Justin Fields, 6-3, 228, QB, Harrison (Ohio State): Considered a top-10 selection in the draft. He started his career at Georgia before transferring to Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to the championship last season. In 2019, he had one of the greatest statistical seasons in the history of Ohio State football as a first-year starter when he completed 67.2% of his passes for 3,273 yards while accounting for 51 touchdowns (41 passing, 10 rushing).

Malik Herring, 6-3, 280, DE, Mary Persons (Georgia): He started eight of 10 games and finished with 20 tackles and 24 total QB pressures.

Trey Hill, 6-4, 330, C, Houston County(Georgia): He started in eight games while playing 95 percent of the Bulldogs’ offensive snaps in those games.

Jaycee Horn, 6-1, 205, CB, Alpharetta (South Carolina): The son of former Saints and Falcons wide receiver Joe Horn.

Ernest Jones, 6-2, 230, LB, Ware County (South Carolina): He was elected a team captain and played middle linebacker. He started each of the first nine games and missed the final game with an ankle injury. He had four games with at least 11 tackles.

Trevor Lawrence QB, Cartersville (Clemson): He led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman in 2018. He finished his career with a 34-2 record and is considered the consensus projected No. 1 pick in the coming draft. He completed 758 of 1,138 career passes (66.6%) for 10,098 yards with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a pass efficiency rating for 164.26 in 2,237 snaps over 40 career games (36 starts).

Richard LeCounte, 5-11, 190, S, Liberty County (Georgia): He was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident Oct. 31 that left him in ICU for three days. He has a lingering foot injury, which explains his slow 40-yard dash times of 4.76 and 4.82.

Isaiah McKoy, WR, Norcross (Kent State): He was named third-team All-MAC in 2019 and was on the first team in 2020. He led the Golden Flashes in receptions, yards and touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. McKoy’s specialty was making big plays, like the 78-yard touchdown catch in the 51-41 win over Utah State in the Frisco Bowl in 2019. McKoy led the Mid-American Conference in yards per catch (15.6) in 2019 and finished third in the conference in 2020 (18.1). Overall, he finished his career with 124 catches for 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ranks sixth all-time in receptions, fifth all-time in yards and second all-time in touchdown receptions in Kent State history.

Davis Mills, 6-4, 225, QB, Greater Atlanta Christian (Stanford): He completed 287 of 438 passes for 3,468 yards and 18 touchdowns

Azeez Ojulari, 6-21/4, 249, OLB, Marietta (Georgia): He ran 40-yard dash in 4.60 and 4.63 seconds. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times. Ojulari had 14.5 sacks the past two seasons.

Cam Sample, DE, Shiloh (Tulane): An overlooked recruit out of high school, Sample has exceeded expectations as a former two-star recruit. In college, he added nearly 40 pounds of good weight and played just about every position on the defensive front.

Trey Sermon, 6-1, 215, RB, Sprayberry (Ohio State): A bruising runner. He joined Ohio State in the spring of 2020 as a graduate transfer from Oklahoma.

D’Ante Smith, 6-5, 297, OT, Grovetown (East Carolina): Played both guard and tackle early in his career before blossoming into a starter.

Jordan Smith, 6-7, 255, OLB, Lithonia (Alabama-Birmingham): He was a first-team All-Conference USA selection and received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He made 43 tackles and had 9.5 tackles for losses last season.

Eric Stokes, 6-0, 194, CB, Eastside (Georgia): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 and 4.32 seconds at UGA’s Pro Day on Wednesday. He had a 38½-inch vertical jump and cleared 10 feet in the broad jump,

Tamorrion Terry, 6-4, 210, WR, Turner County (Florida State): He made 118 receptions for 2,221 yards and 18 touchdowns. His yards total ranked 10th in program history and his touchdowns total tied for 13th on FSU’s all-time list.

Tommy Tremble, 6-4, 248, TE, Wesleyan (Notre Dame): He was an All-ACC honorable-mention selection last season.

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