The quality of Georgia’s 2017 draft class could be reliant on the decisions of many of their junior prospects, including whether those prospects show the progress hoped for, or a healthy return in the case of their star running back. Still, the Bulldogs’ top draft prospect might ultimately end up being one from their relatively smaller pool of seniors.
THE TOP 5
Greg Pyke, rSr, OG/OT, #73 – 6ft 5, 316 lbs
If you enjoy watching powerful, physical guards mauling defenders, watch some film of Pyke. He found out that he couldn’t do enough of that while playing lacrosse (or at least it was a little unfair to at his size), but found his calling on the football field instead. If there’s another Joshua Garnett in this year’s draft class, Pyke is the one whose game arguably reminds of the former Stanford and now 49ers lineman. Pyke is aggressive, scrappy, over-powering and always finishes, whether it’s pancaking defenders to the ground or drive blocking them backwards. Similar to Garnett, he’s also pretty rough technically, over-reaching, bending too much at the waist, letting his form get away from him a bit too much, but he also still wins most reps. For a big powerful guy, he’s got some good athleticism in there too. The Georgia offense as a whole had a bit of a down year in 2015, so he wisely came back for his senior year, with a chance to finish his college career as part of a more impressive unit overall. And as high as the praise above mostly is, he himself didn’t play up to standard for parts of the year, which even saw him dropped for a game after a bad outing against Florida. He accepted it though, was willing to admit he deserved the demotion, and quickly earned back his place. He’s got the chance to show what he can do elsewhere as he’s moving outside to right tackle in 2016. Given some of the inconsistencies in his technique, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the exposure that playing out on the edge creates, but he has the length desired. He certainly has a lot of potential to be a future starting NFL guard at the very least regardless.
Nick Chubb, Jr, RB, #27 – 5ft 10, 220 lbs
Entering week 6 against Tennessee last season, Chubb was on a run of 13 straight 100+ yard games, equalling the great Herschel Walker’s Bulldogs record, and aiming to hold the record outright with another big game over the Vols. However, on the first play of the game Chubb suffered that horrific knee injury with multiple torn ligaments, looking as bad as any seen in recent years, and there’s been a few contenders. Of course, his recovery and long-term prospects are critical in terms of his draft stock. Running backs face as much scrutiny over their durability as anyone, if not more so than at other positions, and so the medicals whenever he ends up at the combine, be it in 2017 or 2018 will be huge. Reports on his prognosis are that he will make a full recovery which is positive news to hear. Outside of that, Chubb’s success has come about based around his outstanding vision, patience and timing, coupled with powerful tackle-breaking runs. He has quickness, as his breakaway 83-yard run late versus Alabama that kept his 100-yard game streak going showed, but it is his mental game as much as anything that leads to the consistency of production, along with that powerful stout build that he uses fully to his advantage. A career record to date of 7.4 yards per carry, with much of those carries against tough SEC opposition, is so impressive. Here’s hoping for a full recovery and a return to top form in 2016.
Lorenzo Carter, Jr, EDGE, #7 – 6ft 5, 242 lbs
Expectations were very high entering 2015 for Carter. Joining the team as a highly coveted 5-star prospect, his debut season statistically further enhanced the hype, finishing with 41 tackles, 7 tackles for loss (TFLs), 4.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. At first glance his sophomore season was a bit of a let-down. The numbers dropped to 19 tackles, no TFLs or sacks, and 4 hurries (plus a pass breakup and 2 forced fumbles). However, not all the criticism was entirely fair, as the expectations were too much, and he still had a lot of veterans ahead of him on the depth chart who got the majority of the snaps. That said, there ought to have been more snaps available to Carter but he reportedly didn’t endear himself to defensive co-ordinator Jeremy Pruitt, contributing to a reduced role. Word out of spring practices this year though are very positive about he and fellow breakout candidate Davin Bellamy, and this should be the year for both to impress more consistently with veterans now gone. When it comes to his NFL future, the comparisons to Leonard Floyd are going to be inevitable – athletic with excellent length, with a need to get stronger and more physical, but so much upside. Very familiar sounding, isn’t it. If he can prove himself physically over the course of a season, and turn that explosive pass rushing skill set into effective consistent pressure, then talk of Carter in regards to the next draft is going to greatly increase.
Dominick Sanders, Jr, S, #24 – 6ft 0, 190 lbs
Got to love a player who proves himself despite being knocked for being under-sized and being under-recruited. In Sanders’ final ten games his senior year of high school, he had 11 interceptions, and he’s shown that those ball hawking skills absolutely translate. In his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, Sanders has claimed a fantastic 9 interceptions, including 6 last season as a sophomore in 2015, along with a further 6 pass breakups. Entering his 3rd straight season starting, expect more of the same. Sanders is all over the field on film, constantly around the ball thanks to his excellent range of coverage, quickness and read/react skills. His style comes with some errors too, taking a few chances and leaving gaps, but the good plays out-weigh the negatives. Though he’s highly active, he doesn’t pile up the tackles like most quality safeties, which coupled with his smaller stature results in a run support game that doesn’t quite match up to the high standards of his play versus the pass. Finding quality coverage safeties capable at the NFL level are fewer between though than the hard-hitting run-stuffing types, and Sanders has the desired game looked for, with a habit of coming up with the big plays at key moment.
Sony Michel, Jr, RB, #1 – 5ft 11, 212 lbs
Another impressive and exciting running back talent on this Georgia team. Michel was part of the same 2014 recruiting class as Nick Chubb, and was a high recruit himself despite his teammate becoming the star of the team ahead of him. Michel’s role greatly increased though in the aftermath of Chubb’s injury, and ended up being voted the team’s offensive MVP, even if there weren’t too many contenders in that category after a difficult season. Given the relative lack of a dangerous pass game, his production as the focal point of the offense looked even more impressive and proved his own effectiveness as a runner without too much of a drop off. Over the 13 games, including 6 starts, Michel rushed for 1,161 yards at 5.3 yards per carry with 11 total touchdowns (including 3 receiving). That said, some of the performances such as against Missouri, Florida and Auburn were tough going throughout. Physically, Michel has a lot of potential for the next level as an outstanding athlete with power and burst within his well-built frame. A versatile, dynamic playmaker, he has the potential to make a big play on any touch, be it up the middle, to the edge or in the pass game as a threat out of the backfield as a receiver as well. What sometimes lets him down is his initial work, with some questionable vision, decision making or lack of patience often resulting in potential yards being unexploited at this stage of his career, and certainly an area to continue to improve in his junior year. But when he finds the space to work with he is so dangerous, eating up yards, making defenders miss and breaking through tackle attempts. Ball security however can also let him down at times. Michel could be back to a complimentary role in 2016, but he’ll get his touches, and any talented underclassmen running back have to be kept in consideration to enter the draft early.
OTHER PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Tim Kimbrough, Sr, LB, #42 – 6ft 0, 226 lbs
He may not have the ideal size for an inside linebacker, but Kimbrough more than makes up for it with his energy and physicality, making himself a force in the run game while also making his presence felt in the backfield as well. He blows up block attempts to force his way through to the ball carrier very well. That toughness extended to playing through injuries and doing so to the same high standard. The contributions to the pass game and working in space are far less notable though, and that question about his all-round game and the lack of size will very likely limit his draft stock. His suspension for the season ending bowl game will also invite questions.
Quincy Mauger, Sr, S, #20 – 6ft 0, 202 lbs
There’s a very sound reliability to Mauger. A good tackler, the safety gets himself in the right positions through good play reading and fast diagnosis of situations to make early moves, on some occasions ending plays before they really get going. His vision and smart game can lead to big plays, that saw him lead the team in interceptions with 4 back in 2014, though he wasn’t able to add to that total with any last season. While very dependable, Mauger isn’t a great athlete, lacking ideal range, and the measurables overall aren’t going to impress much which could affect his chances of being drafted.
Reggie Carter, Sr, LB, #45 – 6ft 1, 228 lbs
2016 might finally be the year to see what Carter really can do. He currently has one start to his name in his three years with the team, and that came purely due to the intentional starter not being able to locate his helmet as the team prepared to take the field. Carter missed practically the entire 2015 season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery after one game. He should finally take on a more key role, and though he’s another who doesn’t have prototype size for playing at inside linebacker, has the speed and football IQ to make up for it. This is his chance in 2016, and he has to take it.
Greyson Lambert, rSr, QB, #11 – 6ft 4, 220 lbs
The graduate transfer from Virginia had a lot of struggles in his first of two seasons of eligibility remaining with the team, that saw him dropped briefly for the even less effective Faton Bauta for a game. He had trouble moving the ball down the field and couldn’t break 2,000 total passing yards by the end of a disappointing year. There’s a chance he doesn’t start the 2016 season either, with highly-touted freshman Jacob Eason pushing him, and at the least it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the youngster get given a shot later in the year at some point regardless. Despite all that, Lambert could be given a chance in an NFL camp. There’s absolutely plenty to like about the physical tools on offer. His size is ideal, and he moves well too at that build. The arm strength is there to work with. Despite an overall poor game, he made some outstanding throws in the loss to Alabama last season that really made you sit up. Those extra intangibles looked for though, along with the consistency probably aren’t good enough, but someone might take a look anyway at the physical skill set on offer.
Reggie Davis, Sr, WR, #81 – 6ft 0, 171 lbs
Davis had a career day versus Tennessee last season, with a massive all-purpose performance, catching his only offensive score of the year on a long touchdown grab, returning a punt for a special teams touchdown and multiple good kick returns as well. The skinny but speedy receiver’s best shot for the next level would be to make his mark on special teams with that athleticism, and only contributed 12 receptions despite 7 starts on offense in 2015. That day against the Volunteers was an outlier so far, and will need a more impactful senior season across more games to earn a look. Any additional bulk onto his frame wouldn’t hurt either.
Brandon Kublanow, Sr, C/OG, #54 – 6ft 2, 296 lbs
A lot of experience playing in the physical trenches of the SEC certainly counts for something. After 13 starts in 2014 at guard, Kublanow moved to center for every game of his junior year in 2015, where he’ll continue for a third straight season as a full-time starter. Ultimately though, he lacks the size and length looked for. He’ll take inspiration from the success of his predecessor David Andrews, who made an impact for the Patriots despite also being undersized and undrafted, but I’m not sure Kublanow has that same fiery aggression that Andrews had.
JUNIORS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Davin Bellamy, rJr, EDGE, #17 – 6ft 4, 242 lbs
As with Carter mentioned above, the potential with Bellamy could be just as high. He has flashed some real ability to be a dangerous pass rusher and should prove that in 2016. Expect his backfield stats to increase, after 5.5 TFLs, 3 sacks and 8 quarterback hurries as a sophomore.
Malkom Parrish, Jr, CB, #14 – 5ft 9, 188 lbs
He may be undersized, but Parrish has a great game that is fun to watch. His awareness and overall football IQ is excellent, and makes plays in every area of the field. From interceptions to tackles for loss, Parrish is making an impact. That extends to special teams which he seems to really relish contributing to as well, and will help him whenever he takes his shot at the NFL. For now though, he’s very much a player to watch in the Bulldogs secondary alongside Sanders.
Aaron Davis, rJr, CB, #35 – 6ft 1, 190 lbs
Davis isn’t quite the playmaker that Parrish is, but certainly has more conventional size that gives him potential with that desirable length. The experience is building also, with 19 starts over the course of the past two seasons. His style is very conservative though, which results in an unflashy game but few mistakes. While the height is good, not sold on his deep speed.
Isaiah McKenzie, Jr, WR, #16 – 5ft 8, 170 lbs
That size listing might even be generous. There’s no doubt that the measurables greatly hurt his chances, and that tied to a question on durability certainly doesn’t help, that saw him miss a number of games with a couple different injuries last year. He’s a fantastic quick-twitch and speedy athlete though, and can absolutely have a shot of making it as a special teams returner. So far in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, he’s taken 5 returns all the way back for touchdowns – 4 punt returns and 1 kick return.
Jeb Blazevich, Jr, TE, #83 – 6ft 5, 248 lbs
33 catches over two seasons and 3 touchdowns aren’t exactly eye-opening numbers as yet for the talented tight end. As mentioned a few times now though, the pass game struggles have affected his contributions too. He’s got talent to do more, no question, and that could be reflected in the stat sheet his junior year. The size is decent, and if anything Blazevich looks a little smaller on film than listed, but either way he’s a great target that needs to be utilised more.
Isaiah Wynn, Jr, C/OG, #77 – 6ft 2, 278 lbs
Probably as close to 6ft 1 as he is 6ft 2, the real lack of size for an NFL lineman with Wynn is very frustrating as his game outside of that is good. He’s an athlete who moves quickly on very light feet. There’s decent strength within that compact frame backed up by an aggressive punch at the point of attack, that saw him hold up very well, notably against that heralded defensive front of Alabama last season. Wynn plays at guard, and could get a look at center as well, but the size may be tough to overcome.
John Atkins, rJr, DL, #97 – 6ft 3, 300 lbs
With a number of defensive linemen graduating, Atkins has a chance to improve on his 3 starts in 2015 and take full control of the nose tackle position. With good reactions off the snap and a consistent motor, Atkins has some NFL potential. His impact is fairly limited though, which includes just 21 tackles and 1 TFL over his two seasons so far.