Georgia Football: Time for Kirby Smart to improve development

Georgia football has recruited well, but their players aren’t being drafted high.

Kirby Smart has been the head coach of Georgia football since 2016. In that time Georgia has had just six players drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. In that same period, Alabama has had 15 of its players selected in the first round. This is the level of recruiting and development Georgia needs to get to compete at the same level as Alabama and Clemson.

There have been a total of 27 Georgia football players that have entered the NFL under Smart’s watch. Six have been selected in the first round (22 percent), two have been selected in the top ten (seven percent), three have been selected in the second round (11 percent), eight have been selected in the top 50 (30 percent), one has been selected in the third round (four percent), two have been selected in the fourth round (seven percent), three have been selected in the fifth round (11 percent), two have been selected in the sixth round (seven percent), and four have been selected in the seventh round (15 percent).

There has been a total of 17 out of the 27 Georgia football players that were either selected on day three of the NFL Draft or signed as undrafted free agents afterward. That is 68 percent of the players Smart has sent to the NFL.

Out of the nine five-stars that have entered the NFL during Smart’s tenure, two have gone in the first round, four have gone in the top 50 picks, and not one has been drafted in the top 20 picks. Three five-stars have gone on day three and another was signed as an undrafted free agent. That’s nearly half of Smart’s five-stars not being drafted in the first three rounds.

29
Isaiah Wilson
Tackle Georgia
31
Sony Michel
Running Back Georgia
35
Nick Chubb
Running Back Georgia
35
D'Andre Swift
Running Back Georgia
56
Mecole Hardman
Wide Receiver Georgia
66
Lorenzo Carter
Linebacker Georgia
224
Isaac Nauta
Tightend Georgia
237
Terry Godwin
Wide Receiver Georgia
UD
Trenton Thompson
Defensive Tackle Georgia

Out of the 15 four-stars that have entered the NFL during Smart’s tenure, just three were selected in the first round, three went in the top 50, two were selected in the top ten, seven went on day three, and five were signed as undrafted free agents. That’s 80 percent of Smart’s four-stars not being selected in the first three rounds.

4
Andrew Thomas
Tackle Georgia
8
Roquan Smith
Linebacker Georgia
23
Isaiah Wynn
Tackle Georgia
126
Riley Ridley
Wide Receiver Georgia
167
Jake Fromm
Quarterback Georgia
168
D'Andre Walker
Linebacker Georgia
172
Isaiah McKenzie
Wide Receiver Georgia
179
Lamont Gaillard
Center Georgia
190
Charlie Woerner
Tightend Georgia
224
Javon Wims
Wide Receiver Georgia
UD
Elijah Holyfield
Running Back Georgia
UD
Tyler Clark
Defensive Tackle Georgia
UD
Jonathan Ledbetter
Defensive End Georgia
UD
Natrez Patrick
Linebacker Georgia
UD
Jayson Stanley
Cornerback Georgia

Out of the three three-stars that have entered the NFL during Smart’s tenure, one was selected in the first round, one went in the top 50, two went on day three, and none were signed as undrafted free agents.

30
Deandre Baker
Cornerback Georgia
111
Solomon Kindley
Guard Georgia
255
Tae Crowder
Linebacker Georgia

Smart’s first number one ranked recruiting class for Georgia football becomes draft-eligible in 2021. Five-star Azeez Ojulari and three-star Eric Stokes are both being mocked in the first round. Five-star Tyson Campbell and five-star Richard LeCounte could go in the first two rounds. There is also a chance that Jordan Davis declares early and the former three-star could also go in the first two days.

Better days should be ahead and they better be if Georgia football wants to start recruiting with Clemson and Alabama as a whole. Winning recruiting titles is one thing, but having NFL talent on the roster is another thing entirely as we have seen over the last few years. Georgia needs to find a way to bring in those next level recruits, the generational talents if they want to reach the next tier as a program.

One way to attract those bigger fish is to develop your little fish. Georgia football has done that at some positions, but Smart needs to do better about being consistent across the board. One major place Smart needs to improve development is on the defensive line. Georgia hasn’t had a defensive lineman taken in the first round of the draft since Jonathan Sullivan was selected in 2003. They haven’t had a defensive lineman taken in the first three rounds since 2013 when John Jenkins was selected No. 82 overall.

Another place Georgia football needs to improve development is at tight end. The Bulldogs haven’t had a tight end selected in the first round since Ben Watson in 2004. They haven’t had a tight end taken before day three of the draft since Leonard Pope was taken in the third round in 2006.

With the direction college football offenses are going you need an elite pass rush to keep up, but you also need an elite tight end to help your offense reach an elite level. Georgia football has struggled in both areas. This is something Smart must figure out. Sooner rather than later.

The good news is Smart’s top recruiting classes will soon be eligible for the NFL Draft. So these numbers should get a lot better over the next two to three years. However, if they don’t there will be good reason for concern.