After their first national championship in 40 years, the Georgia Bulldogs went on to produce a historic draft class. Repeating the feat in the 2023 NFL Draft seems impossible, but can they produce another haul of talent for the NFL? Who should you be watching out for in Athens this fall?
Georgia prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
With 15 selections in the last cycle, Georgia put together the most successful class of the seven-round NFL Draft era. Meanwhile, Kirby Smart’s team had a record five defensive prospects selected in Round 1. Incredibly, their 2023 NFL Draft class might possess even more defensive star power at the very top. A repeat of last year might be a stretch, but expect the Bulldogs to have a significant presence next April.
Jalen Carter, DT
Jalen Carter is a genuine difference-maker at the heart of the defensive line. Like former teammate Jordan Davis, Carter attracts his share of double-teams that allow his teammates to succeed. Where he differs from Davis (aside from obvious size differences) is that he possesses the tools to be a constant threat in all phases of the game. Carter’s combination of high-level athletic ability, incredible power and violence, and a pass-rush toolbox already brimming with moves, makes Carter a clear early-first round prospect.
Kelee Ringo, CB
Georgia CB Kelee Ringo is one of the early contenders to be the top cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft. At 6’2″ and 205 pounds, Ringo boasts NFL size. Meanwhile, the Georgia CB also showcases impressive length to be disruptive at the catch point.
As you’d expect from a player of his size, Ringo goes into combat with a physical and aggressive style. However, as a former track star, he also showcases impressive play speed while possessing a fluidity of movement that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a cornerback of his stature.
Nolan Smith, EDGE
Another part of the dominant 2021 Georgia defense, Nolan Smith opted to return for the upcoming college football season. As a result, he positions himself as one of the top EDGE prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Smith possesses great explosiveness, bend ability, and deceptive strength for his size. At 6’3″ and 235 pounds, that size may be a factor in Smith’s evaluation, and there are some technical improvements to make to unlock his full potential.
Tykee Smith, S
Injury deprived Tykee Smith from taking the next step in his development during his first year at Georgia. As a result, he opted to return to school, putting himself in position to be one of the best defensive backs in the 2023 NFL Draft. Versatile, intelligent, and with a physicality that belies his diminutive stature, Smith is sticky in coverage and has the tackling capability to be impactful against the run game.
Broderick Jones, OT
After starting the final four games of last season at left tackle for the national champion Bulldogs, Broderick Jones is expected to be the full-time starter there this upcoming season. While he’s inexperienced, Jones has showcased that he’s a good athlete at the position and excels as a run blocker. With further experience this season, he should develop into one of the best offensive tackles in the nation.
Sedrick Van Pran, C
While Jones is likely to earn more attention due to positional value, Sedrick Van Pran is arguably the best Georgia offensive line prospect in this 2023 NFL Draft class. The 6’4″, 310-pound center has excellent size at the pivot, and with it comes brutal play strength that regularly results in a face full of dirt for this opponent.
Van Pran isn’t just a mauling beast, however. He showcases technical refinement while possessing the football intelligence that separates the great from the good. He could be the top center in the class.
Darnell Washington, TE
Darnell Washington has just 17 receptions in two seasons with Georgia, with an injury last year impacting his playing time. However, when he gets the ball in his hands, Washington’s a big play waiting to happen.
The Bulldogs TE has averaged 18.8 yards per catch during his college career. At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, Washington is a mismatch nightmare in the passing game, with deceptive athleticism and excellent catch-point body control. Meanwhile, he’s the best blocking tight end on this team, with some impressive reps against Alabama last season.
Arik Gilbert, WR/TE
With such a small sample size to evaluate him on, calling Arik Gilbert a 2023 NFL Draft prospect is almost dangerous. However, if he lives up to his potential, then it would be foolish to have left him off this list of potential Georgia prospects.
On his day, Gilbert boasts the size, physicality, vertical athleticism, and hands to compete with anybody at the catch point. His draft projection, like his positional projection for the Bulldogs, is uncertain.
Warren McClendon, OT
Although he attracted some attention in the last class, Warren McClendon’s return to Georgia for his redshirt-junior season should help elevate his stock. He’d made clear improvements from 2020 to 2021, and a continuation on that trajectory should only enhance his 2023 NFL Draft potential.
McClendon routinely exhibits strength, power, and athletic ability while there are flashes of technical excellence. At 6’4″ and 300 pounds, his size may see him project as a guard at the NFL level despite starting at RT this fall.
Warren Ericson, G
Working alongside McClendon on the right side of the Georgia offensive line will be Warren Ericson. Although the 6’4″, 305-pounder was the starter at RG last season, he’s also seen substantial snaps at center, increasing his versatility value as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect.
The redshirt-senior offensive lineman showcases some technical aptitude in pass protection, routinely staying square and demonstrating good punch timing. Meanwhile, he’s a play-to-the-whistle grinder who plays with a hot motor and competitive toughness.
Robert Beal Jr., EDGE
While Smith gets a lot of attention as a pass-rush prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s actually Robert Beal Jr. who is the top returning sack producer from last fall. As we know, judging Georgia prospects on production alone is futile. Nevertheless, Beal has certainly showcased he can get after the quarterback. In addition to his contributions as a pass rusher, the 6’4″, 255-pound outside linebacker has demonstrated the ability to drop back into coverage while proving impactful against the ground game.
Tramel Walthour, DL
Although he’s not a flashy defensive line prospect like some of his more illustrious teammates, Tramel Walthour has the opportunity to build his 2023 NFL Draft stock this season. The former JUCO product saw time in the defensive line rotation last year but should receive more prominent playing time this fall. Measuring in at 6’3″, 280 pounds, Walthour demonstrates some strength at the point of attack, while he routinely takes excellent angles in pursuit and is a sure tackler.
Kendall Milton, RB
Having established itself as “RBU” in recent years, Georgia is replacing their top two rushers from the 2021 college football season. Although injury hampered his campaign last year, Kendall Milton could be the rusher to come to the fore in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
At 6’1″ and 220 pounds, Milton has the frame to play the game with physicality, which shows up in his ability to lower the shoulder and embrace contact while being a force as a blocker. Meanwhile, he has quick feet and deceptive burst for his size.
Christopher Smith, S
No other returning player in the Georgia secondary had more interceptions than safety Christopher Smith last season. The 5’11, 190-pound fifth-year DB made several key plays for the defensive unit that helped Georgia to the national title.
While his frame and play strength might count against him in the 2023 NFL Draft safety class, Smith has plenty of enticing athletic upside. He’s a fluid mover with the play speed to patrol the deep third. Smith also flashed impressive play diagnosis skills during last season.
Devin Willock, G
A gargantuan offensive lineman at 6’7″ and 335 pounds, Devin Willock might seem more at home as an offensive tackle than on the interior. In fact, he saw snaps on the outside in a reserve capacity last season.
Just a redshirt-sophomore heading into this season, Willock is a long shot to be considered a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. However, with presumptive left guard starter Tate Ratledge sidelined through the spring, Willock has the potential to be a starter if he can work on playing with lower pad level and improved technique.
Dominick Blaylock, WR
2019 must seem like a lifetime ago for Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock. In his freshman campaign for the Bulldogs, he averaged 17.2 yards per catch and found the end zone five times. However, his career ever since has been beset by injury.
If he can finally return to the field fully healthy, Blaylock has some potential as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. He showcases good play speed combined with a lateral agility that makes him a dangerous after-the-catch threat. Furthermore, the 6’1″ receiver boasts good ball-tracking skills.
Kearis Jackson, WR
A veteran presence in an uncertain wide receiver group, Kearis Jackson returns to Georgia with the opportunity to reassert some NFL potential. Injury derailed his 2021 campaign, but in 2020, Jackson was the program’s leading receiver.
Jackson works predominantly out of the slot where he can use his impressive play speed to be a deep-field threat. The Georgia WR adds value after the catch and also has experience on punt and kickoff return.
Kenny McIntosh, RB
Kenny McIntosh led all returning Georgia running backs in yards per carry last fall, averaging more than NFL-bound Zamir White. He’s a reliable ball carrier who is adept at creating yardage for himself either via physicality or elusiveness. Additionally, he’s an astute pass-catching back who also brings special-teams experience and excellence. Yet, a question mark hangs over McIntosh’s 2023 NFL Draft projection following an offseason arrest for a driving misdemeanor.
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