After wrapping of the 2021 football season with a National Championship win over the Crimson Tide, Georgia is ready to send a couple players to the NFL. So far, we’ve seen declarations from running backs Zamir White and James Cook, wide receiver George Pickens, offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer, defensive linemen Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt, linebacker Nakobe Dean, and safety Lewis Cine.
White was a 5-star recruit out of North Carolina and the consensus top-ranked running back in the 2018 graduating class. White was forced to red-shirt his true freshman season after tearing his ACL, his second such injury in about 9 months. After healing, he took snaps behind D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien before taking over as the lead back in 2020 rushing for 1,635 yards and 22 touchdowns over the next two seasons. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, has White ranked as the 7th-best running back in the class and he should expect to hear his name on Day 2 or 3 of the draft.
James Cook, the younger brother of Dalvin Cook, came into Georgia the same year as White but didn’t have to sit out his freshman year. Cook has sat just below White on the depth chart for the three years they were both active, racking up 1,031 rushing yards along with 10 touchdowns in the past two seasons. He is ranked the 5th-best running back on Brugler’s list and should also expect to hear his name in the middle rounds.
Pickens arrived at Georgia as a 5-star recruit after flipping from a commitment to Auburn. He led the team in receiving his freshman year with 727 yards and 8 touchdowns. He improved his yards per game average the next year but missed two games in an already shortened COVID-season. Pickens tore his ACL in March 2021 but returned to contribute to the Bulldogs’ National Championship run catching 2 passes for 61 yards in two playoff games. Brugler has Pickens as the 9th-best receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s expected that some team will take a flyer on the big-bodied receiver on Day 2 or early into Day 3.
Salyer was a 5-star recruit and the consensus top-ranked guard in the 2018 graduating class. Salyer saw his first start late in his sophomore year before securing his spot as the blindside starting tackle for the next two seasons. He missed a couple games with an injury this year, but he surrendered no sacks in eleven starts this year. Brugler has Salyer as the 7th-best interior offensive lineman and we should expect to hear his name on Day 2 or early into Day 3.
Walker came in as a 5-star recruit from west Georgia and dominated as soon as he arrived. Walker became an instant presence on the line with an elite get-off. After starting at defensive tackle for every game this season, Walker led the defensive line in sacks as an interior lineman with 6.0. Despite his size and placement in the Georgia defense, Brugler has Walker as the 4th-best edge rusher in the draft. Whether or not that’s where NFL teams see the junior Bulldog playing, he’s expected to hear his name called late in the first-round or early in the second.
Wyatt initially attended Hutchinson Community College to help meet the academic requirements needed to play Division I football. After transferring to Georgia, Wyatt rotated on the defensive line for two years before becoming a starter in 2020. Wyatt decided to use the extra year of eligibility, granted due to COVID-19, to come back for the 2021 season and it certainly paid off. Brugler has Wyatt as the 4th-best interior defensive lineman and he’s expected to be selected in the middle rounds of the draft.
Dean was a 5-star recruit and the consensus second-ranked inside linebacker in the 2019 graduating class. The much-ballyhooed linebacker made an immediate impact in his freshman year before nabbing the starting job for his entire sophomore and junior seasons. He culminated his final season not only with a National Championship trophy but also with the 2021 Butkus Award trophy given to the top linebacker in college football. He finished the season second on the team in tackles (behind fellow draft hopeful, Cine) and with the team lead in tackles for loss. Dean is the 2nd-best linebacker on Brugler’s list and is widely expected to go in the first round.
Cine was a Top-100 recruit in the 2019 graduating class. Cine played every game his freshman season before taking over as the starting safety for the next two seasons. Cine led the team in tackles for the season and made a few big plays to help the team clinch their National Championship. Brugler has Cine as the 3rd-best safety in the draft and he’s expected to hear his name called on Day 1 or early in Day 2 of the draft.
These eight aren’t the last Bulldogs expected to declare for the draft, either. Although no announcements have been made, defensive tackle, and winner of the 2021 Outland Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, Jordan Davis, linebackers Channing Tindall and Quay Walker, and cornerback Derion Kendrick all are expected to be weighing their options and could set their sights on the NFL.