There are a handful of football factories at the collegiate level: Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Florida, Michigan, Georgia had the most NFL players by college — in that order. It is extremely beneficial for Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith to be relatively close to a few of these universities, but the former New Orleans Saints’ executive was apart of an organization that rarely drafted prospects from their in-state programs.
Before the 2018 NFL draft, the Saints selected one former LSU Tiger in the previous 12 years combined — taking Al Woods in 2010. Drafting Will Clap in 2018 brought that total to only two draft picks since 2010 that played collegiately in Baton Rouge, but it is obvious New Orleans was hesitant to bring in players who are native to Louisiana. I’m not sure exactly why, but it could possibly be because of the distracting element that playing near a prospect’s home could present.
However, UGA is still a powerhouse that is constantly pumping out NFL-caliber talent, and they should garner a lot of attention from the Falcons front office. Here are some of the prospects that could stay home and play in the same state professionally as they did collegiately — some even since high school.
Ojulari will more than likely be the first Bulldog off the board come April and deservedly so as one of the highest-rated EDGE defenders in this year’s draft. If selected by the Falcons, he would have played high school, college, and professional football in Georgia. His pass-rush arsenal could improve, but he has the most explosive first step among prospects in this class and all the physical tools to exponentially grow as a pass rusher.
The Covington native would — if drafted by the Falcons — also play at all three levels in his hometown state but shouldn’t be taken until Day 2. Stokes is an exceptional athlete who has lightning-quick feet, which bodes well in press-man coverage. That isn’t to say he can’t play in zone schemes because he has shown adequate eye-discipline and reactionary time to play in either. He is the superior cornerback coming out of Athens this year.
Campbell played high school football in Florida, which makes him different than the other two UGA prospects. He’s a former track star — evident in his forty-time — and thrives in the same type of defense as his counterpart Eric Stokes. Though he struggles to play the ball sometimes, Campbell would thrive in a press-man defense with zone trickled in, which he played at UGA. Campbell will go on Day 2, but I get the sense he might slip to the end of the third round.
Cleveland is a mauler of an interior lineman who would thrive in a power running scheme. Arthur Smith runs mostly outside zone with some duo and power trickled in, making his fit a little forced. I would peg the former UGA Bulldog as a third or fourth-round pick, but he could be valuable in a system that allows him to come off the ball and attack. This isn’t to say he can’t block in a zone scheme because Cleveland is an average athlete with some lateral quickness that bodes well in the outside zone system.
McKitty was used as the “move” tight end in the Bulldogs’ offense after transferring from Florida State. A versatile tight end; he’s not elite in any area but is serviceable in most, able to block and threaten defenses with the ball in his hands. He is an extremely willing blocker in the run game, but he won’t move people off the line of scrimmage. In the passing game, he won’t threaten with his speed or routes but has elite run after the catch ability. McKitty can be a team’s second tight end in any offensive system and provide solid value in the fourth round.
LeCounte is a fan-favorite. He grew up in Georgia and was missed dearly after he suffered an injury in a motor accident. I suspect he’ll be taken in a similar area of the fourth round as McKitty. LeCounte is a value-menu Richie Grant who can effectively defend the pass and run — able to quickly diagnose plays, showing good range as a “center fielder” by taking the right angles. LeCounte would be a natural fit with Erik Harris, who plays best closer to the line of scrimmage.
Trey Hill is a mammoth of a man standing at 6-foot-4 and 330-pounds, which is even more incredible considering he played center. Hill probably will be on the Falcons’ radar given how nimble his feet are for his size, and in a zone-blocking scheme, he could provide great value as a mid-round selection. Though he is fundamentally sound, he struggles with consistency and to anchor in pass sets.
Monty Rice was hampered by an injury for much of the 2020 season but still projects to go somewhere between the fourth and fifth rounds. The former Alabama high school star is a rangy sideline-to-sideline, off-ball linebacker who displays speed in every direction. He was the quarterback of the defense this year and is effective at communicating calls. He struggles to disengage from blockers, but in a 3-4 defense, Rice could be free to run through holes and pursue sideline-to-sideline.
DJ Daniel could find himself drafted on Day 3 as a cornerback, but his value will be most apparent on special teams. He has good size as a corner but struggles to consistently get his hands and eyes around to the ball, which NFL quarterbacks will feast on. His tenacity allows for high upside as a special teamer, and many NFL players have made a career out of it.
UGA hasn’t had the best track record for defensive linemen, and Herring could be no different. The former four-star Georgia native slots to be 3-4 defensive end but should only be used as a rotational body who rushes the passer in sub-packages. His effort in the run game is admirable, but he won’t be anything more than a backup during his first couple of years in the league. His attitude and habits slot him to outperform his sixth-round projection, but as per history, UGA defensive linemen haven’t panned out.
Webb, originally recruited as a wide receiver, can play corner or safety, which helps his draft stock, but at best, he will be taken in the final rounds of Day 3. More than likely, Webb will provide special teams value for a team in search of defensive back depth at both safety and corner. He’s a physical defensive back who plays best in a zone scheme, but his aggressive nature and dog-like mentality are perfect traits for a core special teamer.