ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia has had three players picked in the first round of the NFL draft in the last four years. None of them were defensive players, extending a strange streak of seven straight years in which the Bulldogs have not had a defender become a first-round pick.
That will almost certainly change on April 25, when the league opens its three-day draft at New York’s Radio City Music Hall -- Bulldogs defenders Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and John Jenkins are all first-rounders in ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s most recent mock draft, while Ogletree and Jones are first-round picks in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock -- but Thursday’s pro day workouts at Georgia’s practice facility could greatly impact those projections.
It’s obviously a big day for Jones, who did not work out at the NFL combine in February, but that’s also the case for several of his former teammates who will participate in Georgia’s pro day. The Bulldogs are tied with Alabama and Florida State for the most players -- six -- ranked on ESPN Scouts Inc.’s list of the top 115 prospects in the draft -- Ogletree (No. 12), Jones (No. 16), Jenkins (No. 25), Bacarri Rambo (No. 86), Shawn Williams (No. 92) and Tavarres King (No. 115). Thursday’s pro day will surely be well attended by NFL scouts and personnel execs. It’s a perfect opportunity for ex-Bulldogs who don’t have the draft profile of an Ogletree or Jones to catch somebody’s eye.
Let’s take a look at three players who can each help his own cause at Thursday’s pro day workouts:
1. Jarvis Jones: The two-time All-American will garner the most attention Thursday since he participated in only off-the-field events at the combine. In fact, he’s probably the most heavily scrutinized player in this draft cycle because of some teams’ apparent fears about his longevity. Jones explained at the combine that he would wait to work out at pro day because he spent too much preparation time getting medical examinations in order to alleviate teams’ concerns about potential aftereffects of a neck injury he suffered at USC in 2009. That makes Thursday a particularly important day for him. Scouts will want to see whether he validates first-round projections with his workout numbers and will also keep a close eye on the position drills to evaluate whether he fits best as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
2. Bacarri Rambo: Rambo also opted to wait until pro day to participate in most of the workout events. He competed only in the bench press at the combine and tied for seventh among safeties with 17 reps at 225 pounds. The field of safety prospects is crowded -- it includes Williams and possibly Sanders Commings, who mostly played cornerback at Georgia, but might play safety at the next level -- but most of the best players already had a chance to affect their stock at the combine. Rambo’s workout and drills Thursday could help or hurt his case.
3. Branden Smith: Georgia had 11 players invited to the combine, but Smith wasn’t one of them. Considering how the NFL has become a passing league, the small but quick cornerback could still have some value for pro clubs. Some analysts like him as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent who could make an impact as a versatile cornerback with coverage skills that project, but he might need to make an impression Thursday in order for a team to give him a closer look.