In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 28
2012 NFL Draft picks: Seven -- OL Cordy Glenn (Second Round, No. 41 overall), OC Ben Jones (Fourth Round, No. 99 overall), TE Orson Charles (Fourth Round, No. 116 overall), CB Brandon Boykin (Fourth Round, No. 123 overall), K Blair Walsh (Sixth Round, No. 175 overall), OT Justin Anderson (Seventh Round, No. 208), DE DeAngelo Tyson (Seventh Round, No. 236 overall).
Mark Richt entered the 2012 season hounded by plenty of critics. Despite the fact that under his guidance Georgia had become a perennial powerhouse (only one of five coaches in SEC history to post four consecutive 10+ win seasons) that consistently churned out high NFL draft picks, the Bulldogs' faithful were restless after back to back disappointing seasons, including the first losing record (6-7) had at Georgia since 1996.
Things certainly didn't start out well for Richt and the Bulldogs last season. They lost a nationally televised game to Boise State in the opener and dropped a heartbreaker to South Carolina to start off 0-2. Rather than fold, however, the Bulldogs focused and reeled off 10 consecutive wins to win the SEC East and play LSU in the conference championship game. A loss there to the Tigers, as well as a triple overtime defeat against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl stung but could provide the motivation for this year's squad to reach even further heights.
With a ferocious defense led by returning All-American pass rusher (and future first round pick) Jarvis Jones and arguably the best secondary in college football, as well as an offense dictated by reigning first-team all-conference quarterback Aaron Murray, the Bulldogs will not only compete for supremacy in the SEC, they could once again rank among the country's best producers this year of NFL talent...
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OLB Jarvis Jones (6-2, 242)*
Great American novelist Thomas Wolfe popularized the expression "You Can't Go Home Again" with his classic of the same name published posthumously in 1940. Jarvis Jones (pictured above), a Columbus, Georgia native who originally signed with the University of Southern California, would certainly beg to differ. Jones earned playing time immediately with the Trojans, seeing time primarily on special teams and as a backup strongside linebacker in their 4-3 alignment. Jones suffered a sprained neck in the eighth game of the season (Oregon), however, and missed the rest of the year. Team doctors refused to clear him for participation the following spring and after seeking other opinions, Jones elected to transfer back to Georgia. He sat out the 2010 campaign per NCAA guidlines on transfers before absolutely exploding onto the SEC scene last season. Primarily asked to rush the passer as an outside linebacker in Georgia's 3-4 alignment, Jones led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) while posting 70 tackles overall (second on the team by two stops), earning consensus first-team all-conference honors, quite a few All-American nods and was voted a finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker. Far from just a pass rusher, Jones proved capable of playing the run as well as dropping back into coverage, demonstrating the combination of instincts, passion and physicality to catch the attention of scouts despite the fact that 2011 was his first season as a starter. Despite the fact that he likely would have earned a high grade from scouts, Jones elected to not even request a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee. Now that he has returned to Georgia for his redshirt junior season, Jones has the burden of proving that his spectacular first campaign with the Bulldogs wasn't a fluke. Based on the agility, power and hustle with which he played a season ago, that shouldn't be a problem. Jones currently ranks as the No. 9 overall prospect in the country on my Big Board and is projected as a top 10 pick by both Dane Brugler and I in our current 2013 mock drafts. While Jones' lofty grade seems like a slam dunk considering his physical talents, production and level of competition, ultimately his draft stock will hinge on the reports teams get from their medical personnel after reviewing Jones' neck.
2. LB Alec Ogletree (6-3, 234)*
Ogletree signed with Georgia as a highly regarded safety prospect and earned the team's Newcomer of the Year award as a true freshman in 2010 while registering 34 tackles in five starts (12 games total) at strong safety. As he continued to grow, however, the Georgia coaching staff asked him during the off-season to make the move to inside linebacker. His size and athleticism made him a standout during summer practices heading into last season and expectations were high that he'd become a star. Unfortunately, Ogletree suffered a broken foot in the season opener versus Boise State and missed the next seven games recovering from the injury. Once he returned, however, Ogletree showed why the team had faith in him, registering just 20 tackles behind team leader Shawn Williams with 52 stops, including 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and tying for the team lead with two forced fumbles. Ogletree lined up for Georgia at inside linebacker last season but his lengthy frame, athleticism and experience in coverage could make him even more highly regarded by pro scouts as an outside linebacker. Ogletree has the long arms scouts like from linebackers. He'll need to show greater strength in disengaging from blockers but was remarkably successful in this regard considering his inexperience at the position. Ogletree pursues with passion and has good vision and balance to keep his feet. He's also a terrific special teams player whose ball skills were demonstrated when he leapt high to snatch an onside kick early against LSU in the SEC Championship game. Make no mistake about it Jarvis Jones is the preeminent pass rusher in the SEC and this team's most bankable star on the defensive side of the ball, but Ogletree is an exciting prospect in his own right who, if he builds upon the success he tasted last season, could be in line for a high draft selection, himself.
3. QB Aaron Murray (6-1, 212)*
When redshirt freshman Aaron Murray earned a spot in the Georgia record books with 3,049 passing yards and a sterling 24 TDs against just eight interceptions in his first season as the starter, some chalked up his success to the fact that he had A.J. Green catching many of his passes. With Green dazzling the NFL as a rookie for the Cincinnati Bengals this past season, however, Murray took on even more of the responsibility for the Bulldogs' offense and he responded with another record-breaking campaign, shattering the school mark for most passing touchdowns (35) and earning the respect of conference coaches (voted Second Team All-SEC). Murray is athletic, tough and possessing plenty of arm strength to handle the jump to the NFL despite his lack of preferred height. As he obviously cannot change his height, for Murray to boost his stock with scouts he'll have to continue to improve his decision-making. While his touchdowns jumped up in 2011 so too did his interceptions (14) and many of these came when Murray was simply too aggressive with the football. Murray has a strong arm and he's quite confident in his ability to fit the ball into tight windows. Too often he'll challenge the defense with longer, more difficult throws when he has open receivers on shorter routes. He's clean mechanically, typically setting up and delivering the ball quickly with an efficient, over the top release. He'll be challenged this season with the loss of both starting tackles (each of whom were selected in April's draft), as well as his center (also drafted in April) but has shown the courage, vision and mobility necessary to buy time in the pocket or scramble effectively. Murray joins Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Tennessee's Tyler Bray and LSU's Zach Mettenberger as must-see SEC quarterback prospects for scouts to watch this fall.
4. SS Shawn Williams (6-1, 218)
While his partner in the deep patrol -- free safety Bacarri Rambo -- gets most of the headlines due to his ball skills (eight INTs last season), Williams is also an accomplished pass thief (four INTs last year), a more consistent open field tackler and is highly regarded by the coaching staff for his selfless play, toughness and versatility. Like most prospects at a program boasting as much individual talent as Georgia, Williams initially made his mark on special teams, earning recognition in this role during both his true freshman and sophomore seasons. He saw his first starting action in 2010, earning the nod three times while playing in all 13 games and recording 34 tackles on the year. Despite entering his junior season with only these three career starts, Williams was named a team captain last season. He showed the leadership traits coaches love when he switched from his customary strong safety position to inside linebacker when injuries took their toll on the team early last year. Starting 13 of 14 games for the Bulldogs last season, Williams led the team with 72 tackles, including five for loss. Along with the four interceptions, Williams also broke up six passes, recovered two fumbles and forced another. The broad-shouldered Williams looks and tackles like a linebacker but moves well, showing enough agility to handle coverage responsibilities. His coaches have compared him to former Georgia safety/outside linebacker Thomas Davis, who was selected with the No. 14 overall pick of the 2005 draft by the Carolina Panthers.
5. DL Abry Jones (6-3, 308)
Like Williams, Jones has been overshadowed by some bigger (literally and figuratively) names along the Georgia defensive line. Unlike massive space-eaters John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, however, Jones has proven the athleticism and versatility to handle playing all along the Georgia defensive front, which likely will result in his earning high marks from scouts working for predominately 4-3 and 3-4 clubs, alike. Playing primarily at defensive end but also moving inside on occasion to defensive tackle, Jones registered a career high 48 tackles, including seven tackles for loss and four sacks. He'd flashed big time talent early on, earning time as a true freshman (eight tackles, two tackles for loss in 2009) and sophomore (34 tackles, including 3.5 for loss while starting six games), including an eye-popping performance against state rival Georgia Tech (16 tackles, including two for loss and a forced fumble) that earned him SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week accolades. Jones has good quickness off the snap, as well as the lateral agility, balance and power necessary to handle playing inside. His long arms and strength are also conducive to remaining outside as a five-technique defensive end. With exceptional depth up front Georgia constantly rotates their defensive linemen so it is difficult to gauge how well Jones might do with more snaps. He's precisely the type of player whose draft stock is quietly higher with scouts than his media attention might lead one to believe -- but who may not earn the buzz in the scouting community until/if he is given an opportunity to "surprise" in one of the big senior all-star games.
FS Baccari Rambo (6-0, 210)
DT John Jenkins (6-3, 358)
DT Kwame Geathers (6-5, 355)*
WR Tavarres King (6-1, 200)
CB Sanders Commings (6-1, 216)
OLB/DE Cornelius Washington (6-4, 268)
OL Chris Burnette (6-2, 322)*
FB Richard Samuel (6-1, 236)
For all of NFLDraftScout.com's team-by-team previews of the top prospects to watch in the 2012 season in preparation for the 2013 NFL draft, click here.
Photo credit: US Presswire