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Because It's Never Too Early: Likely Bulldogs In The 2016 NFL Draft (Part One)

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NFL Draft wrapped up last month with five Bulldogs having been selected over the course of the three day event. We learned a few things over the course of the draft, including that the SEC still has more talent per team than other conferences, and that recruiting rankings actually do have some predictive value down the line. Now, it's time to cast our eyes with longing toward the next event on the annual football calendar: the media events leading up to the start of football season, and the actual opening of college football practice a short 13 or so weeks from now.

Or . . .we could get really super hyper-premature and start thinking about what Georgia Bulldogs might hear their names called by Roger Goodell next year, and what some Bulldogs need to do to ensure that they get the kind of call that Damian Swann got while hanging out at the mall.

This will be the first of several installments leading up to the start of the 2015 season. You'll notice how long this list is by the end of our hypercritical little journey. It's a good reminder that Georgia really didn't lose a whole lot this year, especially because juniors like Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins stayed in school. 2016, however, is going to see a lot of guys having to step into the shoes of the players listed below.

Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell's primary task for 2015 is to stay healthy. No one doubts his explosive athletic ability, ball skills, or physicality at the receiver position. But when you're cashing a paycheck NFL teams want you on the field, and Mitchell has not demonstrated that he's capable of staying there for a full season. If he has a true breakout season, Mitchell could become a first day pick, even with some doubts about his prior injuries. If he can't stay on the field he's likely to be a late round pick or undrafted free agent much like Marlon Brown in 2013. That doesn't mean that he won't have a great pro career (again, Marlon Brown . . .) but Mitchell has a lot of work to do come August to start living up to his obvious potential.

Leonard Floyd. Floyd considered entering this year's draft but decided to come back and try to get better. It was the right move. So far Floyd has demonstrated incredible pass rushing skills and decent coverage chops, but has been a bit of a liability against the run at times. At 6'4, 230 pounds Floyd needs to develop more upper body strength and improve his technique and consistency to demonstrate that he's an every down player at the NFL level.

John Theus. Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb are freakishly good running backs. But they didn't gain all those yards in 2014 100% on their own. John Theus joined an incredibly reliable group of linemen who consistently did enough to spring those guys into the second level. At 6'6, 305 pounds Theus still doesn't have the true "bookend" size you associate with left tackles at the NFL level. He's probably never going to have that. What he can do this year is show NFL personnel folks that he has the versatility to play either tackle spot and maybe even slide down to guard if called upon to do so.

Marshall Morgan. Consistency. It's all about consistency for Morgan, just as it is for any other place kicker. As famed golf coach Harvey Penick used to say, "the woods are full of long hitters." Likewise college football is full of kickers like Morgan who can boom it. But producing in pressure situations is the thing NFL-types want to see. Morgan set the SEC record in 2014 when he nailed his 20th straight field goal against South Carolina. However he also had a couple of damaging misses, including that quirky, wind-driven hook against Florida that seemed to really turn the momentum. In the end Morgan only hit 76% of his field goals on the season, a marked decrease from his SEC record 91% clip in 2013. If the senior hits 91% of his 2015 field goals he should be in line for a free agent deal and perhaps, if he establishes himself as among the 1-2 best  available at his position......a 5th to 6th round draft pick. Such is the life of the kicker.

Until later....

Go 'Dawgs!!!