On Friday, January 5th, Georgia got hit over the head with a hammer as they found out they were losing 6 players due to them transferring or going to the NFL Draft. Listed below are those 6 players who are leaving Georgia early, where I see them going in the draft (or otherwise) and how each loss will impact the team.
Out of all the early entrants from Georgia, I believe Ridley has the most potential and will likely be the first among them drafted. Riley Ridley — the younger brother of Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley— had a breakout game against Alabama in last years national championship game and was arguably Georgia’s #1 target this past year. Ridley has a lot of traits that I think scouts look for in a receiver at the professional level. He’s a good sized receiver (listed at 6’2 200) with great hands — he only had 2 drops this year according to Pro Football Focus — and a large catch radius. Though he’s a capable runner after the catch, he doesn’t seem to be as explosive in the open field as his older brother. I can see Ridley being drafted somewhere in the second or third round and could develop into a pretty good #2 receiver at the next level.
Arguably the fastest player on Georgia’s roster, Hardman has averaged 16.15 yards per reception in his career. Hardman is still kind of raw as a wide receiver as he’s only played the position for two years but he’s extremely explosive, which will be the main reason teams will look to draft him. His shortcomings are that he doesn’t have NFL size at 5’10 and 183 pounds, nor does he have exceptionally good hands or a large catch radius, but he does have very good to elite speed for the position — for proof, check out his 80 yard TD reception against Alabama in last years national championship game. Receiver might not be his only calling card at the next level as he’s also an exceptional returner. He only has one career punt return for a touchdown but out of the 16 punt return opportunities he had in 2018, 8 of them were returns of 20 yards or longer. Hardman will probably have to rely on his speed to get him drafted since he’s not a finished product at receiver, but I can see him going in the fourth round and bringing early value as a punt returner while he still learns the ins and outs of the receiver position.
Another top prospect coming out of high school, Nauta has developed into an exceptional blocking tight end with good receiving skills. Even though he isn’t really explosive, he can make plays downfield and routinely got behind opponent linebackers when asked to attack teams vertically. His ability as both a receiver and blocker gives him value to NFL teams and was ranked 9th out of all division 1 tight ends according to Pro Football Focus. I believe Nauta could be drafted as early as the second round, but will more likely be picked in the third round or later.
While Deandre Swift received all the preseason hype coming into this season, Holyfield quietly came in and earned the starting job over him. He was certainly a pleasant surprise for the Dogs this year, rushing for 1,018 yards and 7 touchdowns on just 159 carries. Holyfield has the look of a pro running back and uses his powerful frame as a battering ram; choosing to run violently into defenders rather than around them. Despite his powerful running style, Holyfield also showed that he has some explosiveness once he gets into the open field. I think what will hurt his draft status is his receiving ability coming out of the backfield. Swift was used a lot more in passing situations than Holyfield was so there’s much question as to how good of a receiver he really is, though his lack of receiving production might be all you need to answer that question (5 catches for 40 yards). I’m not really sure he’ll fall in the draft but he’s certainly someone who should have a home before the end of the fourth round.
One of two transfers I’m putting on this list — the other being tight end Luke Ford is transferring to Illinois, but for obvious reasons, the news of his transfer much less significant. After much speculation Fields made it official that he is transferring to Ohio State after failing to take the starting quarterback job away from Jake Fromm. I’ve posted many of my personal opinions about this situation in a previous article but it’s not surprising that Fields is leaving for another school. With Fields transferring to Ohio State and Dwayne Haskins leaving early for the NFL, Fields has a chance to get the starting quarterback job. Now he’ll have to compete with current back up Tate Martel for said job, but if Fields is as good as reports say he is then he should be named the starter coming out of camp.
So what early exit is going to hurt Georgia the most? The Fields transfer hurts Georgia as they currently only have one scholarship quarterback on their roster. Fromm now has the quarterback position all to himself but Georgia is now without a ‘proven’ backup (though I’m not sure I would call Justin Fields ‘proven’).
With Nauta leaving and transferring the cupboard at the tight end currently is looking a little bare. They still have up and coming senior Charlie Woerner to hold down the position along with incoming tight end in 4-star Ryland Goede coming in as well. They are losing third-string tight end Luke Ford as he is transferring back home to Illinois but as of right now there isn’t as much depth as Georgia fans would probably like.
The same can’t be said for either the running back or wide receiver positions where Georgia is especially deep at both positions. They lose a lot of production and experience with Ridley, Hardman and senior Terry Godwin but there’s plenty of talent at both positions as Georgia is loaded with four and five-star players at the skill positions.
Leading rusher Deandre Swift will return to lead the Bulldogs running game but they also have highly regarded players in James Cook and Zamir White along with veteran Brian Herrian — who I think could be poised for a breakout year — to solidify what should be a very good running game. They also have 4-star Kenny McIntosh coming to play at Georgia so there will be no shortage at running back for the Bulldogs.
The receiver corps is going to take a bit of a hit, but they have more than enough talent to replace what they’ve lost. Jeremiah Holloman will return to headline the Georgia receiving corps, but they also have veteran Tyler Simmons, Cal transfer Demetrius Robinson and 4-star receiver Kearis Jackson returning. Add 4-star recruit Dominick Blaylock to the mix and Georgia has a chance to have a formidable receiving corps.
While Georgia is going to be losing a lot of production and experience at key positions, they have no shortage to talent replacing those that are leaving. With 68% of their roster being either freshman or sophomores, Georgia still has plenty of young talent to rely upon. Those highly regarded prospects will now get the chance to make a name for themselves in the red and black.
the original article was posted on cover2sportz.com