Friday, April 27, 2018

Record Three Dawgs Go In First Round Of 2018 NFL Draft

UGA Sports Communications

Three Georgia players were selected in the opening round of the 2018 NFL Draft for the first time in history on Thursday night.

Junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith was selected by the Chicago Bears with the eight overall pick, senior offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn was picked by the New England Patriots with the 23rd overall pick and senior running back Sony Michel was also selected by the Patriots with the 31st overall pick. This gives the Dawgs 34 players selected all-time in the first round since Frank Sinkwich was chosen by the Detroit Lions with the first pick of the 1943 draft.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, was the first Georgia player taken in this year’s draft. The Bears have now taken 19 Dawgs since selecting Jim Fordham in 1944. The last Georgia player drafted by Chicago before Smith was the Dawgs’ last first round pick in Leonard Floyd, who was selected ninth overall in 2016.

Smith becomes the highest drafted Dawg since All-Pro receiver A.J. Green was selected fourth by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011. Smith was the first player from the Southeastern Conference taken in this year’s draft.

Wynn and Michel gave the Dawgs a total of 318 players taken all-time in the NFL Draft. Wynn, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, and Michel, a native of Plantation, become the 10th and 11th Dawgs selected by the Patriots since Andy Johnson was the first Georgia player picked by New England in 1974. The Patriots last first round pick who was a Dawg was Ben Watson in 2004 and the team’s last overall selection from Georgia was Malcolm Mitchell in 2016.

Wide receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie was the lone Dawg drafted in the 2017 Draft (Denver Broncos, fifth round, 172nd overall pick), and Georgia has now had at least one player drafted in each of the past 26 years.

Smith completed his three-year career with the Dawgs as one of the most dominant defensive forces in school history. A consensus All-American, Smith became the first Georgia player to win the Butkus Award as the nation’s most outstanding linebacker and was honored as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Led by his strength in the middle of the field, the Dawgs completed their 2017 slate 13-2 with an SEC title and a Rose Bowl Game victory. Smith topped his teammates for the second consecutive year as he tallied 137 tackles, including 14.0 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, to go along with one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Smith saved perhaps his most impressive performances for the Dawgs’ most meaningful showdowns in 2018. Smith was the SEC Championship Game MVP with a 13-tackle outing before bringing back Rose Bowl Game Defensive MVP honors after piling up 11 stops in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. To conclude his career, he finished with 13 tackles, including a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, versus Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game. He was named one of the team’s permanent captains following the season.

Wynn is scheduled to graduate this summer and was named an Associated Press and AFCA Second Team All-American as well as to the Coaches and AP All-SEC First Team after starting all 15 games for the Dawgs at left tackle last season. Named one of the team’s permanent captains, Wynn completed his career with 41 total starts at guard or tackle. He anchored an offensive line in 2017 that featured three new starters and finished with the nation’s fourth best and SEC’s top Red Zone Offense (96 percent) and the country’s ninth-ranked Rushing Offense (258.4 yards/game).

Wynn protected true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm as he completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,615 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Dawgs ranked 11th nationally in Pass Efficiency following the squad’s 15-game slate. Wynn also helped allow running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to record a combined 2,572 yards on the ground to go with 31 rushing touchdowns as Georgia finished undefeated at home and against the SEC East competition.

Michel finished his Dawg career as a part of the most dynamic rushing duos in NCAA history. He played in 47 games since 2014 and gained 3,638 yards and 33 touchdowns on 591 carries (6.2 yards/carry) to complement Chubb’s 4,769 yards and 44 scores. In 2017, Michel was one of the team’s permanent captains and gained 1,227 yards on the ground (7.9 yards/carry) with 16 scores to go along with 96 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.

Michel finished his career third on Georgia’s all-time rushing list behind the legendary Herschel Walker and Chubb. During the double overtime win over No. 2 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game, Michel went for a career-high 181 yards on 11 carries (16.5 yards/carry) and finished with four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving).

The Draft’s second and third rounds will be on Friday beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds four through seven will be on Saturday starting at 12 p.m.

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