Packers draft preview: Scouting the historic Georgia Bulldogs defense
The 2021 Georgia Bulldogs have one of the best defensive units in college football history.
Prior to the SEC Championship game against Alabama, the Bulldogs were giving up less than a touchdown per game. They enter Friday’s game against Michigan giving up 9.5 points per game after giving up 41 against Alabama in the conference title game.
A big reason for Georgia’s stout defensive is their dominant front-seven. They are giving up just 2.61 yards per rushing attempt and have only allowed three rushing touchdowns all season.
It’s a defensive unit that will likely have 11 players hear their name called (if they all declare) in the 2022 NFL draft.
After the Green Bay Packers hit a home run with Eric Stokes in the 2021 NFL Draft, they could go back to the Georgia defensive pipeline again in 2022. Let’s take a closer look at those 11 prospects.
Note: For this preview, I chatted with Shane Coughlin, the Director of College Scouting for the Shrine Bowl.
Travon Walker, Edge
Six-foot-five, 275-pound men should not be able to move the way Walker moves. Walker is an offensive tackle’s worst nightmare with his quickness, length, and power.
Walker is an explosive edger rusher that wins the corner with his quickness. He has unheard-of range for a player of his size. The former five-star recruit looks comfortable dropping into coverage.
Walker has 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks on the season. While the numbers don’t jump off the page, a team will bet on his rare blend of strength, length, and quickness.
If Walker is still on the board when the Packers are on the clock on Thursday, April 28, don’t be surprised if he’s the new pass-rushing mate for Rashan Gary.
“One of the top underclassmen prospects in the nation. Long and flexible edge defender who offers versatility from 2i out to 5tech. Presses into blocks with quick and accurate strikes and has an explosive lower body to drive into the pocket.”
Derion Kendrick, CB
The former wide receiver and Clemson transfer is a sticky cover corner. Kendrick is still new to the position (three years) but looks like a veteran of the position.
Kendrick has coordinated movement skills. He has loose, oily hips to easily flip and run with wide receivers.
In his only season at Georgia, Kendrick has two interceptions, three pass deflections, and one tackle for loss.
The former Clemson Tiger is likely to go late first found or early second round. The Packers have foundational pieces in place with Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes.
Would the Packers opt to select a corner in the first round back-to-back years? With Alexander set to be a free agent following the 2022 season, don’t rule it out.
“Fluid corner with natural man coverage instincts and outstanding athleticism. Physical mid-phase to knock receivers off their landmarks and stays sticky and balanced to drive on throws with easy acceleration to disrupt the catch point.”
Channing Tindall, LB
Tindall is an explosive linebacker that has all the tools to be an enforcer against the run. Watch how quickly he closes in on this run against Clemson:
With his speed and burst, he has outstanding range. Tindall’s short-area burst makes him a terror from tackle to tackle. He has the potential to just wreck any team’s plans of running the ball.
Tindall enters Friday’s contest with 58 tackles, six tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.
If De’Vondre Campbell isn’t re-signed this offseason, the Packers could look to Tindall as his replacement on day two of the draft. Even if Campbell is re-signed, Tindall could be an excellent No. 2 backer and would help on special team units from day one.
“Physical and downhill box defender who has outstanding early-down and special teams traits. He has very good straight-line speed with early and closing burst generates easy hit power on a line.”
Quay Walker, LB
Walker has an NFL body, checking in at 6-4 and 240 pounds. He has the quickness to play sideline-to-sideline. He has a motor that runs hot and plays through the whistle.
The Georgia linebacker looks comfortable in coverage, showing good lateral mobility. Walker is a sure tackler and missed tackles are a rarity.
Walker enters Friday’s contest against Michigan with 53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
The Packers need to improve their special teams unit. Walker could step in on Day 1 and be a difference-maker on coverage teams.
It’s a role that he’s already played, as he was named Special Teams Newcomer of the Year for the Bulldogs in 2018. He projects as a late Day 2 pick or early Day 3 selection.
“Prototypical build with a rare blend of size and athleticism. Elite agility and versatile across the second level of the defense. Triggers with burst and sharp change of direction to both eliminate running back angles and limit yards after the catch.”
Nakobe Dean, LB
He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere, Nakobe Dean, Nakobe Dean. The Georgia linebacker is all over the field for the Bulldogs.
The athletic unlocks his speed to chase down ball carriers sideline-to-sideline. He’s got great instincts and is quick to read and react. He uses his speed and burst to shoot gaps and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Dean enters Friday’s game with 61 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions, and five pass deflections.
What are the odds that Dean falls to the Packers? The answer, not likely.
What are the odds that the Packers would select Dean if he fell to them in the first round? 50-50.
Thanks to De’Vondre Campbell, the Packers have seen first-hand what an impact linebacker can do for a defense. If the Packers fail to re-sign Campbell, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that the Packers would select a linebacker early in the draft to replace him.
“Excellent linear athlete who shoots gaps with toughness and energetic movement ability. Four down value who is relentless to chase backs to the sideline and has the agility to match route running between the hashes.”
Devonte Wyatt, DL
Wyatt has been a force in the middle of Georgia’s defense all season. The former three-star recruit has seven tackles for loss, two sacks and 19 quarterback hits on the season.
Wyatt has an explosive first step and lives in the opponent’s backfield. He has good lateral quickness to make plays up and down the line of scrimmage.
Wyatt checked in at No. 5 in Bruce Feldman’s Annual Freak’s list for the 2021 season. With his production and athleticism, there is a shot that the Packers could take him in the backend of the first round.
However, Wyatt will likely have to answer some questions about an off-the-field incident that occurred two years ago. Wyatt was arrested for criminal trespass, damage to property, and family violence.
“Twitchy and disruptive interior defensive linemen whose tackles for loss production have improved each year. Really effective stunt and games player whose lateral quicks and violent hands expand his range and tackle radius.”
Nolan Smith, LB/Edge
Smith could play on the edge or off the ball at the next level. The 6-3, 235-pound defender has the athleticism to play either position.
Smith has an explosive first and wins the edge with his quickness. That quickness shows up when he drops into coverage. Smith possesses the lateral quickness to stick with running backs and tight ends in coverage.
Some may look at Smith’s weight and think he can’t hang on the edge. The Georgia Bulldog is a stout-run defender and does a great job of setting the edge.
Smith enters Friday’s game with six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and one interception.
It’s hard to tell where Smith will land in the NFL draft. I think he’s a late day two pick and early day three selection. He is a versatile linebacker that can play on the edge or off the ball.
Long speed-to-power edge rusher who also handles occasional overhang coverage responsibilities with movement skills and agility. Hyper bendy and patrols the arc with flexibility. Disengages with burst and urgency, sharp change of direction to adjust late to ball carriers.
Lewis Cine, S
Cine is a rangy, centerfield safety. Cine covers a lot of real estate in the backend of Georgia’s defense.
Cine has a high football IQ and shows great route recognition. He does a great job of reading the quarterback and trusting his eyes.
As a run defender, Cine is quick to come downhill and is a sure tackler. According to Pro Football Focus, Cine only has eight missed tackles during his career.
This season, Cine has 61 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception and eight pass deflections. He’s a Round 2 pick and could be on Green Bay’s radar as they ready for the departure of Adrian Amos or Darnell Savage Jr.
“Long and versatile defensive back, rangy as a single high safety and plays with balance and recognition from the slot. Narrow frame but solid tackler and willing run supporter with production.”
Jordan Davis, DL
Davis is a game-wrecker. There is a reason why he was getting Heisman buzz at one point this season. He’s a big reason why the Bulldogs are giving up less than three years per rush.
The former three-star recruit is a mountain of a man. At 6-6, 340 pounds he makes his counterpart, Devonte Wyatt (6-3, 315) look like Lord Tyrion.
Davis is a roadblock. He eats up blocks and allows his teammates to make plays. He enters Friday’s contest with three tackles for loss and two sacks.
The chances of Davis falling to the Packers in the first round are slim. The chances of Green Bay trading up to get him are even slimmer.
“One of the top prospects in the class regardless of position. Rare size and outstanding play strength. His post-snap recognition and reaction to early-down run plays will translate into early NFL impact.”
Christopher Smith, S
Smith is an athletic safety that is quick to trigger. He has special teams experience on coverage units, where his speed shines.
Smith has natural ball skills. He looks like a wide receiver attacking the ball while it’s in the air.
The former four-star recruit has two interceptions on the season. He’s a day-three pick and could help Green Bay’s special teams from the jump and provide quality safety depth.
“Twitchy hybrid safety with great feel for Cover 2. Splash tackler with good ball skills and prototypical length. Former track athlete with effective short area man coverage ability and upfield burst. Concise and fluid transitions tracking vertical routes and has great ball skills to close on catch point.”
Latavious Brini, DB
Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry said that a team can never have enough players that can play the nickel position. Brini is as versatile as they come.
Brini is capable of playing safety but looks most comfortable playing in the slot. Brini is fluid in his movements and has the quickness to mirror quicker slot wide receivers.
Brini is a Day 3 pick and would help Green Bay’s special teams on day one. He would provide quality depth in the secondary and give Barry another player that’s capable of playing the “Star” position.
“Versatile nickel corner and safety hybrid with long levers and prototypical height and weight. Great special teams traits and brings physicality and motor to box play. Takes on edge blocks and competes in the screen game with toughness and instincts. Balanced and agile in coverage, can be a matchup piece mirroring backs and tight ends.”