Georgia Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Bulldog Taken in 2014 NFL Draft
The 2014 NFL draft was rather uneventful for the Georgia Bulldogs. Thursday night's first round went off without a hitch and without a Bulldog. Friday's second- and third-round action was also devoid of Georgia products. It wasn't until the fifth round that the first Dawg had his name called, and when all was said and done, only two Dawgs were selected.
That being said, several other former Bulldogs have already signed free-agent contracts, and if recent history is any indication, those players have a tremendous chance of making an NFL roster. Last year alone, three undrafted Dawgs (Marlon Brown, Kwame Geathers and Abry Jones) survived NFL cuts to garner meaningful rookie playing time.
Here is a look at who will replace Georgia's drafted stars and newly signed rookie free agents.
TE Arthur Lynch: Miami Dolphins
Arthur Lynch waited patiently in Athens behind the likes of Orson Charles and Aron White before emerging as an All-SEC performer at tight end. In two years as a starter, he hauled in 54 passes for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. He excelled as a downfield threat but also as a blocker.
His diverse skill set yielded a fifth-round selection (155th overall) by the Miami Dolphins.
Jay Rome, a 6'6" redshirt junior, is the most obvious choice to replace Lynch at the tight end spot. Rome has played extensively over the past two years (appearing in 22 games) and has replicated Lynch's patience while serving as a backup.
Rome, who played on Georgia's basketball team as a freshman, boasts a higher level of athleticism than Lynch and should be an even more lethal receiving threat. That being said, he has not developed as a blocker to the extent of his predecessor—at least not yet.
QB Aaron Murray: Kansas City Chiefs
Despite shattering practically every SEC passing record over the course of a four-year tenure as Georgia's starter, Aaron Murray slipped into the fifth round (163rd overall pick) of the 2014 NFL draft. While playing for the Bulldogs, Murray threw for over 13,000 yards while amassing 137 total touchdowns.
He missed the final two-and-a-half games of his career with a torn ACL.
Hutson Mason played well as a backup for much of Murray's career and demonstrated poise when he took over as the starter at the end of the 2013 campaign. The fifth-year senior has all the intangibles one could hope for from a first-time starter: experience as a reserve, knowledge of the playbook, the respect of teammates.
As offensive coordinator Mike Bobo told Seth Emerson of the Ledger-Enquirer, Mason's spring practice performance is cause for optimism.
I thought Hutson had an outstanding spring. Really stepped up in the leadership department. Had great command of the offense. Was extremely accurate. Came every day prepared to get better. Even today was one of his better days, on the last days. He was extremely focused. I expect him to take that confident that he gained this spring and his leadership abilities and apply it to the summer.
WR Rantavious Wooten: Miami Dolphins
Over the course of five years, Rantavious Wooten (who redshirted in 2011 after appearing in three games) hauled in 64 passes for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns. His best campaign of all came as a senior when he grabbed 30 balls for 424 yards and five scores.
He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dolphins, as per Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.
Oddly enough, Wooten was the replacement more often than not for the Bulldogs. On a talented roster filled by the likes of A.J. Green, Tavarres King and Brown early and Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley later in his career, Wooten never became a focal point in the passing game.
That being said, he made a name for himself in the second half of 2014 when several players went down with injuries. So it's a safe assumption that establishing depth behind Mitchell, Bennett and Conley will remain a priority for Georgia.
Look for Reggie Davis (a sophomore) to see an enhanced role in the absence of Wooten.
DE Garrison Smith: Miami Dolphins
Another Dolphins free agent, per Abramson's report, Garrison Smith started 23 games for the Bulldogs and registered 145 tackles over his four-year career. Sixteen of those tackles were for a loss and seven were sacks.
It's hard to hail Ray Drew as Smith's replacement as Drew had his coming-out party last year, but Drew will be counted on to fill the leadership void left by the senior.
With that in mind, the open defensive end spot will most likely be occupied by either junior Sterling Bailey or incoming freshman Lorenzo Carter. Bailey started on occasion last year (particularly when Smith moved inside) and pressured opposing quarterbacks eight times.
Carter, the top recruit out of the state of Georgia, will see the field early and often, but he may play a weak-side outside linebacker spot early as he adjusts to the physicality of the college game.
OG Chris Burnette: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Everything one needs to know about Chris Burnette can be gleaned from his final three years in Athens. Over that run, Burnette racked up 37 starts for one of the most prolific offenses in the country. He was steady in pass protection and a force in run blocking.
Georgia's offensive line is still a work in progress, but the two tackles and the center position seem locked up. Both guard positions, one of which was occupied by Burnette for the past three years, remain open, however.
Most likely, sophomores Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow will occupy the positions, but senior Mark Beard could also be a factor. Beard and Kublanow have the most in-game experience, but Pyke came on strong in the spring and seemed to entrench himself as a starter.
Also in the shuffle is fellow senior Watts Dantzler who has played significantly as a backup.
DB/WR Blake Sailors: Washington Redskins
Blake Sailors is an unknown name for those who don't follow Georgia football. The defensive back logged a total of 28 tackles over the course of a four-year career, and the bulk of his work came on special teams.
A speedster who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at Georgia's pro day, as per Gentry Estes of 247Sports, Sailors has been cross-training as a receiver with the hope of making a roster. According to Estes, Sailors announced that he received a rookie minicamp invite from the Washington Redskins.
To replace Sailors, Georgia isn't looking for a defensive back. Instead, the team is looking for a special teams stalwart.
In that regard, Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman who actually started at cornerback in the spring game, seems like a likely choice. Davis has the speed and the tenacity to make a difference in kick coverage (just like Sailors) but may have even more upside given his demonstrated ability in the defensive backfield.
Recruit information via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.