Mel Kiper has pair of Georgia Bulldogs among biggest NFL Combine winners
Only one school sent more players to the NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend than Georgia. The Bulldogs were well-represented out in Indianapolis, with 12 players among the top 300 draft prospects invited to compete.
With the Combine now complete, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. recently named a handful of players he felt helped their stock most at the event. Kiper gave 10 names; two of them were Bulldogs.
Nolan Smith had to be on the list after a brief but outstanding showing in the athletic portion of the event. Here’s what Kiper wrote about the former UGA outside linebacker:
Smith, who tore his right pectoral muscle in November and missed the rest of the season, did just 3 drills on the field Thursday night, but he was elite in each one. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and put up a 41.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-8 broad jump. At 238 pounds, he is now the second-heaviest player to run a sub-4.4 40 and have a 40-plus-inch vertical jump at the combine since 2006 (Vernon Davis is the other). Those are unreal numbers for an outside linebacker.
NFL teams covet edge rushers — it’s one of the positions they reach for most. Smith has all the physical tools teams want in an outside linebacker, but he had just 6.5 sacks over the past two seasons and too often got swallowed up by offensive tackles. He has to develop more pass-rush moves. I don’t have a Round 1 grade on Smith — he’s my No. 3 OLB — but I could see a team falling in love with him and taking him in the 15-25 range in April.
Plus, we’ve certainly seen NFL teams in the past show a willingness to overlook a bit of production if the measurables are there. Smith looked the part.
Kiper’s other big riser from Georgia is sort of in the opposite boat. Stetson Bennett might not have prototypical size, but all he’s done is win everything possible to close out his college career.
Bennett spoke earlier in the week and then took the field Saturday. Kiper wrote this on his performance:
I thought Bennett had an outstanding workout Saturday, both in the passing drills and in the athletic testing. Since he didn’t play in an all-star game after his season ended, this was the first time NFL teams have gotten to see him up close. He threw the ball very well. He ran a better-than-expected 4.67 40-yard dash.
Bennett’s college production isn’t in question; he completed 68.3% of his passes with 27 touchdowns and seven picks in 2022. The question is more about his frame, as he measured just under 5-foot-11 — a little taller than Bryce Young — and his arm strength. He throws the ball hard, but can he consistently connect on a deep out down the field? An arrest for public intoxication in January didn’t help his stock in the eyes of front-office execs. Bennett also will turn 26 as a rookie. Still, he’s in the Round 4 range on my board, and I think he’ll have a long NFL career.
The 2023 NFL Draft begins April 27.