Bulldogs Beat

Nine former Georgia Bulldog players to watch in the NFL Draft

What’s it like to switch from defensive back to wide receiver? Mecole Hardman gives insight

Mecole Hardman spoke with reporters about his performance during pro day on March 20, 2019, in Athens, Ga., and what it was like to make the switch in 2016 from defensive back to wide receiver.
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Mecole Hardman spoke with reporters about his performance during pro day on March 20, 2019, in Athens, Ga., and what it was like to make the switch in 2016 from defensive back to wide receiver.

As Deandre Baker performed at Georgia’s pro day in front of a plethora of scouts, there was one statement on his mind.

“I’m the best corner in the draft,” he said to the scrum of reporters on-site and on live television with the NFL Network.

He has a case: Baker didn’t allowed a touchdown in his final two seasons as a Bulldog. He locked down premier SEC receivers. There was a swagger about Baker’s performances, and he went after each week with a mission in mind.

There are other defensive backs, however, who expect to hear their name called Thursday night at the NFL Draft in Nashville, Tennessee. Those slotted in the first round include LSU’s Greedy Williams (Baker faced Williams’ Tigers in October), Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, Washington’s Byron Murphy and Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams.

According to a final mock draft by NFL.com’s Peter Schrager, Greedy Williams, Ya-Sin and Murphy are all projected to be chosen ahead of Baker (his stature at 5-foot-11 has been a significant consideration). The Georgia product is projected, by Schrager, to land with the Los Angeles Chargers at 28th overall.

Baker was once projected around the top-10 selections in the draft, but ESPN’s Todd McShay said on a conference call, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, that his stock may be falling due to skipping the Allstate Sugar Bowl and conduct while attending the event in New Orleans.

Nevertheless, Baker will likely be the lone Bulldog to hear his name called as a first-round selection to open the draft Thursday night. Georgia has found it commonplace for one of its athletes to be a first-round selection as there were three — Roquan Smith, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn — last season.

Beyond the first night, however, is where most of the Bulldogs will learn their fate as many of the draft prospects are projected to be mid-to-late round selections. As the first selection nears in a three-day event, here are some names to watch.

Defensive end D’Andre Walker

Walker was a menace for Georgia during his senior season, and accounted for most of the team’s sacks and quarterback pressures. He finished the season with 7.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries. Walker, however, was sidelined to end the season with a groin injury that required offseason surgery. How will that factor in to where he is selected? Many project Walker to be chosen in the third-or-fourth round.

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman

Hardman is of intrigue due to a tie with the hometown Atlanta Falcons. There was apparent interest when the two parties interacted at Georgia’s pro day, and meetings have taken place before and after that showcase in March. Hardman would provide a viable special teams’ option to whichever team selects him, and that’s an area of need for the Falcons.

Hardman recorded 543 yards and seven touchdowns in his junior season before deciding to leave the program early. He added 321 return yards and a touchdown to those totals. He is slotted anywhere in the third to fifth rounds.

Running back Elijah Holyfield

There’s a large question mark around the draft status of Elijah Holyfield. He had an unexpected showing at the combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.78 seconds, one that didn’t see improvement at Georgia’s pro day. However, general managers around the league place a certain amount of stock in the testing results, and it remains to see what Holyfield’s fate is after leaving early.

Holyfield was a bruising type of running back for Georgia as he recorded 1,018 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his final campaign. It was his lone season of true opportunity in a Bulldogs’ backfield that is deep with talent each season. He is on the cusp of being drafted as Holyfield could be a seventh-round pick or an undrafted free agent.

Other potential Georgia draftees: Wide receiver Terry Godwin, defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, wide receiver Riley Ridley, tight end Isaac Nauta and linebacker Natrez Patrick