Leonard Floyd has a shot at being the 15th Georgia player to be selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft.
Floyd’s stock has risen considerably in the past four months. Initially deemed a late first-rounder or second-round prospect, Floyd’s name has consistently popped up in the top-10 of some recent NFL mock drafts.
Most recently, the New York Giants have been linked to Floyd at the 10th overall pick, which is the same spot former Georgia running back Todd Gurley went to the now-Los Angeles Rams in 2015.
Floyd’s upside is his athletic prowess and ability to rush the quarterback. In three seasons at Georgia, Floyd totaled 182 tackles and 17 sacks. While Floyd recorded 4 1/2 sacks in 2015, the fewest during his college career, he routinely got after the quarterback playing multiple positions. Not only was Floyd an outside linebacker, he played inside linebacker and nickel cornerback over the course of his three seasons.
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Floyd’s career at Georgia has him confident about being the latest Bulldogs player to have his name called by one of the first 10 teams with draft picks.
“Why wouldn’t I be worthy?” Floyd said in March when asked if he thinks he should be a first-round pick. “I played for Georgia, I made plays for Georgia. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Floyd is practically guaranteed to be the first Georgia player selected during the three-day NFL draft, which begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday. If he’s not taken in the top 10, Floyd will more than likely be snatched up before the 20s come around.
After Floyd, fellow outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins is the top candidate to be the second Georgia player off the board, which could occur anywhere from the second to fourth rounds.
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell saw his draft stock rise beginning with his participation at the Senior Bowl in February. Initially seen as a late-round pick, Mitchell could also see his name called on the second day along with Jenkins, at least according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
“He’s a kid who ran better than people thought he would at 4.45 (in the 40-yard dash),” Kiper said. “I think people projected him to be at 4.55, so he exceeded expectations in terms of his 40. He made a lot of really highlight-film catches. He’s a great athlete. I think he’s as good, if not better, of a prospect than Chris Conley was. I’d say third round.”
Floyd, Jenkins and Mitchell are Georgia’s players with good shots at being taken during the draft’s first two days.
Offensive tackle John Theus has been considered a fourth-round prospect since February, according to a league source. Theus dealt with a shoulder injury during the 2015 season and played both left and right tackle.
Running back Keith Marshall is a wild-card candidate on the third day of the draft. After running an official 4.31 40-yard dash and a 25-rep bench press at the NFL combine, Marshall’s stock rose considerably to where he could go as high as the fourth or fifth rounds.
Marshall said his right knee, which sustained a torn ACL in 2013, has fully healed and checked out medically at the combine. Teams could still be hesitant to pull the trigger on Marshall, however, considering he only rushed the ball 68 times for 350 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.
Then again, Marshall will enter the NFL without much wear and tear on his body, and with quite possibly the fastest wheels of any draft prospect available.
One potential late-round pick is nose tackle Chris Mayes. Mayes hasn’t received too much buzz throughout the draft process but has the size (6-3, 338 pounds) and game film that could make him worthy of a sixth- or seventh-round selection. Mayes admitted his surprise when he received an NFL combine invite, which may have further boosted his standing with NFL personnel.
“It’s huge, especially being considered in the ranks of those guys,” said Mayes, who has received interest from NFL teams with 3-4 defenses such as the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions. “I consider myself a high-level player but not in the ranks of some of the guys I’ve played with. It’s a huge thing for me.”
The player who may have the most to prove — again — is Georgia’s 2015 MVP Jake Ganus, who has a chance to go undrafted. If that happens, it wouldn’t be the first time Ganus has been overlooked. Unheralded as a recruit, Ganus ended up at UAB and became a star safety and linebacker before the program temporarily folded.
Transferring to Georgia, Ganus went from third-string linebacker and special-teams contributor to a starter and permanent captain by the season’s end. Ganus led Georgia with 102 total tackles and earned a last-minute Senior Bowl invite.
Not invited to the NFL combine, Ganus wasn’t able to show scouts what he was worthy of until Georgia’s pro day in March. If undrafted, Ganus will more than likely be a preferred free-agent signing.
Regardless, Ganus’ dream of making an NFL roster won’t be deterred.
“I think that’s written with my name, that I got to prove something,” Ganus said. “There are guys who run 4.4s and do all that kind of stuff and I’m not that guy. I’m just a guy who goes out there and makes plays. I can run the defense and I can be a leader in the locker room. I can do those things for a team. Coaches know that and all I need is one team to find that valuable enough to take me.”
Jason Butt: @JasonHButt