Georgia football has produced a plethora of NFL talent over the years, and this year is no different. In his fourth and latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has four Bulldogs going in the first round, the most of any school.
The four players in question are defensive tackle Jalen Carter, linebacker Nolan Smith, offensive tackle Broderick Jones and tight end Darnell Washington. Kiper has these players spread out through the first round, from the top 10 to the end of the round.
Without further ado, let's take a look at exactly where Kiper projects these four Bulldogs in his latest mock draft.
Defensive Tackle Jalen Carter: Detroit Lions, sixth overall
The first Georgia player Kiper has going off the board is star defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Him falling this far would've been unthinkable about a month ago, but the last month has not been kind to him.
First, Carter was arrested for his role in a deadly crash that killed Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and staffer Chandler LeCroy. He later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident. He also showed up to his pro day at 323 pounds, nine pounds heavier than he weighed at the Combine just weeks before.
Due to the controversy, Carter has fallen out of contention to be the top overall pick. According to Kiper, though, he shouldn't fall too far down the boards.
“Everything I've heard from people in the league, however, is he won't drop too far — he likely still will be a top-10 selection,” Kiper wrote. “Carter's talent is undeniable, and I could see a team such as the Lions taking him here, filling a position of need.”
On the field, Carter is a dominant force and easily the best interior defender in this draft class. Over the past two seasons, Carter has racked up 15.5 tackles for loss and six sacks while helping Georgia football win back-to-back titles.
As Kiper notes, Detroit needs help on defense after allowing a league-high 6.2 yards per play in 2022. The Lions already beefed up the defensive line by drafting Aidan Hutchinson second overall last year, and Carter would only improve the unit more.
Linebacker Nolan Smith: Houston Texans, 12th overall
The next Georgia player to go off the board in this scenario is linebacker Nolan Smith. Smith has shot up draft boards lately, owing to his outstanding showing at the Combine.
In four years with the Bulldogs, Smith racked up 114 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. Unfortunately, he missed the end of last season with a torn pectoral, bringing his college career to an abrupt end. Still, his terrific Combine performance shows he has all the tools to be a “quarterback of the defense,” as Kiper puts it.
“People in the league rave about Smith's leadership skills, and he was outstanding at the combine,” Kiper wrote. “I named him as one of my risers after he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at 238 pounds, and this is right in the range in which he could go.”
The Texans, who Kiper has taking Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at second overall, need help all over the roster. However, defensive end and outside linebacker look especially thin right now. With their quarterback already in tow, Kiper has Houston taking a “foundational player” for new head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Offensive Tackle Broderick Jones: New York Jets, 13th overall
Immediately after Smith, Kiper has another Georgia football star coming off the board in offensive tackle Broderick Jones. Jones is one of the top offensive line prospects in the draft, and Kiper has him going to a team that needs offensive line help in the Jets. That is, if they don't give up this pick in the inevitable Aaron Rodgers trade.
New York is in a tricky spot along the offensive line. Mekhi Becton, a 2020 first-round pick, has played just one game in the last two seasons. Duane Brown is turning 38 this summer, and Max Mitchell wasn't great in five starts at right tackle last season. The Jets have also not signed a tackle in free agency, making it their biggest need in the draft. In that case, taking a college standout like Jones makes perfect sense.
“Jones started 19 games on the left side for the Bulldogs, and he didn't allow a single sack last season. He's still growing at the position, but he has major upside. He could compete with Mitchell at right tackle,” Kiper wrote.
Again, this all predicates on the Jets not giving up this pick for Rodgers. If they do keep it, though, then Jones would be a fantastic addition to a line that needs one.
Tight End Darnell Washington: Cincinnati Bengals, 28th overall
The fourth and final Bulldog in Kiper's mock draft is tight end Darnell Washington. Like Smith, Washington's stock has skyrocketed after his showing at the Combine.
At first glance, Washington's college stats don't look that special. However, he is an absolute mammoth at 6-foot-7, 264 yards and he ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. He also played behind Brock Bowers for Georgia football, arguably the best tight end in the country, so he could thrive in a larger role.
“The tight end group as a whole is spectacular at the top, but Washington might have the highest ceiling. He wasn't used a ton in the pass game for the Bulldogs, as he had just 45 catches and three scores over three seasons. At 6-foot-7, 264 pounds, he ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the combine, impressing NFL scouts, who think he could be much better at the next level,” Kiper wrote.
Cincinnati lost starting tight end Hayden Hurst in free agency, leaving a big hole at the position. Washington would fill that hole very nicely, and could give Joe Burrow some extra protection with his blocking prowess. The Bengals offense is already among the league's best, and adding Washington would bolster it even further.