The Georgia Bulldogs have had 14 defensive players selected over the past two NFL drafts, with three of those prospects being selected by the Green Bay Packers.
Brian Gutekunst selected Eric Stokes in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. The Green Bay Packers general manager followed that up by selecting Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft.
“We kept the G on the helmet,” Gutekunst said after selecting Walker and Wyatt on April 28. “Obviously they’ve had a lot of success down there in Athens.”
The Bulldogs will once again have plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball this fall. Will that talent keep Gutekunst going down south? Here are the defensive prospects that Packers fans should get to know for the upcoming college football season.
Will the Packers select a Georgia defensive player for a third straight year?
If they do, an early, early betting favorite has to be Christopher Smith (DB).
More ball skills. Special team experience. Track background. pic.twitter.com/Ikfvx8ztU9
— Brennen Rupp (@Brennen_Rupp) May 14, 2022
(Note: Jalen Carter and Kelee Ringo are projected Top 10 picks and not listed on this preview).
Nolan Smith, Edge
If the Packers are going to select a Georgia Bulldog for a third straight year the early betting favorite has to be Smith. The Georgia edge rusher would likely have been a day two selection or possible late first-round pick if he had declared for the 2022 NFL draft.
During his first two seasons on campus, Smith recorded five sacks. This past season Smith recorded 56 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Smith has a quick first step and the speed to win the corner. Although undersized (235 pounds) Smith holds his own against the run and is strong at the point of attack.
“As far as the 2022 defense is concerned, Georgia is incredibly lucky that Smith decided to return in order to earn his degree,” Jordan Hill, the Georgia beat writer for Dawgs247, said. “Smith is a known commodity on a Georgia defense that lacks that on the whole this fall (Georgia lost 8 starters from the 2021 defense), and his leadership cannot be overstated. What also cannot be overstated is the fact he’s 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and boasts excellent pass-rushing ability. He’ll be counted on heavily at outside linebacker while a fresh batch of inside linebackers find their way onto the field.”
Christopher Smith, S.
Smith finished last season with three interceptions and seven pass deflections. The former track athlete does wide receiver-like things at the catch point. He has exceptional burst to close on the football.
Smith is a fluid athlete and shows outstanding range. Smith’s trump card is his ability in coverage. He’s not a heavy hitter like former teammate and current Minnesota Viking, Lewis Cine.
“Christopher Smith may not have delivered the kind of hits his fellow safety, Lewis Cine, did while Cine was at Georgia, but he has been a proven asset in coverage for the Bulldogs,” Hill said. “Per Pro Football Focus, Smith allowed a 51.1 passer rating in coverage since 2020, which stands as the lowest passer rating among SEC safeties in that time. He’s a capable man as Georgia’s last line of defense, and I expect him to step up while Georgia figures out who plays the other safety spot this fall.”
Robert Beal Jr, Edge
As part of a talented rotation, Beal finished last season with 7.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading 6.5 sacks. Beal finished the season strong by recording five sacks during the final six games.
Beal isn’t as twitched-up as Smith, but he’s more physical and powerful. He has quick, heavy hands and does a good job of converting speed to power. As a run defender, Beal is strong at the point of attack and does a good job of using his hands to keep him free.
“Robert Beal was quietly one of the most important defenders for Georgia to close out the 2021 season, as he stepped up once Adam Anderson was suspended and wound up leading the team in sacks,” Hill said. “Beal is an experienced outside linebacker who has been in the shadow somewhat of Nolan Smith — a former five-star recruit — but can still produce in a big way. I expect Beal to play a vital role at outside linebacker this fall and make the most of his super senior season at Georgia.”
Tykee Smith, Defensive Back
NFL teams are always looking for that versatile chess piece and Smith fits the bill. At West Virginia, Smith played in the slot and it’s a role the versatile defensive back could fill this year for the Bulldogs.
Smith had his first season in Athens derailed by injuries last fall. Smith missed the first five games of the 2021 season and appeared in just one game before suffering a torn ACL.
“Tykee Smith is the biggest question mark for Georgia entering the season,” Hill said. “A former standout at West Virginia, Smith was slowed by injuries early on in 2021 before tearing his ACL in October. Smith was on the road to recovery this spring, so he won’t be until fall camp that we can really see what he can bring to the table and if he factors into the second safety competition.”
Prior to transferring to Georgia, Smith was a difference maker for West Virginia’s defense. As a freshman in 2019, Smith recorded 50 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions and broke up four passes. In nine games in 2020, Smith recorded 61 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two interceptions and five pass deflections.