ATHENS — The crowd of a 122 NFL personnel — a Georgia pro day record — gasped. Some even laughed in disbelief as Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis and Travon Walker went through drills. Davis quickly navigated through pads laid on the turf as someone half his size would. Walker moved through a defensive transition drill, opened his hips, turned like a defensive back, and went up and snagged a ball out of his reach like a dynamic receiver.
"Never seen anyone move like that at that size," one evaluator said.
Georgia dominated teams with their historically great defense that allowed the nation's best 10.20 points per game and was the second most efficient college defense of all time, per FiveThirtyEight. And their offense packed a punch, too, with running backs James Cook and Zamir White that wore defenses down, and George Pickens, who starred in the National Championship game after missing most of the season recovering from an ACL tear.
The Bulldogs could have as many as five players drafted in the first round of the draft in April. Their highly anticipated pro day brought out some of the biggest names in football, including:
- Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck,
- Texans head coach Lovie Smith,
- Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn,
- Stelelers head coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert
- Giants general manager Joe Schoen
- Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees and special teams coordinator Marquice WIlliams
- Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon
Here are some observations from the day:
Nakobe Dean struggles
Dean is widely considered among the top linebackers in this draft, if not the best. He didn't work out at the NFL combine, so much of the buzz around the pro day was focused on Dean's performance. But it didn't go as planned. Dean was limited, only doing positional drills, which he says was due to a pectoral issue suffered in training. He just began running last Tuesday, and his rust showed.
There were small bursts where Dean looked quick and explosive, but he struggled overall. He dropped multiple passes, struggled to move his legs quickly, and looked exhausted.
"I'm my hardest critic," Dean said. "I missed a couple balls. Legs got a little tired, got a little heavy. That's probably me just starting to run last week. All in all, I had fun, and I know what to do to get better ready for football-specific drills."
Zamir White and James Cook impress
By the time the pro day comes around, scouts have already broken down enough film and had opportunities at college all-star games or the combine to know how good a player is. Still, playing well doesn't hurt.
Cook and White did that on Wednesday, reminding scouts of their explosiveness out of the backfield in running back drills and pass-catching ability in receiving drills.
Many in the facility were high on White's character and perseverance. Doctors gave White ten days to live as a newborn after having multiple issues at birth, including cleft lip, cleft jaw, kidney function, and cysts. Today he's on pace to graduate and will play in the NFL.
Many evaluators told both backs they were impressed by their performance in position drills.
Jason Poe turns heads
There were three athletes who didn't play the University of Georgia at the pro day, and Poe, an offensive tackle from Mercer University, stood out. At 6-foot-3 300 pounds, Poe has been called one of the best pulling guards in the nation, and he showed his athleticism and strength on Wednesday. He cruised to 34 reps on the bench press, much of them with ease, and leaped to 31.5-inch vertical.
Poe's a name to keep an eye on in April.
- Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams went out into the downpouring rain to watch Georgia punter Jake Camarda. Camarda is considered the best punter in this year's draft. Williams spoke with Camarda for some time in the indoor facility as well.
- Georgia linebacker Quay Walker looked quick and explosive through drills and drew reactions for evaluators in the audience. At 6-foot-4, 241 pounds, Walker is considered one of the best linebackers in the draft.
- George Pickens increased his vertical by two inches from his combine jump to 34.5 inches. The questions surrounding Pickens are less about his talent and more focused on his character and bouncing back from injury. He's a name to keep an eye on in the second round of the draft for the Falcons.