Six players who had a big hand in Georgia's national title win over Alabama are declaring for the 2022 NFL draft.
Safety Lewis Cine, LB Nakobe Dean, WR George Pickens, OL Jamaree Salyer and DL Travon Walker all said they were going pro on Friday afternoon along with running backs Zamir White and James Cook. None of the players' decisions is surprising and all will likely be early-round picks in the 2022 draft.
Cine was the team’s leading tackler with 73 stops and two tackles for loss. He also had an interception and nine passes defensed. He had seven tackles, including one for a loss, in the Bulldogs’ 33-18 win over Alabama on Monday night to win the national title. He was second on the team in tackles in 2020 with 49 and became a starter late in the 2019 season as a freshman.
Dean was one of the best players on a ferocious Georgia defense in 2021. He was the team’s second-leading tackler behind Cine with 72 stops and had 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also had two interceptions and was credited with six pass breakups and 28 hits according to Georgia’s stats department. And those stats don’t lie, Dean is one of the best all-around linebackers in the draft.
Yahoo Sports NFL draft analyst Eric Edholm had Dean going at No. 32 to the Green Bay Packers in his December mock draft.
Dean played in all of Georgia’s games in his three seasons with the Bulldogs. He had 25 tackles in 14 games as a freshman and had 71 tackles in 10 games in 2020.
White was the Bulldogs’ leading rusher in 2021. He had 160 carries for 856 yards and 11 TDs, while Cook had 113 carries for 740 yards and seven touchdowns. Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin, also had 27 catches for 284 yards and four touchdowns.
White led the team with 779 rushing yards and 11 TDs in 2020. Cook was also the team’s second-leading rusher in 2020 with 303 yards on just 45 carries.
Walker had 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2021. He had 30 quarterback hits and was the defensive lineman who saw the field the most in Georgia’s heavily-rotated front. Walker played in over 50% of Georgia’s snaps. Like Cine and Dean, Walker was an immediate contributor as a freshman in 2019 and had 2.5 sacks that season.
Pickens didn't play nearly as much as the other three in 2021 after he tore the ACL in his right knee during spring practice. He was able to see the field at the end of the season and had a huge 52-yard diving catch in the first half of the game against Alabama. Pickens had five catches for 107 yards in limited playing time across four games this past season.
But he's shown the ability to be one of the best wide receivers in his draft class while healthy. The Alabama native had 36 catches for 513 yards and six touchdowns in eight games as a sophomore in 2020. As a freshman in 2019 he had 49 catches for 727 yards and had eight touchdowns. If Pickens is able to go through all of the drills and workouts that teams ask of him through the pre-draft process, don’t be surprised if he’s off the board on the second day of the draft ahead of players who had far better statistics in 2021.