Georgia ties for national lead with 10 NFL Draft selections
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Georgia ties for national lead with 10 NFL Draft selections

UGA Football
Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With six selections on the final day, the University of Georgia football team closed out the 2023 NFL Draft with 10 overall selections, the second-most in program history, while tying with Alabama for the national lead.

The Bulldogs’ draft count also eclipsed double-digits for the second-straight year, giving the program at least seven players picked for the fifth-consecutive draft. Last year, Georgia set a new NFL record for a seven-round draft (1994-present) with 15 selections. With 25 players selected over the past two years, Georgia set a record for the most drafted players in a two-year span during the Common Draft era (1966-present). Through seven seasons of head coach Kirby Smart’s tenure, the program has produced 54 total draftees.

With the 105th overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles selected defensive back Kelee Ringo, the third Bulldog to be selected by the defending NFC champions (Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith) and fifth in the past two seasons (Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean). The Eagles’ run on Bulldogs marked the fourth time in program history that three players were selected by one franchise in a draft, joining the 1945 Chicago Cardinals and 1946 and 1957 Los Angeles Rams. Overall, the Eagles have drafted 26 Georgia players, the most of any NFL franchise.

In two seasons for Georgia, Ringo started in 27 games and tallied 76 tackles, three tackles for loss, and four interceptions, most notably the game-clinching pick-six against Alabama in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Tacoma, Washington native also turned in a spectacular performance against then-No. 1 Tennessee last season, posting a career-high seven tackles and an interception. Ringo was selected to the 2022 Associate Press and Coaches’ All-SEC Second Team and the 2021 Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC Team.

Later in the fourth round, quarterback Stetson Bennett went to the Los Angeles Rams, returning him to SoFi Stadium, the site of his second-consecutive CFP National Championship Game victory. Bennett’s selection was the highest for a Bulldog quarterback since his now-Rams teammate Matthew Stafford was drafted first overall in 2009. Bennett’s offensive tackle, Warren McClendon, also went to the Rams with the 174th overall pick, giving Los Angeles 18 drafted players from Georgia in its history.

Bennett, a native of Blackshear, left Athens after recording one of the most prolific careers in program history. In three seasons as a starter, Bennett posted a 29-3 record and led Georgia to the first back-to-back national championships of the CFP era, earning Offensive MVP honors in all four playoff games. He was awarded with the 2022 Burlsworth Trophy and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, Georgia’s highest finisher since 1992. For his career, he finished with 8,428 yards passing, fourth-most in school history, and 66 touchdowns passes, the fifth-most all-time.

McClendon, a native of Brunswick, started in 38 games at right tackle over his four-year career, earning a spot on the 2022 Coaches’ All-SEC First Team and the 2020 FWAA Freshman All-America Team. Along with his teammates on the line, he helped the Bulldogs’ offense tally a school-record 501.1 yards per game, while only surrendering nine sacks to Bennett. Additionally, the Georgia running corps combined for 3,080 yards rushing and 44 touchdowns behind the front.

McClendon’s selection was part of a flurry of Georgia players chosen late in the fifth round, beginning with defensive back Christopher Smith, who was picked 170th overall by the Las Vegas Raiders. Smith was only the fourth Bulldog ever selected by the Raiders, including teammate Zamir White’s selection last year. Three picks later, outside linebacker Robert Beal, Jr. was selected 173rd overall by the San Francisco 49ers, the nation-leading 28th Georgia linebacker drafted since 2000. The 49ers have now drafted 16 Georgia players in their history.

Smith, an Atlanta native, appeared in 56 games and started in 31 over five seasons with the Bulldogs, anchoring the Georgia defensive backfield at safety. In his senior season, Smith was named a Consensus First Team All-American and First Team All-SEC honoree, while also becoming a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award for the nation’s top defensive player. During his career, he accumulated 133 tackles and six interceptions, with a knack for making major plays in the Bulldogs’ biggest games: the game-winning pick-six against Clemson in 2021, an interception against Alabama in the 2022 CFP Championship, returning a blocked field goal 96 yards for a touchdown against LSU in the 2022 SEC Championship, and a forced fumble against TCU in the 2023 CFP Championship.

Beal, a Duluth native, appeared in 52 games and started in 10 over five seasons in Athens, racking up 72 career tackles and 10.5 sacks. Beal closed out his career in style, posting a sack against TCU and four quarterback hurries against LSU, including a strip-sack against the Tigers. In 2021, he led the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks, closing out the year with four tackles and a sack against Michigan in the 2021 Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal.

Georgia’s final selection came in the seventh round as running back Kenny McIntosh was chosen 237th overall by the Seattle Seahawks. McIntosh’s selection was the first of a Georgia player by Seattle since Kris Durham in 2011, breaking the longest pick drought of any franchise. The Seahawks have chosen 10 Bulldogs in their history.

Over four seasons, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida native played in 49 games, starting in 14 during his senior season. Last year, McIntosh tallied 1,333 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns, including a team-leading 829 on the ground and the third-most yards receiving with 504. He scored twice against LSU in the SEC Championship, while setting career highs in rushes (19) and yards (143) at Kentucky, scoring the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown. McIntosh also contributed on special teams, returning 14 career kicks for 375 yards, including a 38-yard kickoff return to open the 2020 Auburn game.

2023 NFL Draft Selections
1/9/9 – Jalen Carter, DL, Philadelphia Eagles
1/14/14 – Broderick Jones, OL, Pittsburgh Steelers
1/30/30 – Nolan Smith, OLB, Philadelphia Eagles
3/30/93 – Darnell Washington, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
4/3/105 – Kelee Ringo, DB, Philadelphia Eagles
4/26/128 – Stetson Bennett, QB, Los Angeles Rams
5/35/170 – Christopher Smith, DB, Las Vegas Raiders
5/38/173 – Robert Beal, Jr., OLB, San Francisco 49ers
5/39/174 – Warren McClendon, OL, Los Angeles Rams
7/20/237 – Kenny McIntosh, RB, Seattle Seahawks

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