Three Bulldogs selected during NFL Draft’s First Round
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Georgia had three players taken during the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft Thursday outside of Union Station, giving the Bulldogs a pick in the opening round for the sixth straight year.
The Bulldogs’ three first rounders tied the second-most players selected in the first round in school history (2018). Following a record-breaking five in 2022, Georgia has now had eight players selected in the opening round over the last two years.
The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to take defensive lineman Jalen Carter with the ninth overall pick, marking the seventh Georgia defensive player taken in the top 10 picks since 1999. Five picks later, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to get offensive tackle Broderick Jones with the 14th overall pick. This marks the fifth Georgia offensive lineman taken in the first round since 2000. The Eagles returned later in the round to select linebacker Nolan Smith with the 30th overall pick after the organization advanced to this past season’s Super Bowl.
At least one Bulldog defensive player has been selected in the first round in five of the past six NFL drafts. With Carter and Jones both going, there have now been eight instances since 2013 of the same school having a first round offensive and defensive lineman in the same draft. The Bulldogs have now had 27 linebackers drafted since 2000, which is tops in the nation.
Carter and Smith mark the third and fourth Bulldogs taken by the Eagles in the last two drafts and the 24th and 25th Georgia players taken by Philadelphia since 1943. Most recently, Jordan Davis was taken 13th overall last year by the Eagles and Nakobe Dean was the 83rd overall pick in the third round of the 2022 draft by the organization. While the Bulldogs have had two No. 9 overall selections in history, the most recent pick at that spot was Leonard Floyd by the Chicago Bears in 2016.
Carter, a native of Apopka, Fla., was a unanimous All-American in his third and final year of play in 2022. The Rotary Lombardi Award finalist finished with 32 stops in 13 games, including seven tackles for loss and three sacks, and forced two fumbles. For his career, Carter tallied 83 tackles, including six sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, and blocked two kicks. In addition, he caught a touchdown pass during the victory over Tennessee in 2020.
Jones is the second Bulldog taken by the Steelers in as many years after receiver George Pickens was a second round pick in 2022. There have been two other No. 14 overall picks who were Bulldogs, including Pro Bowler Thomas Davis (Carolina Panthers) in 2005. Jones is the 19th Georgia player taken by Pittsburgh since 1948.
Jones, a native of Lithonia, Ga., started the final four regular season games for Georgia’s 2021 national championship squad and then all 15 during their back-to-back campaign last season. The AP All-SEC First Team selection helped the Bulldogs pile up a school record 501.1 yards per game while the offensive line allowed only nine sacks to quarterback Stetson Bennett through 15 games. Jones, who redshirted in 2020, protected Bennett on his way to 4,127 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2022 and the top two Bulldog running backs combined for more than 1,600 yards.
Smith gives the Eagles four players off the 2021 Bulldog defense that allowed opponents an average of only 10.2 points per game. Georgia is one of the country’s elite having 19 defensive players drafted since 2000.
Smith, a native of Savannah, Ga., was the captain and leader of the Georgia defense that allowed only 14.3 points per game last season, which ranked fifth nationally. Despite playing in only eight games because of an injury, Smith collected 18 stops, including seven tackles for loss and three sacks, in his fourth and final year. He completed his career by starting 23 games and registering 114 tackles, including 11.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception.
The NFL Draft continues Friday with the second and third rounds starting at 7 p.m. ET. On Saturday, rounds 4-7 are slated to begin at 12 p.m.