NFL scouting combine to have heavy Georgia flavor 


The scouting combine — the NFL’s pre-draft track meet, medical and personality testing bonanza — has begun at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

There will be plenty of players with local ties among the more than 300 participants.

Players  have arrived and on Wednesday will start medical exams while team executives address the media.

Player drills start Thursday. 

Ohio State and Alabama are tied for most players invited with 11. Georgia is in the next group with 10 players trying to improve their draft position.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will speak to the media Wednesday. 

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is likely to be the first Bulldog called during the NFL draft, which will be held April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.

N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, who played at Hillgrove High, and LSU outside linebacker Arden Key, who played at Hapeville Charter Academy, are also potential first-round picks with local ties. 

“I love Roquan Smith,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he’s today’s NFL off-the-ball linebacker and it’s mostly about speed. He’s 225 pounds. Deion Jones was drafted in the second round in Atlanta two years ago. He’s the prototype. I think Roquan Smith takes it a step farther. A very similar type guy. I love the way he plays.”

Mayock, who projects Smith to be a first-round pick, was impressed by film from the Notre Dame game. 

“I didn’t even know who he was,” Mayock said. “The first tape that I put, I think it was Notre Dame-Georgia. He just jumped off the tape. I just got excited and said ‘Who is this guy?’”

Smith could go in the Top 10. 

“Roquan Smith would be the centerpiece to (the Raiders) defense inside,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “That’s what they need in Oakland. They have Khalil Mack as the outside threat. They need an inside presence, which Roquan would be. I think he’d be a heck of a choice.”

Chubb is considered the top pass-rusher in the draft and could go as high as third to the Colts.

“He’s the best (pass rusher) by miles,” Kiper said. “If Chubb is there it would be hard (for the Colts to pass on him.) They have a strong need and this is a bad, bad year for down defensive ends.” 

Key, who had some discipline issues at LSU, could be a late first-rounder. 

“Arden Key from LSU is a really talented kid with some off-the-field issues,” Mayock said. “His character has to be checked, but he's gifted.”

Georgia running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are fine NFL prospects, who’ll likely go after Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and LSU’s Derrius Guice. 

“The more I watch Sony Michel, the more I think Sony Michel can make an impact like (the Saints’) Alvin Kamara in the run game,” Mayock said. “I think he has burst, acceleration and better toughness than people think. Better contact-balance than what I expected.”

Michel can help himself with a good showing at the combine. 

“What he doesn’t have yet is the pass-game ability that Kamara did,” Mayock said. “I think he’s got good hands, but I’m not sure because they didn’t throw it too him much. I know he didn’t run great routes. Just check-downs and flare screens.”

There are other concerns about Michel, too. 

“Ball security with Michel (is an issue), the fumbles,” Kiper said. “He’s got to clean that up.”

Nick Chubb is a fit for teams, like the Falcons, who run the outside-zone run scheme. 

“(Nick) Chubb is one of the toughest running backs in this class, down-hill, north-south, one-cut, make you miss,” Mayock said. “I think he’s a warrior. I love him. He’ll fit zone-scheme and be a really good player.”

Georgia defensive ends Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy will likely play linebacker in the NFL. 

“I like Carter,” Mayock said. “I think Carter is going to go on the second day of the draft. He’s got almost the same size as Leonard Floyd. His production wasn’t the same. He needs to get stronger as does Bellamy.”

Mayock is also high on Bellamy. 

“I think Bellamy has more upside than what people give him credit for,” Mayock said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a fourth-rounder or so. But I think Carter and Bellamy are both what today’s 3-4 outside linebacker looks like.”

Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup, of Monroe, is part of a deep and talented wide receiver group that will participate in the scouting combine. 

“Gallup right now when you look at the receivers, he’s the 10th-highest rated receiver,” Kiper said. “That projects him into the third round.”

Gallup, who followed coach Mike Bobo to Colorado State, had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. 

“I think at worst he’s a three or a four (wide receiver),” Kiper said. “He could be a two. But he’s certainly has helped himself. If he has a good combine, the second round is not out of the realm of possibility.” 

Several other players with Georgia connections were invited to the scouting combine:

-- Jordan Akins, Central Florida, tight end (Locust Grove)

-- Orlando Brown, Oklahoma, tackle (Peachtree Ridge)

-- Justin Crawford, West Virginia, running back (Columbus, Hardaway)

-- Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech, cornerback (Newnan Northgate)

-- Rashard Fant, Indiana, cornerback (Our Lady of Mercy)

-- Colby Gossett, Appalachian State, offensive line, (North Forysth)

-- Grant Haley, Penn State, cornerback, (The Lovett School)

-- Christopher Herndon, Miami, tight end, (Norcross High)

-- Justin Jones, N.C. State, defensive tackle, (South Cobb)

-- Tracy Walker, Louisiana-Lafayette, defensive back, (Brunswick)

-- The list of Georgia is headed up by Smith, Michel, Nick Chubb, Carter and Bellamy, but also includes defensive lineman John Atkins, defensive back Dominick Sanders, defensive lineman Trent Thompson, wide receiver Javon Wims and offensive guard Isaiah Wynn.

-- Georgia State defensive back Chandon Sullivan 

-- West Georgia offensive lineman Des Harrison


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