Posted: 6:00 pm Saturday, May 10th, 2014
By Michael Carvell
Six football players from Georgia high schools were selected in the first three rounds in the NFL Draft.
What’s surprising is that none of them played at UGA or Georgia Tech.
Another interesting fact is that out of the four Georgia kids drafted in the first round, only one was rated high than the state’s No. 60 overall prospect for that year’s class in the recruiting rankings.
Here’s a closer look:
NFL 1st rounders
Miami Dolphins, No. 19, North Gwinnett High School’s Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee): The basketball-turned-football star had a whirlwind finish to his recruitment. He had committed to Tennessee to play for Lane Kiffin, and enrolled early in classes with the Volunteers. However, right after James arrived campus, Kiffin bolted for USC. It was obviously some unsettling news for James, who left Knoxville for a few days to figure things out (and reportedly considered UGA). Ultimately, James decided to stick it out at Tennessee to play for new coach Derek Dooley. He was rated as a 5-star and the state’s No. 3 overall prospect for 2010.
Cincinnati Bengals, No. 24, Twiggs County High School’s Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State): This is a fascinating recruiting story, per 247sports.com’s Kipp Adams. Dennard got an early scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee State, but another player took the spot before he was ready to commit — which was a heartbreaker for Dennard at the time. Michigan State “discovered” Dennard when the Spartans dispatched an assistant to observe the game of one of its Georgia commitments, Dooly County High School wide receiver Keith Mumphrey. The opponent that week? Twiggs County. Dennard had a touchdown catch, threw for a 2-point conversion, had some dazzling punt returns and did a good job with coverage on Mumphrey. The Michigan State assistant was impressed, but didn’t have any highlights to show the rest of the staff. Dennard sent them a highlight tape a few days later, and the rest is history. Dennard was a 3-star and the state’s No. 126 overall prospect for 2010.
Philadelphia Eagles, No 26, Hardaway High School’s Marcus Smith (Louisville): Smith starred at quarterback at Hardaway and wanted to stay at the position, which may have caused some schools, such as UGA and Georgia Tech, to shy away. You can figure out where this story is going — Smith signed with Louisville specifically to play QB, and he ended up being an NFL first-rounder at outside linebacker. The 3-star was ranked as the state’s No. 94 overall prospect for 2010.
Denver Broncos, No. 31, Peachtree Ridge High School’s Bradley Roby (Ohio State): I watched Peachtree Ridge play several times that year, and Roby was always the best player on the field. But he didn’t get much love from colleges until the final month before signing day. The scouts simply missed the boat here. It happens, I guess, but he was hard to miss playing on the same high school team as Cameron Heyward. Roby was early commitment to Vanderbilt but flipped to Ohio State three weeks before signing day and quickly established himself as one of college football’s top cornerbacks. Roby was a 3-star ranked as the state’s No. 60 overall prospect for 2011.
NFL 2nd rounders
Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 46, Monroe Area High School’s Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame): The defensive tackle was committed to Georgia Tech for one day before switching back to Notre Dame. It was one of the state’s biggest recruiting dramas in 2012. Tuitt was rated as a 4-star and the state’s No. 3 overall prospect. He committed to Notre Dame at the start of his senior season at Monroe Area, but flipped to Georgia Tech only a couple of weeks before signing day. It looked really good for the Yellow Jackets. However (and famously), Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and his staff hopped on a plane the next day for an in-home visit, and convinced Tuitt to switch back to the Irish.
NFL 3rd rounders
Minnesota Vikings, No. 96, Sprayberry High School’s Jerick McKinnon (Georgia Southern): All the big schools missed on McKinnon, probably because he was 5-foot-9 and had his heart set on playing quarterback after an All-State career at Sprayberry. McKinnon was a 3-star and ranked as the state’s No. 98 overall prospect in 2010. For the NFL Draft, he was initially projected to be selected in the sixth or seventh round, but elevated his status after destroying the NFL combine with these measurements: 32 bench press reps of 225 pounds (No. 1 among RBs), vertical jump of 40.5 inches (second best), and a broad jump of 11 feet (second best).