After Georgia Tech football went 5-6 season last fall and missed qualifying for a bowl, the Yellow Jackets failed to have a player selected in last month’s NFL Draft. It’s only the second time in Paul Johnson’s tenure that the Yellow Jackets haven’t had a player selected in the NFL Draft. The only other time it happened was 2013.
Unless some players step up and overachieve physically over the next calendar year, the Yellow Jackets could be looking at two straight years without an NFL Draft selection. While GT is hoping that its 2018 seniors can propel the Yellow Jackets back into contention in the Coastal Division, they’re not a highly-touted group as far as NFL scouts are concerned.
Two big losses
Two potential NFL prospects for 2019 for Georgia Tech won’t get that opportunity. The school recently announced that A.J. Gray and Jake Stickler will no longer play football. Gray’s college career ends due to a heart condition, while Stickler’s injury was undisclosed.
The losses of Gray and Stickler will be deeply felt on both sides of the ball for the Yellow Jackets. Gray was a two-year starter at free safety for GT, finishing third in tackles for the Jackets in 2016 and 2017, and earning ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors last season after picking off two interceptions in Tech’s win over North Carolina. Stickler started 10 games at right tackle for the Jackets in 2017.
Georgia Tech starting signal-caller TaQuon Marshall won’t be anyone’s quarterback in the NFL. But he could be looked upon as a potential hybrid running back/wide receiver/special teams player. Right now, Marshall isn’t on the radar as an elite 2019 NFL Draft prospect. He’ll have a golden opportunity, however, to raise his stock athleticially with a strong season at the helm of the Georgia Tech offense.
Georgia Tech has a handful of other senior offensive starters, including guard Will Bryan, running back Qua Searcy, and wide receiver Brad Stewart. But none of those three are currently considered NFL Draft-caliber prospects for 2019.
The good news for some of these players is that Georgia Tech’s high-powered running game showcases not only the athletic ability of its skill players, but also the speed and blocking prowess of its offensive linemen.
If Marshall and/or Searcy have huge seasons rushing the ball, they have a chance to play their way into late-round selections. Georgia Tech hasn’t had an offensive guard selected in the NFL Draft since Mansfield Wrotto back in 2007, however, which doesn’t bode well for Bryan’s pro chances.
While the Yellow Jacket defense features numerous projected senior starters and contributors, including defensive linemen Tyler Merriweather and Anree Saint-Amour, linebackers Brant Mitchell and Victor Alexander, as well as defensive back Jalen Johnson, none are currently projected as likely selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. But the chance exists for one or several of those Georgia Tech veterans to break out.
Playing under first-year defensive coordinator Nate Woody, who plans to bring an aggressive, attacking style to Atlanta, could provide a chance for Merriweather, Saint-Amour, Mitchell, or Alexander to step up and produce the kind of numbers and highlight film clips to merit a late selection.