Georgia will be without three of its defending stars, including its top two tacklers, as it tries to defend its national championship in 2022.
Junior linebacker Nakobe Dean, junior defensive lineman Travon Walker and junior safety Lewis Cine all signed up for the NFL drawing on Friday.
In addition, junior running back Zamir White and junior receiver George Pickens also announced their intentions to enter the draft. Senior running back James Cook announced earlier this week that he is leaving with one season left.
According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, Dean is the number 8 overall player and top linebacker in the 2022 draft. He was second to the Bulldogs in tackles (72) and sacks (six) last season and also had two interceptions.
Walker is the number 14 overall player in the draft, according to McShay. He tied Dean for second on the team with six sacks and also registered 37 tackles.
Cine, which according to Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN’s No. 4 safety in the draft, led the Bulldogs with 73 tackles and had a team-high nine pass breakups this season. He was named defensive MVP of Georgia’s 33-18 College Football Playoff National Championship game win over Alabama on Monday with seven tackles and a broken pass.
White, who overcame two knee injuries and numerous health problems as a child, ran for a team-high 856 yards with 11 touchdowns last season. White, of Laurinburg, North Carolina, ranks 15th in school history with 2,043 rushing yards and has led the Bulldogs in each of the past two seasons.
White ran for 84 yards with one score in Georgia’s win against Alabama on Monday.
Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings who trace back Dalvin Cook, was one of Georgia’s most versatile playmakers this past season. He ran for 728 yards with seven touchdowns and had 27 catches for 284 yards with four scores. Kiper ranks Cook as the number 9 running back available for the draft.
Georgia will bring back three running backs who have run at least 200 yards in 2022: Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards. Milton, the No. 12 running back in the 2020 ESPN 300, missed much of this season with a knee injury. In December, the Bulldogs signed tailback Branson Robinson, of Madison, Mississippi, who is the #2 in the ESPN 300.
Pickens, the number 7 wide receiver in the draft according to Kiper, ends his career in Georgia with 90 catches for 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns. Pickens played in the final four games of the season after recovering from a torn ACL. He had a 52-yard reception in Monday’s national championship game.
The Bulldogs will bring back starting safety Christopher Smith, who announced he will be returning next year.