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2017 NFL Draft: Georgia Tech Preview

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Will Georgia Tech have anyone drafted this year?

NFL: 2016 NFL Draft Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s draft was a pretty good one for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who produced second and sixth round draft picks (Adam Gotsis and DJ White, respectively). Now a year later, and who will be headlining the potential draft picks Georgia Tech has to offer? Well, I’m glad you asked, because that’s exactly what I’ll be looking at today. I’ll be taking a look at five different players who are all eligible for the draft, looking at some pros and cons and where in the draft they might end up. So let’s get started!

QB/RB/WR/CB/KR/PR Justin Thomas

So we’re getting started with one of the most dynamic players to ever play on the Flats in Justin Thomas. Unless a team is absolutely desperate, I don’t see Thomas playing quarterback in the NFL. Sure there are examples of shorter guys like Russell Wilson displaying success at quarterback, but more often than not, teams tend to stray away from the shorter guys.

The main thing that teams are going to love about Justin Thomas is the fact that he is versatile. All of the positions I listed him at above are all potential positions he could play at the next level, so the team that would be drafting him could plug him in virtually anywhere. Unfortunately, this is also a weakness Thomas has, as he hasn’t played anything but quarterback in an actual game since high school.

Looking at Thomas as a prospect, he’s got just about everything you want in a prototypical slot receiver. He’s not just fast, but he’s also quick and can avoid tackles. At Georgia Tech’s pro day, Thomas was clocked going in the 4.3-4.4 range in the 40-yard dash. Now, in today’s NFL, it’s not enough just to be fast, so Thomas also had to display that he can catch too, which he did a pretty impressive job of. It’s been reported from his pro day that Thomas was able to make a very acrobatic catch in the end zone which drew some applause from the onlooking crowd.

Now, since Thomas has played quarterback for his entire collegiate career, the weaknesses for him are a little obvious, in that he hasn’t played any position but quarterback, so there’s going to be a huge learning curve for him no matter what position he ends up at. But if a team is willing to take a chance on him and take the time to properly develop him, he could end up being a pretty solid NFL player.

Taking all of this into account, I think Thomas is more than likely to be either a seventh-round draft pick or a UDFA, but there is a chance that he could sneak into the sixth if a team really likes him.

K Harrison Butker

Harrison Butker was the only representative Georgia Tech had at this year’s NFL Combine, but while he was there, he was pretty impressive. Here’s what the AJC’s Ken Sugiura had to say about Butker’s Combine performance:

“Butker aced drills administered to him and the three other kicking hopefuls, a performance that his agent said has spurred interest in him for the draft in late April. Last Thursday, Butker hit cannon shots on his kickoffs and made 14 of 15 field-goal attempts on kicks between 30 and 50 yards, doing so with a snapper and holder that he’d never worked with prior to the session.”

All of that is exactly what NFL teams are going to be looking for in a kicker. That combined with some of the clutch performances he has performed (see 2014 season, specifically “The Kick”).

Butker has virtually all of the makings of an NFL kicker, and I really only have one concern with him, and that’s his accuracy/consistency. It’s no secret that all kickers, no matter the level, are pretty much head cases. Since Butker has been at Georgia Tech, he has always struggled with field goals between 30-39 yards, making only 12 of his 22 kicks from that range (54 percent). For reference, if you take those kicks out, Butker has made 31 of his 38 field goals (82 percent)

With a strong, clutch leg, I think it’s a pretty good chance that there will be a team who will be taking a chance on Butker, but it likely won’t be until the seventh round or later.

C/G Freddie Burden

Freddie Burden has been on of Georgia Tech’s best offensive linemen since he took over for Sean Bedford. After Shaq Mason graduated, Burden was left as the leader of the offensive line, and while the line as a whole didn’t see as much success as with Mason, Burden has always been a strength on the line.

Playing center for the Yellow Jackets (and guard for a spring when he had a brace over his snapping hand), Burden has been the epitome of consistency. With his agility, he has consistently been able to get to the second level of blocking. In playing guard that one spring, Burden was also able to show that he’s not limited to just playing center, which will give him some more pull in his talks with NFL teams.

His weakness, like virtually all Georgia Tech offensive linemen, is that he didn’t regularly pass block in games. With the offense Tech runs, they simply don’t pass it very much. And because of that, Tech offensive linemen don’t get a whole lot of in-game pass blocking experience. In transitioning to the NFL, Burden will need to advance his pass blocking to the point to where it can be NFL average if he wants a chance at that level. In terms of run blocking, Burden is already good enough to move on to the next level.

If a team is willing to develop Burden’s pass blocking abilities, I think they’ll definitely get a good lineman, but since he’ll be coming with a lot of development still needed, I find it hard to believe that Burden will get drafted at all. I think there’s a tiny chance that he can work his way into the seventh, but only if a team is convinced they won’t be able to get him as a UDFA.

DT Patrick Gamble

In his time at Georgia Tech, Patrick Gamble was able to show some diversity as a defensive lineman, being willing and able to play both defensive tackle and end. With that diversity, Gamble is showing that he could function in a few different positions at the next level: strongside defensive end or defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

There’s definitely some stuff to like about Gamble. He’s definitely a solid run stopper. It’s just outside of that, he’s not much else. Although he did lead Georgia Tech in sacks this year (no lie, go check it out), he isn’t really much of a pass rusher.

At Georgia Tech’s pro day, Gamble was able to crank out 21 bench reps, which unfortunately would have put him in the bottom half of defensive tackles at the NFL Combine.

Gamble is a solid player who could become a decent back-up on an NFL team, but he’s going to need to work very hard for it, because more than likely, he’ll end up as a UDFA.

LB P.J. Davis

Despite the doubts surrounding Davis and his size when he first arrived on the Flats, he quickly became a fan favorite and leader on the defense. With his quickness and toughness, Davis was able to make a name for himself as a run-stopping and sometimes pass-rushing linebacker.

The main issue with Davis, other than his size at the NFL level, is his coverage ability. While he certainly had some impressive plays as a linebacker in coverage, he’s not known for it, and I think that will hurt his chances at the pros.

During his pro day, Rivals’ Kelly Quinlan liked what he saw from Davis and former Tech linebacker Tyler Marcordes:

Special teams will probably end up being the best fit for Davis, and I think he could be pretty successful in doing that too.

Something else that Davis could end up doing is play fullback.

So while it may not be likely that he ends up doing that, it looks like Davis is doing whatever it takes to show he can play at the next level. He’s got some potential, but again, I think that unless a team just falls in love with him, he’s going to end up being a UDFA.

Conclusion

This isn’t quite as strong of a draft class as Tech has had in years past, but it certainly has some players who could prove to be solid depth pieces, or in the case of Justin Thomas and Harrison Butker, potential starters. All in all, these guys have all worked tremendously hard to make it to the point they are at now, and that in and of itself is remarkable, and I personally wish the best to each and every one of you.

Now, it’s your turn. Do y’all think Tech will have anyone drafted? If so, when? And where might they end up?