Five former Georgia players were selected in the NFL draft the past two days, including the top three defensive tackles on last season’s team.
The tackle trio was picked on Saturday: Geno Atkins in the fourth round by Cincinnati and Jeff Owens and Kade Weston in the seventh round by Philadelphia and New England, respectively.
They joined former teammates Rennie Curran, the linebacker chosen by Tennessee late in the third round Friday night, and Reshad Jones, the safety selected by Miami in the fifth round Saturday, as Georgia’s draft class.
The Bulldogs wound up with the 97th (Curran), 120th (Atkins), 163rd (Jones), 243rd (Owens) and 248th (Weston) picks of the draft. Jones was selected a bit lower than expected and Owens much lower than some projections.
Entering the seven-round draft, there was no consensus on who would be the first player picked from Georgia. That turned out to be Curran, who was watching the draft with family and friends at his Snellville home when he got a phone call from Titans coach Jeff Fisher late Friday night.
“That was the best call of my life, the best sound,” Curran said. “Just picking up the phone call, my heart skipped a beat.”
Curran bypassed his senior season at UGA to enter the draft, and after hearing questions about his height (5-10 ½) for months, he considered his decision validated by the Titans choosing him in Round 3.
“They have a very aggressive defense, and I feel like I am going to fit perfectly with their defensive scheme,” Curran said on a conference call. “I’m just glad a team took a chance on me, and they will not regret [it]. I am looking to make an impact.”
After Curran, the next selection from Georgia was Atkins, who said he went in the round he expected (fourth). He did not expect, however, to be selected by the Bengals.
“They didn’t work me out or anything,” Atkins said. “It was kind of a surprise, really.”
Jones, on the other hand, was less surprised by the team that picked him (Miami) than by the round (fifth). The Atlanta native, who left school early for the draft, had expected to go in the second or third round.
In need of immediate help at safety, the Dolphins brought Jones to Miami for a workout and interview last month. When he was still available late in the fifth round, they traded sixth- and seventh-round picks to Washington in order to grab him.
“It’s been kind of crazy over the last couple of days,” Jones said on the Dolphins’ website. “But I think it worked out for the best.”
For Owens, the draft was agonizing. Analysts had fluctuated wildly in their projections, forecasting him to go anywhere from the second round to the seventh. By early Saturday afternoon, Owens posted on Twitter: “Now in the fifth round still waiting on a phone call. Going into camp with a chip on my shoulder.”
Several hours later, he was selected 12 spots from the end of the draft by Philadelphia.
“I finally found my home,” Owens then tweeted. “Motown Philly here I come!!!!”
Five picks later, New England’s selection of Weston completed Georgia’s draft delegation.
“Congratulations to everyone that was drafted,” Atkins typed on Twitter. “We did it. We’re in the NFL!!!”
Postscript: Former Georgia wide receiver Mike Moore announced on Twitter Saturday night that he will sign with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. Two other undrafted players from Georgia also agreed to sign with NFL teams as free agents: safety Bryan Evans with Cincinnati and cornerback Prince Miller with Baltimore.