Georgia 2021 vs.  Miami 2001: How legendary college defenses stack up in the NFL Draft

Georgia 2021 vs. Miami 2001: How legendary college defenses stack up in the NFL Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft is going to be a PSA for the Georgia Bulldogs.

It’s also going to draw some comparisons to “The U.”

Georgia’s 2021 national championship team featured a nasty defense that allowed 10.2 points per game. The Bulldogs have four defensive players that are projected to be first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

That hasn’t happened since the 2004 NFL Draft, in which Miami had four defensive players drafted in the first 21 picks. They were key pieces on the 2001 Miami national championship team.

MORE: SN’s seven-round mock draft

Which one will have the better legacy? Let’s compare the two defenses to find out:

2001 Miami vs. 2021 Georgia: College numbers

Miami (12-0) allowed 9.8 points per game in 2001. The Hurricanes limited opposing teams to 270.9 yards per game and forced 45 turnovers in 12 games. They allowed seven points or less in eight games. The Hurricanes allowed 27 points to Florida State and 24 points to Virginia Tech.

Georgia (14-1) allowed 10.2 points per game in 2021 (scoring was about three points higher per team per game than it was in 2001). The Bulldogs limited teams to 268.9 yards per game and forced 21 turnovers in 15 games. They also allowed seven points or less in eight games. This unit’s worst game was a 41-23 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, which they avenged in the CFP championship game.

2001 Miami: NFL Draft history

Here is a look at Miami’s starting defense in 2001 and where those players were selected in the NFL Draft over the next few seasons:

POS. PLAYER DRAFT
OF Jerome McDougle Round 1, No. 15 (2003)
DT william joseph Round 1, No. 23 (2003)
DT Matt Walters Round 5, No. 150 (2003)
OF Andrew Williams Round 3, No. 89 (2003)
LB Jonathan Vilma Round 1, No. 12 (2004)
LB DJ Williams Round 1, No. 17 (2004)
LB Chris Campbell Died before 2002 season
CB Phillip Buchanon Round 1, No. 17 (2002)
CB Mike Rumph Round 1, No. 27 (2002)
S Ed Reed Round 1, No. 24 (2002)
S James Lewis Round 6, No. 183 (2002)

Seven of the starters on that Miami defense were drafted in the first round over a three-year stretch from 2002-03. Every starter was drafted except Chris Campbell, who died in a car accident on Feb. 17, 2002.

The entire secondary was taken in the 2002 NFL Draft, led by Ed Reed. The 2004 draft class featured four defensive players in the first round in Jonathan Vilma, DJ Williams and two role players on the 2001 team in Vince Wilfork and Sean Taylor. Antrel Rolle, who was taken No. 8 in the 2005 NFL Draft, also was a contributor on that 2001 defense.

In all, 16 players who played on that Miami defense were drafted from 2002-05.

2021 Georgia: NFL Draft projections

Here is a closer look at Georgia’s starting defense in 2021 and where those players are projected to be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft according to SN’s Vinnie Iyer’s latest seven-round mock draft:

POS. PLAYER SN DRAFT PROJECTION
OF Devonte Wyatt Round 1, No. 27 (2022)
DT Jordan Davis Round 1, No. 17 (2022)
OF Travon Walker Round 1, No. 2 (2022)
LB Nolan Smith Returning starter in ’22
LB Nakobe Dean Round 1, No. 15 (2022)
LB Robert Beal Returning starter in ’22
LB quay walker Round 2, No. 37 (2022)
CB Kelee Ringo Returning starter in ’22
CB Derion Kendrick Round 3, No. 101 (2022)
S Lewis Cinema Round 2, No. 33 (2022)
S Christopher Smith Returning starter in ’22

Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean and Devonte Wyatt all are projected to be first-round picks. Georgia has eight defensive players projected to be drafted, including Lewis Cine, Derion Kendrick, Quay Walker and backup linebacker Channing Tindall, who is projected to be a third-round pick at No. 96 overall.

That’s eight defensive players in the first 100 picks. The Hurricanes didn’t even do that.

What could make this debate interesting in the future is where the other starters fall. Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo are projected first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft along with Jalen Carter, who did not start last season. Christopher Smith and Robert Beal should get drafted, too. Ameer Speed, who split time with Ringo, transferred to Michigan State.

BENDER: Georgia-only mock draft for 2022

2001 Miami vs. 2021 Georgia: Which defense is better?

It’s too early, but this Georgia defense is the first one to get into that conversation with Miami in 20 years. Alabama’s 2011 defense, which allowed 8.2 points per game and had a full unit of NFL players, also would be in that conversation.

That Crimson Tide team had four starters who were future first-round picks in Dont’a Hightower, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and CJ Mosley.

Kirby Smart was the defensive coordinator for Alabama then, and he built an enhanced version at Georgia last season. The Bulldogs have a pipeline, too, and this year’s draft class can go toe-to-toe with “The U.” Depending on how the next two drafts unfold, Georgia might even be closed in draft picks.

The right answer still is “The U.” That 2001 defense had 10 first-round picks on the roster, and they went on to successful NFL careers. Reed was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who won three of the five Super Bowls he played in, likely will join him. Vilma and Rolle combined for five Pro Bowl selections and also won Super Bowls. Taylor, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, died at age 24 in 2007.

How the Bulldogs fare in the NFL will determine if this becomes a real argument.

At least we have a conversation starter, right?

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