Over 40 former Georgia players are in contention to make NFL rosters this fall. After a year of deep playoff runs and solid week-to-week performances, the coming NFL season gives those players another chance to create a legacy that extends further than Sanford Stadium. Here’s how some of Georgia’s best former players are projected to perform heading into the new season.
Todd Gurley (RB, Los Angeles Rams)
Gurley’s injury situation is one of the biggest enigmas in the NFL at the moment. When healthy, the star running back was one of the key cogs in the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl in 2018-19. But during the home stretch of last season, Gurley appeared to be extremely limited after injuring his knee, holding him to just 14 combined carries in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. Head coach Sean McVay has tried to keep the situation under wraps, but reports have emerged that Gurley has arthritis in his surgically-repaired knee. One year after inking the star running back to a four-year, $60 million contract, the Rams need Gurley to return to his former self.
Nick Chubb (RB, Cleveland Browns)
Now that Duke Johnson has been traded to the Houston Texans, Chubb is the clear No. 1 running back in Cleveland's offense. After rushing for 996 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie campaign, Chubb figures to be one of the most important players on one of the best teams in the AFC. However, if there is a point of concern for the former Georgia star heading into the season, it lies in the fact that Cleveland’s offensive line is perhaps the team’s weakest link. Moreover, the return of dynamic former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt from suspension in midseason could limit Chubb’s workload.
Roquan Smith (LB, Chicago Bears)
A year removed from making the PFWA’s All-Rookie team, Roquan Smith will form one of the league’s best linebacker partnerships alongside Khalil Mack at Soldier Field this season. A key cog in one of the league’s best defenses, Smith will try to improve on his 121-tackle, five-sack rookie campaign. Last season, the Bears allowed the least amount of points per game and the third lowest total yards last season, two major factors in their surprise 12-4 finish.
Sony Michel (RB, New England Patriots)
As one of the key offensive figures on a Super Bowl-winning Patriots team as a rookie last season, Sony Michel has had a nice start to his NFL career. After rushing for 931 yards and six touchdowns across 13 games for New England a year ago, Michel will enter 2019 with a much more defined role within Tom Brady’s offense. But in a system that still values running back by-committee, he will be forced to share touches with James White, Rex Burkhead and rookie Damien Harris. The running backs will benefit from an offensive line that features former Bulldogs Isaiah Wynn and David Andrews. Wynn is expected to start at left tackle following his return from a season-long injury.
Matthew Stafford (QB, Detroit Lions)
2018-19 was admittedly a disappointing season for Stafford in Matt Patricia's first year as head coach. After failing to finish in the top 10 in passing attempts and yards for the first time since 2010 and the worst yards per attempt since his rookie year (6.81), Stafford will look to rebound while competing in a difficult division. Nevertheless, Stafford has proven to be one of the most consistent signal callers in the league for the better part of a decade. If Detroit can surround Stafford with the talent to succeed, he can help the Lions improve on last season’s 6-10 finish.
A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Although A.J. Green could miss the early part of the season with torn ligaments in his left ankle, there is one thing working in his favor. For the first time in his career in Cincinnati, he will have a new head coach in former Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor. Having learned under one of the game’s brightest offensive minds, Taylor will try to end the Bengals’ mediocrity that lasted over a decade with Marvin Lewis at the helm. If quarterback Andy Dalton can improve his game under an offensive-minded coach, Green will reap the rewards.