Draft stock for former Burke County star Cornelius Washington on the rise

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ATHENS, Ga. — After Cornelius Washington finished his Georgia Pro Day workout in March, a question was posed to him by someone who was an NFL Draft pick a year ago.

Georgia's Cornelius Washington is projected to go to Pittsburgh by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. while an NFL Network analyst predicts Washington will draft him.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Georgia's Cornelius Washington is projected to go to Pittsburgh by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. while an NFL Network analyst predicts Washington will draft him.

“Knowing that you blew up the combine and did things that people didn’t expect, what are some of the concerns that teams are saying as far as the transition into your tape?” asked former Georgia and current Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin, who is interning this spring at a television station in Atlanta.

Actually, some expected Washington to stand out at the NFL combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, had a 39-inch vertical jump and did 36 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press – seven more than any other linebacker.

“I knew he had that in him the whole time. Cornelius is a freak,” former Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said. “It’s just in him.”

The former Burke County standout went from a relatively quiet senior season to a rising draft prospect.

“I think it definitely helped me out a lot,” he said of the combine.

Some analysts have him going as early as the second round in the draft, which starts Thursday.

Georgia had four players from its defense last season make the first or second team All-Southeastern Confer­ence. Washington wasn’t one of them.

Washington (6-foot-4, 263 pounds), who played outside linebacker and defensive end, was 16th on the team – below reserve defensive end Ray Drew – with 22 tackles with three tackles for loss and a half a sack.

Yet his 15 quarterback pressures trailed only Jarvis Jones and Jordan Jenkins, and he blocked a field goal in the SEC Championship Game that Alec Ogletree returned for a touchdown.

“I think I played well, and I think that will show up on film,” Washington said. “I didn’t have great stats this season, but you watch the film, you know you can understand what’s going on with that. I think everything will speak for itself, along with what I’ve done with the combine, the Senior Bowl and at pro day.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt likened Washington’s stats to that of defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan in 2003 as a player who didn’t have off-the-charts production. The Saints made Sullivan the No. 6 overall pick.

Sullivan was fifth on the Bulldogs in tackles and had four sacks in his last season at Georgia.

“Sullivan, he didn’t have much stats; the position he played didn’t really gear for that,” Richt said. “Sometimes you can be doing your job extremely well and not get the big numbers, depending on what position you play and what role you play within your defense or offense for that matter.

The 6-foot-4, 263-pound Washington, who did both linebacker and defensive line drills on pro day, is projected by ESPN’s Mel Kiper to go with the No. 48 overall pick to Pittsburgh, while NFL Network’s Mike Maycock predicts Washington will be a late-second-round or mid-third-round selection.

“I think the Washington guy is one of the most intriguing players in the draft,” Mayock said. “He played a little out of position at Georgia, and went to the Senior Bowl and really blew it up. ... He’s physically gifted.

“However, he’s not a linebacker. I was at the Georgia pro day, and there is no way in the world he can ever drop in coverage. That’s not who he is.

So for me, he’s a 4-3 defensive end. He’s a situational pass rusher. He’s explosive off the edge.”

Mayock added: “I like the kid maybe better than a lot of people, but my vision of him is a singular one. I want him on the edge, and I want him rushing the quarterback. I think he’s so explosive and talented in that area, he can be destructive.”


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