The No. 5 ranked Georgia Bulldogs take on the No. 15 ranked Texas Longhorns in the 85th Sugar Bowl to open 2019, something of a consolation for Georgia after losing to Alabama in the SEC Conference title game a few weeks ago. One of the players I will be keeping an eye is Bulldogs tight end Isaac Nauta, who’ll wear 18. He’s not a surefire lock to come out in the 2019 NFL Draft, as he is only a junior. But Nauta has been discussing his future with “coaches, teammates and family members,” according to the Times Free Press. The Sugar Bowl may be his college swansong.
Nauta had his pick of elite programmes to choose from after his high school days came to an end. Teams like Auburn, Oklahoma State, and TCU were said to have promised to create positions to allow him to play immediately. But a combination of a love of the state of Georgia and a desire to play in a TE-friendly offense led him to commit to the Bulldogs.
The College Years
2018 was a bounce-back season for Nauta, after a disappointing 2017 campaign. Nauta is currently third on the team with 29 receptions, which have brought him 427 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers themselves are not exactly eye-popping. But one has to consider the Bulldogs attempt fewer than 25 passes per game. They attempt nearly 42 rushes.
Nauta managed five receptions in a game three times, including once in 2018. He was able to put in one of his better performances with the team in the recent SEC Championship loss to the Crimson Tide. He caught four balls for 81 yards and touchdown. Overall, 47 of his receptions to date have come against SEC opponents, with 646 yards and six of his scores.
Nauta is listed at 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds. Prior to the 2018 season, Jon Ledyard wrote that Nauta had very good size, strength length, and speed. Jon also added that he could “get vertical down the seam and will run away from linebackers.”
This is a crucial skill and one that would certainly be of value in the NFL. The ability to accumulate yards after the catch is a necessary one for the new breed of TE. Just ask George Kittle. Playing for the Bulldogs, Nauta was obviously asked to run block a ton, but Ledyard makes note that Nauta held his own as a pass blocker.
You know the drill here, though people. If we’re looking at a TE prospect, it is essential to consider the combine measurables tree for TEs from Kevin Cole’s seminal look at the NFL Combine Drills that Matter.
DraftScout.com estimates a 4.7 40-yard dash time for Nauta, which would see him past the first node. If this is the case, then the bench and vertical drills will be crucial.
As we’ve already said, it is far from certain that Nauta will be available for teams for the 2019 NFL Draft. But he makes for an intriguing prospect, despite the lack of outstanding counting stats. His athletic testing will be crucial, particularly if he can nail the 40-yard dash.
It is of course very early to be thinking about potential landing spots for Nauta. But if we consider that one of his guiding principles in attending Georgia was a desire to play in a TE friendly system and that the man who ran that system is currently an NFL offensive coordinator, then links could naturally be forged. That man was Brian Schottenheimer, just finishing up his first season with the Seahawks. Just saying. . . .