How Georgia's 'championship DNA' prepared Ladd McConkey for the next level

During an appearance on FanSided's 'Stacking the Box Podcast' with Sterling Holmes, Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey discussed how playing for Georgia prepared him for the NFL.
Georgia v Florida
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The Georgia Bulldogs etched their names in college football history with back-to-back national championships in 2021 and 2022. The program has developed into a powerhouse under head coach Kirby Smart, while consistently producing pro-ready players with immense potential. In recent years, Georgia's players have been drafted at staggering rates. 25 Bulldogs were selected in the past two years. Eight of them were first-round picks, including defensive end Travon Walker, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who was a finalist for the 2023 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The 2024 NFL Draft features 11 prospects from Georgia, many of whom have championship experience.

Despite the program's success, Georgia's wide receivers have not been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in over a decade. The last time Georgia had a 1,000-yard season from a wide receiver was in 2002. That doesn't mean the Bulldogs haven't produced talented pass-catching weapons, however. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens, a budding star in the NFL, is a former Bulldog.

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey has been somewhat of a forgotten name in this year's deep wide receiver class. Teams discredited McConkey due to concerns about his height and durability, but he turned heads with an impressive performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. McConkey now has the opportunity to make history, as he is projected to be a potential first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If he hears his name called on the first night, he will become the first Georgia wide receiver to be drafted in the first round since A.J. Green in 2011.

Ladd McConkey talks about Georgia Bulldogs "championship DNA"

During an appearance on FanSided's "Stacking the Box Podcast" podcast with Sterling Holmes, McConkey discussed how playing for Georgia prepared him for the NFL.

"At Georgia, I feel like we develop that championship DNA," McConkey explained to Holmes. "We want to go out there and win, we want to get the job done, whatever we do, we're gonna put our best foot forward. At Georgia, they develop us and it will definitely translate in every way possible to the NFL. Coach [Kirby] Smart had us ready along with all the other coaches, so hopefully, I can bring some of that with me to whatever team I end up with."

McConkey acknowledged that he has been primarily viewed as a slot receiver due to his height, but mentioned that teams have noticed that he has potential as a chess piece that can be moved around the field.

"Most of the teams have really said that they see me as a guy that can kind of move around," McConkey said. "At first, I feel like my label was I'm gonna be a slot receiver. But now teams are talking to me, seeing me run routes, and going back and watching my film, and [they] really understand I played more outside than I did inside at Georgia. I feel like they are starting to see that it's gonna be able to translate both ways to the next level as well."

McConkey ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. While he has blazing-fast speed, his greatest strength might be his route-running ability. He understands that gaining separation requires more than speed.

"I feel like it's a lot about understanding leverage," McConkey said. "You don't gotta run full speed every single route. You and kind of tempo down and then do stuff in between routes. But it all just comes with repls. I think at the end of the day, whether that's in practice working on something or before or after practice getting some reps. So it's really good to run full speed reps and full routes, but you don't always have to do that. You can work on your craft and work on top of route releases, and then when it's time to put it all together, that's when you go out and do that."

For those concerned about his lack of statistical production, McConkey mentioned that Georgia had a lot of talented players who he had to split the target share with, including tight end Brock Bowers, who is considered one of the best offensive skill position players in this year's draft.

McConkey showed improvements in his three seasons at Georgia. His receptions, yards, and touchdowns increased from 2021 to 2022. He compiled almost the same amount of receptions and yards in 2023 as he did in 2021 despite playing in six less games. McConkey also made the most of his limited opportunities in 2023. Twenty of his 30 catches went for first downs.

"If you look at our roster ... we have guys that gotta get the ball," McConkey said. "So that's just the way it is. We shared it. If you look at this past year, if you truly look at the games I played and the games I was out there, I put up the numbers. Unfortunate injuries kind of held me back from this year. I feel like I was set up for a big year this year, just didn't happen the way I wanted it to."

McConkey finished his collegiate career with 119 catches for 1,687 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in three seasons at Georgia. In 2024, McConkey will have the opportunity to become the next Bulldog to make an impact in the NFL.

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