While NFL fans might be learning about Nauta for the first time, college football fans have long known about Nauta. The former Georgia tight end was a 5-star high school prospect in the 2016 recruiting cycle. He was ranked as the No. 14 overall player in the class, ahead of other 2019 NFL Draft hopefuls like Devin White and DK Metcalf.
Nauta was the No. 1 overall tight end prospect in the 2016 cycle. However, he will not be the first tight end taken in the draft class. That distinction goes to Iowa tight end TJ Hockenson, who the Detroit Lions took with the No. 8 overall pick.
Nauta committed to Georgia in January of 2016. For most of his Georgia recruitment, he was being pursued by Mark Richt. But Richt and Georgia parted ways in December of 2015, and the Bulldogs hired Kirby Smart to then be the coach of the Bulldogs.
Nauta also played for multiple tight end coaches during his time at Georgia. Shane Beamer coached Nauta for his first two seasons at Georgia. Jim Chaney took over for Beamer in the tight end room this past season, while also serving as the team’s offensive coordinator. Georgia hired a new tight ends coach this offseason, as Todd Hartley replaced Chaney.
Nauta took a big step back as a sophomore when he hauled in only 9 passes for 114 yards. Part of this is due to the fact that Georgia was a run-heavy team and using a freshman quarterback.
As a junior, Nauta hauled in 30 catches for 430 yards and 3 touchdowns. Nauta finished third on the team in receiving yards last season. Nauta made the decision to leave for the NFL following his junior season, forgoing his final year of eligibility.
Nauta did not test well athletically at the 2019 NFL Draft Combine. He ran a 4.91 40-yard dash, one of the worst for the tight end position this year. Nauta also had a below average showing in the 3-cone drill and vertical jump.
Nauta’s strengths come in his route running ability and his blocking prowess. Despite being undersized for the position, Nauta’s blocking has been consistently praised as a blocker. That will be a skill he brings with him to the NFL.
“I think it really started in my Buford days, we focused a lot in the fundamentals of blocking,” Nauta said of his blocking skills. “That’s where ay good blocker starts, you have to have the right technique and fundamentals, and you have to want to beat the guy across from you.
“It’s getting the right positioning, beating him to a spot and keeping him from winning his gap.”