Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Draft thoughts

Monday May 1, 2006

First, thank God it’s over. There will be a few days of post-mortem analysis of course, but the worst is past us. The “mock draft” has become as annoying of a sideshow to actual sports as poker-as-sport and fantasy leagues.

For those of us used to seeing Dawgs go in the first round lately and with so much hype around certain players, it would be easy to say that this was a disappointing draft for the Dawgs and to note how a few players we had seen mentioned as early draft picks slid to later rounds. In the end, everyone we expected to get drafted was drafted. Given the lack of SEC superstars that went early in this year’s draft, it should be a very competitive league with lots of young talent in the upcoming years.

2007 might not be as prolific a draft year for Georgia, but they will still have several top prospects led by bookend defensive ends Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson. For now, we’ll thank an outstanding senior class that leaves as one of Georgia’s winningest. They put up four 10-win seasons, three SEC Championship appearances, two BCS bowl appearances, and two SEC titles…not bad at all. My take on those who were drafted…

Leonard Pope. There is a sentiment going around that Pope’s drop to the early third round was a sign that he came out too early and should have spent another year improving. I’ll ignore the non-football questions (were there academic/financial pressures for him to leave early?) and take a contrary view. I think Pope made his money during the last part of the 2004 season. If anything, all he did in 2005 was maintain his stature – aside from a career-best 8 rec. and 102 yards against Auburn, the past season wasn’t very remarkable for Pope. 39 catches, 541 yards, 4 TDs. Nice, very nice – yes. Vernon Davis? No. Had Pope returned for his senior season, he would still be in an offense that would get him 3 or 4 catches a game, and he would have a much less-experienced quarterback and offensive line working with him. Despite his rapid development at the end of 2004, he never took that next step in 2005 to become the sure first-round pick many expected him to be. I don’t think another year would have changed that. He, in my eyes, didn’t become a better all-around tight end than Randy McMichael, and McMichael was a fourth-round pick. All that said, Pope is coming into a great situation in Arizona. They signed a great tailback, got a steal with Leinart at #10, and have plenty of good receivers. If their line is decent, Pope can become part of a very effective NFL offense.

D.J. Shockley. Nice pick by the Falcons. My (lack of) enthusiasm for the NFL makes this a golf clap instead of dancing in the streets, but I’m glad D.J. has an opportunity to begin his professional career near his home and family. This is a really low-risk pick in the 7th round. At worst, the Falcons have a versatile player they can use on the practice squad or develop in NFL Europe. At the same time, the Falcons play nice public local relations by taking a favorite player from the state’s largest and most passionate fan base. They silence a point of criticism from the local media. Win-win all around. The only negative I can think of is that Terence Moore probably considers himself a kingmaker now.

Tim Jennings. Last Dawg offered in 2002 to first Dawg drafted in 2006. What more can you say? Jennings was thrown to the fire right from the start in 2002 and was in the game at critical points during that nailbiting fourth quarter in Columbia. He played a huge role against Ole Miss with an interception returned 64 yards for a touchdown. This improbable cornerback turned that early experience into a starting job. All he did was get better and better, and it culminated in a fantastic senior season. I will always believe that the outcome of the 2005 Auburn game would have been much different had Jennings not injured his ankle that week. There was the acrobatic interception against Arkansas. Then there was his game-saving interception of Reggie Ball to save a win over Georgia Tech. He topped off his career by anticipating a pass from the red meat that was an LSU backup quarterback and sealed a rout in the SEC Championship game. His stature was small, but he was big play all the way. That ability to go after interceptions and make those game-changing plays might be the reason he was selected over teammate Demario Minter, a more prototypical cornerback who only had two career interceptions and dropped to a fifth round pick.

Kedrick Golston. Yes, he dropped to the sixth round, but Georgia was a completely different team when Golston (and Gerald Anderson) was on the line. Golston came into Georgia with an injured leg that would end careers for a lot of people, and he spent his college years recovering from that auto accident and learning how to play football with that reconstructed leg. He now has a chance at a professional career, and that’s a pretty strong statement about everything he worked through. Golston will always be remembered as a top in-state recruit who made it cool to pick Georgia at an uncertain time in program history. He challenged other Georgia prospects to consider what kind of program UGA would have if the best that the state had to offer stayed home. With all that Georgia accomplished during his time in Athens, he did plenty to help realize that vision.

Max Jean-Gilles and Greg Blue. A year ago, it was assumed that when these two All-Americans passed on the NFL draft to return for their senior seasons, they were giving up potentially very high draft position. This weekend, they were drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds. Did they get worse? Lose favor? Not really. If their was a downside to their decision to return, it was that the holes in their games which had always been present had another year to be exposed. Blue has been known as a devastating hitter for years, but his pass coverage and speed have always been questionable. Jean-Gilles has huge potential as a road-grader type of lineman, but conditioning has always been a concern since he showed up from Miami. He eventually played significant minutes at Georgia, but constant battles with weight which continued through the NFL combine had to scare off some teams that expect to see their linemen pull and sprint on quick-developing plays. Max and Greg were both outstanding college players who did certain things very well, better than anyone else. Their draft value declined because what they did well wasn’t necessarily broad in scope, but they will be great value picks for teams that can find ways to use them in roles suited to what they do really, really well.

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