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Post Draft wrap-up

Monday April 27, 2009

First, congratulations to Georgia’s six players taken in this weekend’s NFL Draft:

  • QB Matthew Stafford: 1st overall pick to Detroit
  • RB Knowshon Moreno: 12th overall pick to Denver
  • WR Mohamed Massaquoi: 2nd round to Cleveland
  • DT Corvey Irvin: 3rd round to Carolina
  • CB Asher Allen: 3rd round to Minnesota
  • DE Jarius Wynn: 6th round to Green Bay

It’s Georgia’s best draft since the group that left with the 2005 SEC title. Dannell Ellerbe, Brannan Southerland, Kenneth Harris, and Demiko Goodman all signed free agent deals. As they say every year as the draft closes, it’s often better not to be drafted in the later rounds and instead pursue a free agent deal. A late-round draft pick isn’t assured a spot on the roster, and a free agent can shop around to find a situation in which he might be a better fit.

Did you know the Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez?

Although he was the first pick, it seems as if there is less pressure on Matthew Stafford than on Mark Sanchez. Not much is expected of the Lions any time soon, and when you’re coming from 0-16 even improving to St. Louis Rams-bad is a positive step. Sanchez on the other hand is looked to as the solution for a team on the cusp of a playoff berth. The nation’s most intense media market will have its spotlight on him from the start. I don’t suggest that he’ll flop – he’s a very impressive quarterback and has succeeded at one of college football’s most scrutinized programs. But the situation for Sanchez is very much sink-or-swim right out of the gate. If Sanchez gets it done in that environment, he’ll be a legend.

I can’t say that I’m excited about the situation facing any of Georgia’s top three draft picks. Stafford’s enormous challenge in Detroit is well-documented. Moreno heads into a dysfunctional situation in Denver with a shaky quarterback and a glut of running backs. Massaquoi also won’t have a strong quarterback in Cleveland, and we’ll have to see what impact a new coach has on the dismal culture of the Browns. Of the three, it seems as if Moreno is in the position to have the quickest impact on a winning team.

It’s inevitable with five of the first hundred picks that some have asked this weekend if all of this talent was essentially wasted last season. I don’t buy into that. The guys headed to the NFL are just a small percentage of the team. Most top ten teams had some high draft picks. The difference is often in the quality of the rest of the roster. You might be set with NFL talent at certain positions, but they can’t overcome holes and weaknesses at other positions.

One area that is worth talking about is the defensive line. The injury to Jeff Owens and the never-healthy defensive end position were frequently-cited reasons why Georgia’s pass rush was ineffective in 2007. Yet two of its top contributors were drafted, and Geno Atkins is one of the top returning linemen in the SEC. A pass rushing specialist seems to have been the only missing piece (albeit a significant one). The decision to dip into the junior college pool in 2007 turned out to be very wise. I can’t imagine the 2008 line after the injuries hit without the contributions of Irvin and Wynn. That’s the risk with JUCOs though – by the time they start making the kind of contributions you hoped for when they signed, they’re gone. A good player like Jarius Wynn wasn’t even a regular starter until the Tennessee game midway through the year, and now he has an NFL contract.

This can’t be true, can it? Georgia’s last linebacker drafted was Odell Thurman? Most of us were expecting Ellerbe to go at some point, and Tony Taylor found a spot in Atlanta as a free agent, so it’s not as if there has been a complete lack of talent at the position. It’s also a near-certainty that Rennie Curran will be drafted when his days in Athens are over. Still, after the linebackers that came out of Georgia in the first half of this decade, it’s a noteworthy drought. The safety position hasn’t been much better – Greg Blue was the most recent draftee back there.

Through 2004 Georgia had only two players – John Rauch and Lindsay Scott – ever drafted as a quarterback or receiver in the draft’s first two rounds. Reggie Brown was a second round pick in 2005, and of course Stafford and Massaquoi were added to the total this weekend. It’s not crazy to project A.J. Green as a possible high-round draft pick as soon as 2011, and top quarterbacking and receiving talent continues to sign with Georgia. Mark Richt’s role in the evolution of Georgia’s passing game can’t be more clear.

The SEC once again led the way with 37 draft picks. The ACC (33) and Pac 10 (32) were the only other conference with more than 30 players drafted. Mississippi State was the only SEC team without at least one player drafted.

…and did anyone happen to catch what the Jets did in the first round? I couldn’t find anything on it.

One Response to 'Draft wrap-up'

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  • Good God, that trade to get Snachez, a 1yr starter w/ serious character issues & some glaring inconsistencies (all of which you won’t hear a/b on espn), was staggering. What a ridiculous trade – not of the magnitude of the famous Herschel trade, but wasteful & ridiculous nonetheless.

    Oh, and Mark has been sheltered & cushioned by espn & the California press – can’t wait to see what the full wait of that hateful, yankee press does to him in his first rookie outing. What Pete Carroll did to him when he chose to leave early is child’s play compared to what they do to him, not to mention what Jets fans will do. Yikes. Good luck kid.