"So how many (defensive) players have they had drafted in the first two rounds in the last few years?" he asked me knowingly.
"I don't think they've had anyone since David Pollack and Thomas Davis," I responded. "But that was a while ago."
A smile came across his face.
"That's my point," he said. "The folks in the NFL – they don't make mistakes."
Actually, I had made a mistake – Tim Jennings was picked 62nd overall in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, but the point was made. Of course, folks in the NFL make mistakes (hello Tim Tebow), but they don't take low-level talent in the first two rounds – at least the 31 franchises not located in Oakland don't.
Statistics show that players selected in the first two rounds are more likely to have careers in the NFL rather than a cup of coffee in the league. For every Tom Brady – drafted 199th overall in 2000 – there are another 19 players selected in the first two rounds of who made the Pro Bowl during their careers.
You get the point.
Sure, every bar-stooled idiot brings up Tom Brady, but he's the outlier – and how. He's won three Super Bowls in his career. Every other quarterback to win a Super Bowl since Brady last won one was a first-round pick except Drew Brees, who was picked 32nd overall – one pick into the second round (for the record the first round is now 32 picks deep, so Brees would have been a first round pick today, too). The odds, therefore, say to pick a quarterback in the first 32 picks if you want to win the Super Bowl these days.
When it comes to the NFL Draft the numbers don't lie.
It is also a very good gauge of where a college program has been, and where it is likely to go if it continues to produce. Six drafts in a row came and went – with Georgia defenders knowing what it was like to be drafted in the first two rounds the same way I know what it is like to be LeBron James. That is to say not at all.
Charles Johnson, Asher Allen, Geno Atkins and Reshad Jones have had the most productive careers in the NFL of those Bulldogs drafted after the first two rounds – but Allen retired after the 2011 season.
Compare the defensive talent to the offensive talent at Georgia during the same time period: Cordy Glenn, Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Morneo, A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi were all drafted in the first two rounds and have combined to start 162 games during their careers. I will leave out the fact that Clint Boling and Ben Jones are also starting for their teams, as they were not taken in the first two rounds.
The NFL is saying through its draft – in no uncertain terms – that Georgia's offensive players are starters in this league… usually from day one. But from 2006-2010 Georgia's defenders were "value" picks, and were either not good enough to be drafted in the first two rounds, or not to be trusted enough to be drafted in those spots. And seeing that drafting a Georgia defender in that time was a little less than a 50/50 proposition, it makes sense why the dry spell went on so long.
But the page has turned.
Jarvis Jones' selection in the first round, and Alec Ogletree's shortly thereafter, was no real surprise to anyone who watched them play high school football nevertheless Between the Hedges. They were simply too good not to be taken in the first round. It was too much of a risk to pass on two players who could be in the NFL for years to come.
What happened? Georgia became better evaluators of talent – and more than that – better recruiters of talent. Sure, Jones and Ogletree were developed at Georgia… there's no question about that, but they were special a long time ago.
The difference is that Georgia got them on campus. That was the problem from 2006-2010 – talent. Georgia had a talent problem because it had a recruiting problem. No one wanted to admit that - particularly those hell bent on Mark Richt being fired as they were concentration on blaming Willie Martinez for everything under the sun. Hating Martinez had become too easy, and took the focus away from the real problem - a real and passionate fight in the recruiting world.
That went away in the winter of 2010-11, but it was a major problem before then. The focus on recruiting solved a lot of problems on the field.
Gone were the days of undersized linebackers and safeties who had no business playing. Compare the roster the Bulldogs had in 2012 or even what they have going into 2013 to what they had in 2009. That's the difference between 8-5 and 12-2. That's the difference in playing in Shreveport and on New Year's Day. That's the difference between now and then.
In terms most everyone should understand: It is the difference in Bryan Evans and Josh Harvey-Clemons… and that's a pretty big difference – and fans can tell. That difference will be well known, too, in NFL Drafts to come.