One year ago, Georgia was a hit in the NFL draft.
Georgia supplied two first-round picks, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a starting quarterback.
Defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud were high first-round picks last year, second-round pick Kendrell Bell was named the league's top defensive player and Quincy Carter was a part-time starting quarterback for Dallas.
This will not be that kind of draft year for Georgia.
Even so, Georgia is expected to have a presence in the first round, and it will provide a large group of players who should be picked in the final four rounds on Sunday.
Georgia's star of the draft today will be defensive end Charles Grant.For much of his junior season, Grant had to field questions about his lack of production as a pass rusher. He answered those questions with such force — registering four sacks against Auburn, followed by sacks against Mississippi and Georgia Tech — that today he could be one of the first 15 players selected.
Once projected as no better than a second-round pick, Grant today could be picked 13th overall by New Orleans. Some recent mock drafts suggest Grant might even climb into the top 10 of the first round.
"I'm just trying to stay low-key,'' says Grant, who plans to watch the draft with family and friends at his home in Colquitt, Ga.
Grant said that in workouts and interviews with NFL scouts and coaches, his emphasis was "just me being me, not trying to change the way Charles is.''
That was enough to make Grant perhaps the fastest riser of any player in the draft.
Grant may be the only Georgia player taken in the first three rounds. By comparison, six Georgia players were taken in the first four rounds last year, including four in the first two rounds.
Linebacker Will Witherspoon, tight end Randy McMichael, safeties Jermaine Phillips and Terreal Bierria and running back Verron Haynes rate as players who could be taken in the middle to late rounds.
Center Curt McGill, cornerback Tim Wansley and running back Jasper Sanks are possible late-round picks who may have to look for invitations to a camp as undrafted free agents.
Atlanta Falcons national scout Mike Hagen says Haynes might not make an impact in an NFL training camp and might have to make a roster based on special teams play. But Hagen says when given an opportunity, Haynes will be productive in games.
That was basically Haynes' background as a walk-on fullback at Georgia who suddenly flourished when given a try at tailback late last season. Haynes is yet another Georgia back, following Robert Edwards, Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Patrick Pass, who may have never fully realized his potential in college.
Given a full season as the Bulldogs' featured back, Haynes might have rushed for 1,500 yards and might be considered in the second or third rounds today.McMichael, one of the most gifted receivers to ever play tight end at Georgia, is another intriguing prospect. Even though his lack of weight makes McMichael (6-3, 247) more of an H-back type prospect for some offenses, his skills as a receiver could push him as high as the third round.
Without question, Wansley was one of Georgia's top players as he posted a combined total of eight interceptions in his last two seasons.
Wansley suffered a broken leg in his final regular-season game against Houston. That may have prevented him from displaying the explosive speed for scouts that enabled him to make up for his lack of height.
There are other cornerbacks in the draft, including Florida's Lito Sheppard and Oregon's Rashad Bauman, who are listed as shorter than 5-foot-10, but the added injury problem may be too much for Wansley to overcome.In his 2002 Draft Report publication, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. rates Wansley only No. 42 among cornerbacks in the draft.
Kiper rates McGill as the seventh-best center but still does not have McGill included in his mock draft, which covered only six rounds.
Charles can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com