Recruits watching Draft Day, too

ATHENS – Georgia will add to its already impressive NFL legacy starting today as the 2006 NFL Draft begins in New York.

Eight Bulldogs are expected to be picked in the draft's seven rounds, led by tight end Leonard Pope and offensive guard Max Jean-Gilles, who are likely the only two who will be selected in today's first three rounds.

In the last five years, 31 Georgia players have been drafted, the third-highest total in the country. Last season, 35 ex-Dogs were on NFL opening day rosters, more than all but three schools around the country.

That run of talent hasn't gone unnoticed by pro talent evaluators.

"You have to double check and triple check them with all your people" to make sure you don't miss somebody, said NFL draft analyst Frank Coyle, who publishes Draft Insiders' Digest and

The numbers give the Bulldog Nation a point of pride. They give Mark Richt and his coaching staff something more tangible – recruiting leverage.

"What I've noticed is when kids come visit us on unofficial visits, they look around our building and they see the kids who have been first round picks and kids who are in the league now and find out we're like third or fourth in the nation in current players in the NFL," Richt said. "They are kind of surprised by it."

A school's NFL legacy is more important now than 20 years ago because the recruiting hype around high school players has convinced more of them that they are pros-in-waiting, said Allen Wallace, national editor for

"I think it's becoming a bigger and bigger deal," he said. "Kids are more and more headstrong about the fact that anything is possible. If coaching can give you an edge, they want to give themselves that advantage."

D.J. Donley, a safety at Charlton County High School and one of the most highly coveted players in the South for the recruiting Class of 2007, said a team's pro production is important but not the most important factor in his decision.

"It's something I look at, but I tend to look at it the academic side of it first," he said. "(Schools) definitely take a lot of pride in it."

Florida pushes its NFL production more than any school recruiting Donley, he said. The Gators have had 28 players drafted in the last five years.

"Most of the letters I get from them are saying something about players in the NFL," he said. "(Georgia) brings it up some but not as much as Florida."

That fits with Richt's philosophy of not pushing the NFL angle too strongly.

"Maybe we need to do a better job of it, but I'm not real big into hype," he said. "I'm not real big into trying to convince guys they're going straight to the NFL. I'm more inclined to help them understand that this is about a team here at Georgia. When they visit here, I want them to get a feel for what reality is going to be, not a bunch of fluff."

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