Dawgs get ready for NFL Draft

ATHENS – Charles Johnson not only will watch the NFL Draft, he's throwing a party for his family and friends.

For Ken Shackleford, the decision is not so easy.

"I don't know," said Shackleford. "I've been contemplating if I'm going to sit around and watch the draft. I don't think I am because I might drive myself crazy. I might go out with the family, go bowling, something to occupy my time."

Johnson, the former Georgia defensive end who will watch the draft at Hawkinsville High School, is expected to be the first Georgia player taken when the draft begins today in New York, probably in the second round, but perhaps as early as late first or as late as the third.

As for Shackleford, he knows his name may not be called at all. If it is, it will be on Sunday, the second and final day of the draft, and it could be as late as the final round.

"It really doesn't matter where I go," he said, "I just want the opportunity to play."

Two draft analysts – Frank Coyle of www.draftinsiders.com and Scott Wright ofNFL DraftCountdown.com – agree that Shackleford is the most likely of the Bulldogs' three eligible offensive linemen to be picked. Although center Nick Jones and tackle Daniel Inman each started more than 40 collegiate games and Shackleford started only as a senior, Shackleford's size and quick feet give him an edge in the eyes of the scouts.

"Maybe Shackleford would get drafted first if any of them do, but it's a fairly decent group of tackles, and I don't see them getting drafted," said Coyle, who has published Draft Insiders' Digest for 16 seasons.

Kansas City and Philadelphia each sent scouts to Athens to conduct private workouts with Shackleford, who only played one season on offense at Villa Rica High School before signing with the Bulldogs.

"I think that would probably be my biggest strength, my athleticism and then my upside," he said. "Coming into college, I was figuring out how to play offensive line. Most of the time I was blocking people it was just on my athletic ability because my technique wasn't great. They feel they can work with my technique and make me a much better player."

Along with Johnson, defensive end Quentin Moses, linebacker Tony Taylor and tight end Martrez Milner can feel confident about their chances of being selected at some point this weekend. Safety Tra Battle, a Forysth native, running back Danny Ware, linebackers Danny Verdun Wheeler and Jarvis Jackson and Jones and Inman all will have to wait and see if they get picked. Undrafted players can sign free agent contract with teams beginning Sunday night.

Milner has heard he'll be picked anywhere from the second to fourth round, he said. Coyle and Wright project it will be the fourth round or later for the 6-4, 240-pounder who had trouble holding onto passes throughout his career.

"His blocking leaves a lot to be desired and his drops drive you crazy, but he's got good movement skills and Georgia has had a nice track record of tight ends," Coyle said. "If somebody panics and takes him (in the first three rounds), that's a disaster, but I've seen worse things happen."

Taylor ran just a 4.95 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but his history of play-making, particularly last year when he led Georgia in tackles and interceptions, has gotten him noticed. He could be a fifth-round pick, Wright said.

"He definitely doesn't test well," Wright said, "but he went to the Senior Bowl, and he made plays. When you put the game film on, it's hard not to notice him and that's hard to ignore."

Coyle thinks Battle, a former walk-on who became a two-year starter, could be the surprise Bulldog of the draft.

"I think Battle is a guy who could really shock people," he said. "He's quick. Even though he played safety, he could be a nickel corner over time. Does his experience at safety allow him to play in the dime package? Battle made a lot of plays. I don't think he's going to be more than a situational guy, but he could surprise you. He's the kind of guy you turn around in September and say, ‘Jeez, Battle made the Jaguars.'"

Johnson has ignored all the talk of who will be drafted where, even when it involves him, he said.

"I completely ignore it because you never know where you're going to go so I don't see the point," he said. "I'm going to be disappointed if I drop to the third round, but it's all a blessing."

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