Dawgs under the radar for 2008 NFL Draft

ATHENS – When the college football season ended in January, Georgia was one of the hottest teams in the country. When the 2008 season begins, its name will be on everyone's lips.

However, when the NFL holds its draft this weekend, Georgia will be decidedly under the radar. The Bulldogs, who finished 11-2 last year, are in danger of having no players selected on the first day of the draft for the first time since 2000.

"For a team to be as developed as Georgia is at its high level of competition and have such a small and marginal draft class if very unusual," said Frank Coyle, publisher of Draft Insiders' Digest and www.draftinsiders.com.

The draft will hold its first three rounds on Saturday in New York, and defensive end Marcus Howard is the only Bulldog with any realistic chance of being picked in that range.

"It's possible, but I don't see him going there," Coyle said. "He's a nice player. I think he's a kid who really got on the radar late, but he's a marginal top 150 guy."

Georgia almost certainly will go a third straight season without having a player selected in the first round.

Howard was impressive at the NFL Combine, running a 4.45 40-yard dash, the fastest time among linebackers or defensive ends at the workouts, and bench pressing 225 pounds 27 times.

"I hope I (made some money)," Howard said of his performance.

The next Bulldog picked after Howard could be center Fernando Velasco because the draft is thin on interior offensive line prospects, Coyle said.

"A guy who can play guard and center and did it in the SEC kind of moves up," he said.

Running backs Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin could be taken in the late rounds, but Brown is the more intriguing prospect, Coyle said.

"I like Thomas Brown myself," he said. "I think there are obviously durability (issues) there. He is not the biggest guy in the world, but he's strong as hell. If I got to the sixth, seventh round, and I needed a running back I am definitely pulling the trigger on that guy."

Lumpkin's history of injuries in college, particularly the fact that he missed most of his senior season, will hurt his draft prospects, but his size (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) gives him some versatility, Coyle said.

"He could be a short yardage guy," Coyle said. "He's big enough to be a fullback in the West Coast offense. You could project him at a number of spots."

Place-kicker Brandon Coutu may or may not be drafted, Coyle said.

"I like him more than a lot of people," Coyle said. "I have questions of him kicking in bad weather, but he's got a big leg. I just don't know if he's going to kick in Chicago, and just when you start to like him, he misses two field goals."

Safety Kelin Johnson is the only other Georgia player with a chance to be picked, Coyle said, and that's only because it's a down year for safeties.

Georgia strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger thinks defensive end Brandon Miller and offensive tackle Chester Adams also have a chance to picked in a late round or be invited to a camp as a free agent, he said.

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