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Ben Watson to Enter NFL Draft

Before the season, Georgia coach Mark Richt said he thought Ben Watson had a chance to become one of the nation's top tight ends.<p>Watson must have believed Richt.

Ben Watson, who a few weeks ago said he planned to return for his senior season at Georgia, changed his mind this week and became the Bulldogs' fourth junior to enter the NFL draft.

 Earlier, running back Musa Smith, defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan and outside linebacker Chris Clemons decided to test their value in the draft.  

Though perhaps not as accomplished on the football field as in the weight room, Watson enjoyed a steady season. He ranked third on the team with 31 catches for 341 yards, including three touchdown receptions.  

Watson, a transfer from Duke, was overshadowed by teammate Randy McMichael in 2001 and he saw McMichael leave Georgia following his junior season and enjoy a successful rookie season with the Miami Dolphins.  

Watson (6-3, 253) is not as skilled as a receiver as McMichael, but he is bigger and stronger and could appeal to a team looking for a more traditional tight end.  

Watson set most of the weight-room records at Georgia, and in last year's summer conditioning program he led the team in the bench press (535 pounds), power clean (380 pounds) and combined weight total for three lifts (1,485 pounds).

 Watson's final touchdown catch was a 20-yarder in Georgia's Southeastern Conference championship game victory over Arkansas.  

An already deep group of tight ends in the draft also includes two other standout juniors from the SEC — Tennessee's Jason Witten, who says he has been told he could be the top tight end in the draft, and Auburn's Robert Johnson.  Watson is projected to be a mid-rounds pick in the April draft.  

The loss of Watson leaves Georgia with only quarterback David Greene and receivers Fred Gibson and Damien Gary as returning starters. Gibson and Gary started together only in three-receiver sets; leading receiver Terrence Edwards was a senior.  

Robert Brannon, who will be a senior next season, may have the lead in what now will be an open competition at tight end this spring. Brannon has been a backup for three years.  No returning tight end has caught a pass in a game.  Other returning tight ends are 2002 sophomore Michael Turner and redshirt freshman Martrez Milner.  

Leonard Pope, a highly recruited tight end from Americus who signed with Georgia last year before attending Hargrave Military Academy, has given his verbal commitment to again sign with the Bulldogs.  

Georgia also has verbal commitments from two players who can play tight end or defensive end — Trahern Holden of Houston County High School and Coleman Watson of North Springs High.  

NOTE: The latest mock draft by The Sporting News has three Bulldogs being selected in the first round. Senior offensive tackle George Foster is projected to be the ninth pick in the draft by Carolina, followed by Sullivan at No. 11 to Baltimore and linebacker Boss Bailey at No. 16 to Kansas City.


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