Draft prospect: Odell Thurman

In the case of University of Georgia linebacker Odell Thurman, does the reward outweigh the risk? That's the question that the Green Bay Packers may be asking themselves when they're on the clock and ready to utilize their first selection of this weekend's NFL Draft.<p>

Scout.com rates Thurman as the second best middle linebacker in the draft. He is a big, athletic linebacker that plays with great explosion and could allow the Packers to move Nick Barnett to an outside position. However, his history of off-the-field problems will scare many teams away. Will the Packers be one of them?

Thurman is a junior entry who has the capability of starting immediately in the National Football League, according to draft experts. He could play middle linebacker or an outside linebacker position. Thurman probably will be available when it is time for Green Bay to utilize its 24th overall pick, but first the Packers will have to weigh Thurman's alcohol- and disciplinary-related incidents during his college career.

Odell's collegiate career almost never came to fruition at Georgia. He was redshirted in 2001, but was kicked off the team by head coach Mark Richt prior top the 2002 season for several infractions, including alcohol-related incidents involving police. Thurman attended Georgia Military Academy that year, but also had trouble "adhering" to team rules.

In another unrelated incident prior to the 2004 season opener, Richt met with Odell and told him he would be suspended for the first three games of the 2004 season. When he returned, he played with a vengeance, recording 65 tackles (48 solos) with three sacks, eleven stops for losses, 16 pressures, four pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in nine contests.

Thurman was raised by his paternal grandmother, Betty Thurman. He shared a home with her, an uncle, an aunt and seven cousins. His mother, Joyce Bland, died in an automobile accident when Odell was age 10, and his father, Otis Thurman, was a heavy drinker and died in 2003 prior to Odell's season opener at Georgia, from liver and kidney failure.

Packers' new general manager Ted Thompson will no doubt be weighing the pros and cons of selecting Thurman throughout the week.

"Sometimes individuals make a mistake that's out of character, so you may give them a mulligan on that," Thompson said. "If it's more in line with that person's history, you take that a little more seriously."

Here is more information on Thurman compiled from reports by Scout.com and NFLDraftScout.com:

Ht: 6-0

Wt: 233

40 time: 4.79

Year: 4Jr

High School: Monticello (Ga.) H.S.

Bio: Two-year starter and All-Conference selection last season as a junior recording 65 tackles (48 solos) with three sacks, eleven stops for losses, 16 pressures, four pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in nine contests.

Originally won All-League honors as a sophomore after totaling career numbers of 121 tackles (72 solos), including 6.5 sacks, 18.5 stops for losses, eight quarterback pressures and two interceptions for 125 yards in returns and a touchdown to pick up 2003 UGA Newcomer of the Year honors.

Despite playing in only 23 games for the Bulldogs, Thurman started 22 times, and recordeding 186 tackles (120 solos) with 9.5 sacks for minus-70 yards, 29.5 stops for losses of 109 yards and 24 quarterback pressures. He also caused two fumbles, recovered three others, intercepted two passes and had six pass deflections.

Positives: Athletic defender with the ability to be used at inside or outside linebacker. Forceful up the field, explodes through the hole, yet also displays excellent sideline-to-sideline range. Moves to the flanks with speed, outstanding in pursuit and shuts off the corners from running backs. Covers a large amount of area on the field, gets depth on drops and flashes on the scene. Very sudden and jolts opponents at the point of attack, knocking them backwards. Disciplined, does not bite on play-action passes and reads the quarterback in pass defense.

Negatives: Does not always play under great control and over-pursues the action. Ducks his head into tackles and misses ball carriers. Undersized and smothered at the point by blocks. His adequate hands has are only adequate, leading him to miss several opportunities to make the interception (results in pass deflections, as he tends to let the ball into his body, rather than extend for it).

Injury report: No injuries reported.

Analysis: An athletic linebacker who plays with a great deal of explosion, Thurman possesses solid natural abilities, yet is still rough around the edges. Should have stayed in school after a marginal junior campaign, yet is a solid prospect who could be effective on special teams early in his NFL career.

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