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Monday, December 13, 2010

To leave or stay? What UGA juniors may decide

For a team that’s coming off a pretty average year, and that may be putting it kindly, Georgia has a lot of underclassmen looking at the NFL. But hey, that’s the way of the world.

About a half-dozen juniors who may be contemplating the jump met recently with Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, in a standard information-sharing session. Most of those players have or will send their names to the NFL draft advisory board, with the exception of A.J. Green, who doesn’t need anybody to advise him he’ll go very, very early.

Keep in mind, the fact that all these guys are examining their options doesn’t mean there will be a mass exodus. Due diligence is a good thing, and since there’s no drawback to getting feedback from the NFL, why not? Still, Georgia fans have seen plenty of players jump early when it wasn’t expected, so every situation bears watching.

Forthwith, here’s a list of each player contemplating the jump, along with the percentage chances they will leave. (I will freely admit I’m stealing the idea from my friend Gentry Estes at Good ideas are worth stealing.) The higher the percentage, the more chance they’ll be turning pro.

A.J. Green, junior WR
97 percent.
Some would postulate that this decision was made three years ago. I’ll take Green at his word that he was still unsure – especially when he tweeted as such a few weeks ago as he was hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru. In this day and age, if you can’t believe someone tweeting while they’re going thru the McDonald’s drive-thru, really, who can you believe?

Still, Green all but announced last week that he was gone. Throughout the year he had said a lockout could be a big factor in keeping him in school, but after the meeting with McKay, Green said he didn’t think there would be a lockout anymore and it wouldn’t figure into his decision.

So, barring a huge last minute change of heart, what was generally assumed will soon become official.

Justin Houston, junior LB-DE
75 percent

While Green has been fairly open about discussing his future, Houston has declined to get into it. Mark Richt has talked more about it, lobbying publicly after the Georgia Tech game for Houston to come back and improve his stock to high first-round status.

But Houston may already be in first round territory, and with a good combine could elevate himself. After all, he’s an All-American and the SEC sacks leader. Perhaps most importantly, he’s a fourth-year junior, so you could forgive him for being ready to go.

My sense is Houston will leave unless a) the NFL tells him he’s not a likely first-rounder, and b) his coaches and teammates put on the full-court press and guilt him into giving it one more year. But both of those things have to happen.

Brandon Boykin, junior CB-KR
30 percent

Let’s face it, Boykin didn’t have a great junior year, so his stock probably dropped. But his kick returning skills would almost certainly earn him a roster spot, no matter where he’s drafted.

Boykin seems to be leaning towards staying – last week he joked, via Twitter, about starting a Heisman campaign for next year. When I pressed him on it, asking if that was a declaration he was returning, he said, “time will tell ... Mr. Blog Man.”

(On a side note, it’s good to know that all those years at journalism school, the Washington Post, and shoe-leather reporting have led to my simply being called “Mr. Blog Man.”)

Boykin seems to have a good head on his shoulders, so if he doesn’t get a high draft rating, there’s a good chance he’s back. And hopefully he breaks the news by telling Mr. Blog Man.

Cordy Glenn, junior G
40 percent

There almost always seems to be a below-the-radar guy who leaves after no one talks about him, and I’ve thought for awhile Glenn could be the guy. When he was asked about it last month, he gave the ol’ not-thinking-about-it-till-after-the-season response. That usually means, “Yeah I’m thinking about it. Hard.”

Glenn was the top-ranked guard on Mel Kiper’s list of draft-eligible underclassmen. So he seems likely to get picked if he leaves. It’ll probably depend on what kind of grade he gets.

Blair Walsh, junior K
10 percent

Yeah, kickers hardly ever leave early, and Walsh himself almost laughed off the notion. But for what it’s worth, he was in that meeting with McKay, so he was at least keeping his options open.

Drew Butler, junior P
5 percent

Butler is basically in the same situation as Walsh. Neither will improve their stock much by coming back, since kickers and punters don’t get picked high. But that’s also another reason to come back for another year, especially if they like college.

Other than Green, Butler may end up having the longest pro career of any of these players. But it’s almost certain that he’ll wait another year to start it.

Trinton Studivant, junior OT
15 percent

When Green was listing the players that were in the underclassmen meeting, this is the name that we reporters had to literally play our tapes back to make sure we got the name right: Sturdivant? The guy with two knee surgeries who only started half of Georgia’s games this year?

Actually, it makes some sense from a personal standpoint: No one on Georgia’s roster is more aware of the injury risk, so Sturdivant could decide that he might as well assume that risk while he’s drawing a paycheck. But then the question becomes how much, if any, of a paycheck he can draw. Sturdivant’s skills are well-known from early in his career, but NFL scouts would probably like to see his knee hold up one more season.

Ben Jones, junior C
5 percent

Jones has said he’s coming back, and Green didn’t list him among the players that were in that meeting with McKay. You never know, but you can almost certainly pencil him in to next year’s starting line.

As for the rest, as Boykin said, time will tell.


Buster said...

The only thing worse than admitting you were at the Washington Post would be if you had been at the NYTimes! But, then ,that's my opinion and you know what they say about opinions, right?

Anonymous said...

The Wash Post - what a joke rag of a paper. I wouldn't admit that to anyone south of the MD Line.

Anonymous said...

I'm okay with losing AJ and Houston. Any of those other guys would hurt because it would be a bit of a surprise.

Anonymous said...

"For a team having an average season... Georgia has a lot of juniors looking at leaving early."

Uh, yeah. Anybody watching our football games this year knows that the problem wasn't the fact that Georgia didn't have NFL-ready talent on the field. And a great deal of it.

What a dumb lead.

JasonC said...

RE: Glenn
I know some people said he probably could leave, but there was a whole lot of suckitude on our OL this year. I am not saying it was Glenn, but it had to be somebody or somebodies.