December 17, 2010

Education the best advice for juniors

When it comes to helping players decide whether to stay in school or apply for the NFL Draft, Georgia coach Mark Richt says education is the best advice he can offer.

For example, last week Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the NFL competition committee, came to Athens and spoke to Bulldog juniors contemplating a jump to pro ball.

That's not all.

Following practice Friday, Richt said he actually encourages juniors interested to submit their names to the NFL's advisory board. As he put it, the best advice one can receive about the NFL, is from the NFL itself.

"We try to get as many people who can educate them as much as possible from the NFL, and we just want those guys to real solid information when they do because there are just so many things out there," Richt said. "You take the media, agents, coaches, and then the NFL. Truly, the most credible people are the NFL in saying what reality is. I truly hope they believe I have their best interest at heart. I do hope they believe that, I think they do but for me to help them, the best way I can help them is the education from the league itself."

Six Bulldog juniors are taking Richt up on his advice.

Kicker Blair Walsh, punter Drew Butler, cornerback Brandon Boykin, offensive lineman Cordy Glenn, linebacker Justin Houston and offensive lineman Trinton Sturdivant have all submitted their names to the advisory board, which will rate each player and give a general idea as to when they will get drafted, if at all.

Junior wide receiver A.J. Green, who is projected to be a top-10 pick, did not submit his name to be evaluated since it's a general consensus by most draft experts that he will go very early when selected.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to announce whether or not they intend to leave school early and apply for the NFL Draft.

For Walsh, submitting his name to the board was simply an opportunity to see where he falls and does not mean that he intends to leave school.

"I just want to see where I stand," Walsh said Friday. "I've played for three years and just want to know where I stack up and this is the best way to do it."

Houston, Boykin and Glenn say they won't think about their decision either way until after the Dec. 31 AutoZone Liberty Bowl game against UCF.

"I'm just focused on the Liberty Bowl," Glenn said. "I just sent in my name because I just want to see what the NFL thinks. That's why most of the juniors do it."

One question Richt asks players considering making the jump, is whether or not it's worth it to do so, and is it actually more valuable to stay?

In the case of Matthew Stafford, that certainly wasn't an option.

As the eventual top pick in the 2009 Draft, Richt acknowledged there wasn't much Stafford could do to improve his stock by returning for his senior year.

"I think if a guy has the ability to improve his draft status from one year to the next then that's something he needs to consider. The NFL is pretty simple in the draft. If you're slotted in the second round, the 10th pick in the second round, you're going to get this much plus about three percent, that's pretty much the way it's been going," Richt said. "If you have the potential to move yourself into the mid-first (round), and you can look at the difference, that's a tremendous amount of difference and money."

Of course, this year a potential NFL lockout also factors into the equation.

"The thing that is different this year is the impending chance of a lockout and what that means to those guys. The seniors don't have a choice, they're going to have to live with whatever happens but these underclassmen have a choice to decide whether they want to deal with that uncertainty," Richt said. "I don't think anybody knows what's going to happen by the time they have to make those decisions on the 15th or whatever it is. I don't think anything will be resolved, so there are definitely some unknowns."

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