Originally created 04/17/99

Georgia players may be picked in NFL draft

By tonight, Champ Bailey will be a very rich man, and Matt Stinchcomb and Chris Terry probably will attain long-term financial security as well.

But those three, who are expected to be taken in the first two rounds of this weekend's NFL draft, should just be the beginning of what could be an unprecedented run on Georgia players. By the end of the draft on Sunday afternoon, at least six Bulldogs seem certain to be selected, with a handful of others possibilities for the later rounds.

While Bailey and Stinchcomb project as first-rounders and Terry seems headed for a second-round announcement, tight end Larry Brown and defensive linemen Antonio Cochran and Emarlos Leroy won't be far behind. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has Brown slated to go in the middle of the third round, and Cochran and Leroy going off the board in the fourth.

"We should have pretty good representation in this thing," Georgia coach Jim Donnan said Thursday.

The Bulldogs could set a school record for number of players taken if they sneak a few more into the seventh (and final) round. Georgia's high for selections in a year was seven in the 1985 draft. Six Georgia players were taken in 1977 and 1989. Georgia had four players selected last year.

The primary candidates among the other hopefuls are wide receiver Tony Small, running back Olandis Gary, safety Kirby Smart, defensive lineman Paul Snellings and tight end Jermaine Wiggins. Those who aren't drafted from that group will probably get a chance as free agents -- a route that has worked well for ex-Bulldogs like Ronald Bailey, Corey Allen and Brice Hunter over the last few years.

Donnan said last week that some teams have called to express interest in those players -- Small, for instance, said he has already been to Indianapolis to work out for the Colts.

But it will be an uphill battle for those players. Draftniks like Kiper and Pro Football Weekly's Joel Buchsbaum have position-by-position prospect lists so detailed that all of the aforementioned Bulldogs are included on them, but the numbers aren't pretty in most cases.

Smart, for instance, is Pro Football Weekly's No. 55 safety in a draft that Kiper says is one of the weakest for safeties in years. Small is rated the No. 40 wide receiver by Kiper and No. 45 by PFW. Gary is PFW's No. 29 running back and No. 30 for Kiper. Wiggins is PFW's No. 32 tight end and Snellings is the magazine's No. 25 interior defensive lineman.

Still, there is room somewhere for these solid college players who might not have the package of skills, size and speed that others do.

"He's a good football player, but the fact that he isn't going to run a blistering 40 figures to move him significantly down the draft board," Kiper said of Small, who ended up running a 4.58 -- more than two seconds slower than Bailey. "What makes Small interesting is his size, sure hands and consistency."

With those thoughts in mind, Kiper rates Small a 6.5 on his 1-10 scale, which translates to a late-round pick who can "make a club and contribute."

It could be a long weekend for some of the players on the bubble -- "Don't expect to hear my name called Saturday or Sunday," Smart said -- but they'll have their chance to play professionally either through the draft or free agency, and that's all they want.


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