Georgia stars leave early for the NFL

ATHENS, Ga. --- Matthew Stafford got the answer he hoped for when the NFL advisory committee for underclassmen told Georgia's junior quarterback he would be picked in the first round of April's draft should he leave school early.

 

Knowshon Moreno didn't need to hear the committee's opinion to make a decision.

The redshirt sophomore running back is the rare underclassman who didn't file the necessary paperwork to be evaluated, yet he and Stafford came to the same conclusion. Both players announced at a Wednesday news conference at Georgia's Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall that they will forgo the remainder of their college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

"If I had my choice, I'd like for these guys to stick around," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who sat between the duo at the press conference, "but I think they're ready."

Most draft analysts seem to agree. ESPN's Scouts Inc. rates Stafford as the No. 7 overall prospect and No. 2 quarterback available in the draft, while naming Moreno the No. 18 prospect and the top running back available.

Both seem to be surefire first-round picks -- with ESPN's most recent mock draft predicting Stafford would go to the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 3 overall pick. Other mock drafts have him going No. 1

"I know this is the right decision for me and I know I'm ready for it," said Stafford, who was Georgia's starter by the third game of his freshman year and leaves with a 27-7 record.

"I think the toughest part is probably leaving my teammates," Moreno said.

Richt advised NFL teams to "take them as high on the board as you can get 'em. Trade up for them if you're smart."

Reach David Ching at david.ching@morris.com.

GEORGIA'S TOP RETURNEES

Tailbacks

(With 2008 stats)

- Caleb King, redshirt freshman 11 games, 61 carries, 247 yards, 4.0 avg., 1 TD

- Richard Samuel, freshman, 11 games, 26 carries, 133 yards, 5.1 avg., 1 TD

- Dontavius Jackson, freshman

- Carlton Thomas, freshman

Commitments

- Washaun Ealey, Twins City, Ga.

Quarterbacks

(With 2008 stats)

- Joe Cox, junior, 3 games, 11-15-0, 151 yards, 2 TDs

- Logan Gray, redshirt freshman, 2 carries, 21 yards, 10.5 avg.

Commitments

- Aaron Murray, Tampa, Fla.

- Zach Mettenberger, Watkinsville, Ga.

-- Morris News Service

JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS Georgia coach Mark Richt is flanked by QB Matthew Stafford (left) and running back Knowshon Moreno at Wednesday's news conference.

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