I hope you and your loved ones made it through last night’s storm safely. The NFL draft starts tonight, and I feel pretty safe in making one prediction. There won’t be two Georgia Tech players taken in the first round and three in the first three rounds, as was the case last year with Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas and Morgan Burnett going in the first, first and third rounds, respectively.
The Tech players most likely to go are B-back Anthony Allen, safety Jerrard Tarrant and cornerback Mario Butler. It’s possible that no Tech player will hear his name called until Saturday, when rounds 4-7 will take place. (Round one is Thursday night, rounds 2-3 on Friday. If you’re wondering, coverage starts at 8 p.m. Thursday ET, 6 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday, all on ESPN.)
In a conference call last week, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projected all three to be Saturday picks, along with safety Mario Edwards, with Allen going first.
“There’s really no marquee player,” Kiper said of Tech’s entrants.
Kiper said “there’s no question [Allen] has talent,” but noted that Jonathan Dwyer went late in the draft last year (sixth round). (I’m not sure comparing the cases of Allen and Dwyer is entirely valid. Dwyer’s stock dropped precipitously after he declared for the draft, when he was projected to go as early as the second.)
That said, I saw a mock draft that had Tarrant going as high as the second round. Particularly once you get past the first round, as I’m sure you are aware, projecting draft picks is a bit of a murky business. The website nfldraftscout.com, which I found fairly reliable in my days as a Falcons and NFL reporter, pegs Tarrant around the fifth round, Butler in the sixth or seventh at the earliest and Allen as a seventh-rounder or undrafted.
As for quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, Kiper said the question was how teams see him. While he worked out at Tech’s pro day at quarterback, it’s possible a team may take him (he’d presumably be a late-round pick if he goes) and try him at running back, defensive back or a special teamer.
(Update, 2:10 p.m. Nothing seems certain, but the NFL has ended its lockout, at least temporarily. That means that teams will be able to sign undrafted rookies, so long as the lockout isn’t restored. The NFL told teams in a memo that it will instruct teams on procedures for trades and signings.)
Unfortunately for Tech players that go undrafted, teams will likely not be able to sign them as undrafted free agents because of the labor impasse. Hundreds of players make their way into NFL camps as undrafted free agents – former Tech offensive lineman Cord Howard did it last year with Buffalo and started four games as a rookie. Former Jackets Mike Cox and J.P. Foschi are two others who used that route to earn NFL spots.
Aside from the aforementioned, players that could potentially impact include offensive tackle Nick Claytor, cornerback Dominique Reese, fullback Lucas Cox and linebacker Brad Jefferson and kicker Scott Blair. Barring a court order, undrafted players would have to wait until the NFL and the players reach an agreement to be signed, which would likely make their odds of making a team even higher, since they would have less time to learn their new teams’ systems.