(11:20 A.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: The Cincinnati Bengals selected former Georgia defensive tackle Geno Atkins in the fourth round Saturday morning. He was the 120th pick of the NFL draft — and just the second from Georgia. Atkins said he went about where he expected to go in the draft — late third or fourth round — but that he was surprised to be chosen by the Bengals because they had not worked him out or interviewed him.)
(1:25 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: The Miami Dolphins drafted Georgia safety Reshad Jones late in the fifth round. Jones was the 163rd pick of the draft, the third from UGA. Jones was drafted later than projected — he had expected to go in the second or third round — but it wasn’t a surprise the Dolphins picked him. They had brought him to Miami for a workout and interview a month or so ago. The Dolphins moved up in the draft to get Jones, trading sixth- and seventh-round picks to the Washington Redskins.)
(4:40 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Finally, Jeff Owens has been drafted. The former UGA defensive tackle was taken late in the seventh — and final — round by the Philadelphia Eagles, the 243rd pick of the draft. Analysts had been all over the map with projections of his draft stock, forecasting him to go anywhere from the second round to the seventh.)
(4:50 P.M. SATURDAY UPDATE: Now Georgia’s top three defensive tackles from last season have all been drafted. Kade Weston was taken by the New England Patriots as the draft wound down, the 248th pick.)
Ninety-seven picks into the NFL draft, a player from the University of Georgia finally was selected late Friday night: linebacker Rennie Curran by the Tennnessee Titans.
The Titans took Curran, Georgia’s most valuable player and the SEC’s leading tackler last season, with the next-to-last choice of the third round, a compensatory pick.
Curran, watching the draft with family and friends at his Snellville home, was informed of his NFL destination in a phone call from Titans coach Jeff Fisher a few minutes after 10 p.m.
“That was the best call of my life, the best sound,” Curran said an hour or so later. “Just picking up the phone call, my heart skipped a beat.”
The selection of Curran came just as it appeared Georgia might not have a player chosen in the first two nights of the draft. Rounds four through seven will be held Saturday, with several other Georgia players, including defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens and safety Reshad Jones, expecting to be selected.
Curran bypassed his senior season at UGA to enter the draft one year early. He clearly considered his decision validated by Tennessee choosing him in Round 3.
“I’m just so excited,” Curran said on a conference call. “I’m so grateful.”
Although Curran often was described as a “tackling machine” at Georgia, where he had 130 tackles last season and 298 in the past three seasons, forecasts of his draft stock had been mixed, mainly because of concerns about his height (5-10 1/2). Many recent projections had him going in the fourth or fifth round. But the Titans had been mentioned as a team whose defensive system and needs could be a good match for Curran.
“They are a very aggressive defense, and I feel like I am going to fit perfectly with their defensive scheme,” Curran said. “I’m just glad a team took a chance on me, and they will not regret [it]. I am looking to make an impact.”
Fisher and Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt, in a late-night news conference shown on the team’s website, said they believe Curran will overcome his height disadvantage in the NFL just as he did in the SEC.
“He’s kind of unique in that even though he doesn’t have the ideal height, he’s a long strider, so he covers a lot of ground,” Fisher said.
Said Reinfeldt: “He plays very fast, very active. He kind of fits the mold of what we look for in a linebacker.”
Reinfeldt said the Titans were impressed not only by Curran’s play at Georgia, but by their recent visit with him in Nashville. “We had the kid in. We interviewed him. He was a great kid,” Reinfeldt said. “It was all positive.”
One of Curran’s new teammates will be former Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, selected by the Titans with the 16th pick of the first round Thursday night.
Compensatory picks, such as the one Tennessee used to select Curran, are tied to a team’s losses in free agency.
Twenty-one players were drafted from SEC teams the past two nights before Curran became the first to be taken from Georgia.
In last year’s draft, the Bulldogs had two of the first 12 picks, No. 1 Matthew Stafford and No. 12 Knowshon Moreno, and had five players chosen in the first three rounds.
Links to today’s other UGA football news: