About the Author
Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
ATHENS, Ga. — With the sun shining and the temperature of the shorts-and-T-shirts variety, it was a beautiful day to watch football practice here on Tuesday. And if you stood on the sideline at the University of Georgia's practice field during the receiver drills at the school's pro day, you saw one of the top prospects in the NFL draft look every bit the part.
Yes, it was practice without pads — or defense — but Georgia junior WR A.J. Green showed the skill set that has made him a first-round lock. The 6-3 5/8, 204-pound Green, projected to go No. 4 overall to Cincinnati in PFW personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki's latest mock draft, made several tough catches look easy. On one pass, he plucked a ball thrown behind him on a slant pattern with uncommon grace. Two plays later, he dragged his feet, pro-style, on an out route.
About the only time Green didn't look smooth was when he tripped over a cord at the edge of the field, but he was no worse for wear.
"It was a good day," Green said. "I felt like we did a lot."
Green's participation in pro day, which was attended by nearly every NFL team — including all of the clubs drafting in the top five — was confined to the receiving drills and weigh-in. He was seven pounds lighter than he was at last month's Combine.
One of the few knocks on Green is a low Wonderlic score of 10. Asked if he found the test useful, Green said, "It doesn't really matter," noting that teams could check the rest of his academic record.
Conspicuous by their absence on the sideline during the wideout drills were NFL personnel because of a league rule concerning Montana QB Justin Roper, the designated passer for the workout. Because Roper did not play for UGA and hails from Buford, Ga., which is more than 40 miles from Athens, he was ineligible to work out in front of NFL evaluators and coaches. However, scouts were given the option to watch the workout inside Georgia's facility. According to George Whitfield, Roper's private QB coach, who gave his account of the events on Twitter, Georgia head coach Mark Richt was instrumental in the process that ended with the workout going on with Roper as the quarterback and NFL personnel having the option to watch it on television. However, Georgia associate athletic director Claude Felton, in an e-mail to PFW on Tuesday, said he was told only “one or two” scouts watched the workout inside.
From feedback that PFW has received from evaluators, the NFL scouting community was very turned off by what was called a "power play" by Richt. One source said, "(Richt) insisted the illegal quarterback (Roper) work knowing it was against the rules instead of doing what's best for the guys that gave their all to him. It's the reason they underachieve."
Coaches and scouts were able to watch all of the other workouts earlier in the day, and among the busier players on the field was junior OLB-DE Justin Houston, who participated in drills at both positions and was clocked as low as the 4.65 range in the 40-yard dash, according to two clubs. Nawrocki ranks the 6-2 7/8, 268-pound Houston as the No. 3 outside linebacker in April's draft and had the Packers taking him with the final pick in Round One in his latest mock draft.
Senior OG-OT Clint Boling, who grades out as a second-rounder in PFW's player rankings, could well be the third Georgia player selected. Boling (6-4 5/8, 310 pounds) said he believes more teams prefer him at guard than tackle but that clubs like his versatility.
Senior ILB Akeem Dent, PFW's No. 96-ranked player, rates among the top senior prospects at his position and can also play outside linebacker. Dent cited his "ability to read different blocking schemes and the will to get to the ball" as his greatest strengths.
Senior WR Kris Durham, who also participated in receiver drills, has a chance to be drafted late, as could senior FB Shaun Chapas. The 6-5¼, 216-pound Durham caught the ball well and ran in the mid-4.5 range in the 40, according to one team. He recorded a vertical leap of 35½ inches.
Durham lined up on one side in WR drills, with Green on the other. A small crowd of observers, including former Georgia star QB Matthew Stafford, watched the action.
Yes, it was only practice, and in a setting designed to make receivers look as good as possible, but a handful of times, Green flashed the talent that left the unmistakable impression that he will be making quarterbacks look good for many years.
"I think I'm going to go in and contribute to a ball club right away, because I have the mindset I'm going to be the best no matter what," Green said.
Nolan Nawrocki contributed to this story.
To purchase your copy of PFW's 2011 Draft Preview book, visit The PFW Store.