From 2005 until 2009, the Georgia Bulldogs have seen 8 players forgo their remaining eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Here is a look at those who left early during the second half of Richt’s first decade in Athens.
Leonard Pope – 3rd Round by Arizona – Pope left Georgia following the SEC Championship season and was drafted by a pass happy Arizona Cardinals team. And while receivers like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald put up huge numbers catching passes, Pope never really took off. He has played the last 2 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Verdict – Bad Decision – Pope’s size was amazing, but one more year in Athens could have really helped hone his skills. He has not lived up to the success that former Georgia tight ends Randy McMichael and Ben Watson had.
Danny Ware – Undrafted – Ware bounced around before finally finding a home with the New York Giants. Ware has become an important special teams player for the Giants and earned a Super Bowl ring in 2008. Now going by DJ, Ware’s career has lasted longer than the backs he was behind at Georgia.
Verdict – Good Decision – With Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin, and Knowshon Moreno on the roster, Ware would have seen very few carries in 2007. He went undrafted, but has made a nice place for himself on the Giants.
Charles Johnson – 3rd Round by Carolina – Johnson has gradually earned more playing time for the Panthers and this year took over for the departed Julius Peppers at defensive end. His career is on an uptick, even if the Panthers are horrible.
Verdict – Good Decision – Johnson was a beast and after watching teammate Quentin Moses struggle after returning for his senior season, Johnson leaving early was a no-brainer.
Asher Allen – 3rd Round by Minnesota – Allen struggled to see the field much during his rookie season for the Vikings, but continued to improve. He earned a starting role this fall, totaling 57 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Verdict – Bad Decision – Allen could have increased his draft status in 2009 by returning to school. He was good, but not great.
Knowshon Moreno – 1st Round (#12 overall) by Denver – Moreno has struggled with injuries for much of his first two seasons, but has managed to put up 1,100+ yards both years. In 2010, he solidified his role as Denver’s starting tailback and has also become a weapon catching passes.
Verdict – Good Decision – He was the first back taken and has had two relatively successful seasons despite injuries. Coming back for an additional year would have done nothing but add wear and tear to his body.
Matthew Stafford – 1st Round (#1 overall) by Detroit – Going to a horrible Lions team, Stafford expected to get hit. He has been hit so much that he has failed to stay healthy, ending both of his first two seasons on IR. He has shown promise in the 13 games he has played in.
Verdict – Good Decision – There is an argument that going to the NFL to get pummeled and constantly being injured was a bad decision. But Stafford most likely would not have been the #1 pick in 2009, meaning he would not have gotten the $40+ million from Detroit. Plus, he would not have done this:
Rennie Curran – 3rd Round by Tennessee – Curran played sparingly during his rookie season, though his play time increased as the season progressed.
Verdict – Good Decision – As Curran stated when he made his decision, he was not going to get any taller by staying another year in Athens. The only way he would earn a starting role in the NFL is by playing his way up the later. Starting as soon as possible was the right move for him.
Reshad Jones – 5th Round by Miami – Jones appeared in 13 of the Dolphins’ 16 games this fall, recording 21 tackles. His best game of the year came when he recorded both his first career sack and interception on November 20 against Tennessee.
Verdict – Bad Decision – Jones had an amazing combination of both size and talent. He improved each year he was at Georgia and one more season could have improved his draft status significantly.
All told, there have been 16 players that have left Georgia early for the Draft during the Richt era. AJ Green’s decision is a no brainer, but hope players like Justin Houston and Brandon Boykin consider the past experiences of these Georgia pl