January 09, 2011
See a complete list of underclassmen who have declared for the draft.
If Georgia fans ever doubted that five-star, all-world recruit A.J. Green was bound for the next level at the first available opportunity, it was dispelled – at the latest – by the fourth game of his career, when he brought in eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in a 27-10 win at Arizona State. From that night on, Green has been consistently heralded as one of the most dynamic, coveted athletes in the country, and consistently delivered, to the tune of 166 career receptions for 2,619 yards and 22 touchdowns. And to no one's surprise, he's officially cashing in his chips today for a spot near the top of April's NFL Draft.
Considering that Green's three-year stint actually worked out to barely two-and-a-half years – he missed almost all of the last month of 2009 with a shoulder injury, and the first month of 2010 with a four-game suspension – and coincided with back-to-back-to-back disappointments in the final standings, it's a testament to the sheer entertainment of his high-wire act that Bulldog fans still feel like they've gotten their money's worth. If anything, Green's absence in September only heightened how much his presence really meant: During his suspension, Georgia averaged 14 points on 344 total yards through a dismal, 0-3 start in SEC play; after his return, UGA put up 35 points on 400 yards per game, and scored at least 27 in three of its four subsequent losses. Green personally hauled in nine catches covering at least 20 yards over the last two months, one for every game. Of the many culprits for the Bulldogs' first losing season since 1996, Green's absence is way down the list.
On the scouts' list, of course, he's almost at the top, a virtual lock to go in the top 10 as the first receiver off the board. Give him a quarterback, a clean bill of health and a full season, and the rest ought to take care of itself.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.