Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP - Tennessee cornerback Eric Berry runs back an interception for a touchdown against Vanderbilt in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Nashville on Nov. 22, 2008.
Should Tennessee safety Eric Berry get picked by the Kansas City Chiefs with the fifth overall selection -- or before that -- he would become the first defensive back tabbed in the top five since the late Sean Taylor went fifth to Washington in 2004. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper believes players of Berry's ability are becoming increasingly valuable.
"Back in the day you could say it was a different game," Kiper said, "but now with the way everyone is throwing the football, you see how important Ed Reed is to the Baltimore Ravens and (Troy) Polamalu is to Pittsburgh and (Brian) Dawkins when he was in Philadelphia and now in Denver. You see all these safeties around the league who are so critical to the success of their defense.
"Eric Berry can do so much for you. He can play corner. His ball skills are incredible. He didn't have the interceptions this past year, because people identified where he was and stayed away from that area."
Bulldogs must wait
Georgia's 8-5 season that culminated in the Independence Bowl could be viewed as exciting compared with what may transpire for the Bulldogs in this week's draft. There are no first-round possibilities a year after quarterback Matthew Stafford went first overall to Detroit and running back Knowshon Moreno went 12th to Denver, and there may not be any second- or third-round selections as well.
Kiper has no Georgia players getting tabbed until the fourth round, where he has defensive tackle Geno Atkins going to San Francisco and safety Reshad Jones picked by San Diego. Jones is one of two Bulldogs who skipped his senior season, the other being linebacker Rennie Curran.
Curran led the SEC in tackles last season, but his on-field productivity is countered by his height, which is slightly under 5-foot-11, and his short arms.
"He was a tackling machine, but he did miss some tackles when you really scrutinize film on him," Mel Kiper said. "Georgia's underclassmen will not project quite as high maybe as their collegiate press clippings may have indicated."
In Crompton's corner
In the NFL draft, it is better to have sleeper status than no status whatsoever.
Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton was benched in favor of Nick Stephens for half of the 2008 season yet improved dramatically in his one year under coach Lane Kiffin. The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder went from completing 51.5 percent of his passes for 889 yards and four touchdowns in '08 to completing 58.3 percent last season for 2,800 yards and 27 scores.
Crompton has an admirer in former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and current NFL draft analyst Ron Jaworski.
"I know there are some people that really like him, and some don't have him getting drafted," Jaworski said. "To me, I'm looking for that sleeper guy and the next Tom Brady -- the guy people aren't talking about but shows some real upside. Crompton is very fluid with his movement and can make all the throws. He has good pocket mobility.
"What I like, as a quarterback, is that he throws with great balance. To be a consistently accurate NFL quarterback, you have to have rock-solid mechanics. That jumped out at me."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...