Durham dilemma: Undrafted NFL hopefuls will be in limbo

Durham dilemma: Undrafted NFL hopefuls will be in limbo

April 19th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia receiver Kris Durham

At least "Mr. Irrelevant" will know his destination.

When the final seventh-round pick of the 2011 NFL draft is announced April 30, and the last player chosen is traditionally tagged Mr. Irrelevant, all will go quiet. Because of the current lockout, there will be no free-agent signings in the minutes, hours and days following the draft's conclusion.

"Once the draft is over, then it becomes very strange," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.

Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, former Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and former Georgia receiver A.J. Green are first-round certainties and will learn their future NFL locations on April 28, when the draft opens. Another Georgia receiver, Kris Durham, approaches next week assured of nothing.

Durham had a productive senior season with 32 receptions for 659 yards and three touchdowns, and he turned in 40-yard dash times of 4.46 and 4.49 seconds during pro day in Athens late last month. The 6-foot-5, 216-pounder from Calhoun, Ga., was not invited to the NFL combine in February and is a free agent according to most projections, but it would not be a shock if he slipped into the draft as a late-round selection.

So Durham either will get picked or be left in the dark until the lockout ends.

"There is pressure there, but it is something I really can't control," he said. "I've done what I can, and I'm going to end up wherever I'm supposed to end up. God has a plan for me."

Last year, former Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount went undrafted and immediately signed a free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans. He played with the Titans through the preseason, even scoring a touchdown in Tennessee's final exhibition game, before being released and quickly snatched up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Blount then rushed for 1,007 yards and 5.0 yards per carry for arguably the NFL's biggest surprise, as the Buccaneers went 10-6, but those tales will not exist this year should the lockout remain through the summer.

"That's going to hurt all of these rookies and all these teams counting on rookies contributing," McShay said. "Not being able to sign those guys until the lockout is over hurts the percentages of those players coming in and making an impact like we saw with LeGarrette Blount last year. I ultimately think that teams will draft for value more than ever before, and I think that's the way it should be.

"Teams will regroup after the draft, look at their rosters and attack free agency with guys who have played in the league and you know about versus with rookies who you hope the percentages are there."

Durham attended Saturday's G-Day spring game in Athens and was on a flight Sunday to visit another NFL team. He said 10 teams have asked him to visit or work out.

Had a torn labrum not forced him to redshirt in 2009, he would not be facing this predicament, but his production last year and at pro day have his value at an all-time high.

"I haven't really studied up on the lockout too much just because I've been told a lot of what's going on," Durham said. "The teams that I've met with have told me what they know, and my agent has informed me of a lot of things. I've also talked to some players like Matthew [Stafford] and Mohamed [Massaquoi], and they've shared information.

"Like I said, it's out of my control, so I can't worry about it."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.