The NFL scouting combine was chock full of players from Georgia a year ago.
Blink this time around and you might miss tight end Arthur Lynch, the only Bulldog fully taking part in the pre-draft gathering of more than 300 top prospects.
Quarterback Aaron Murray also will be in Indianapolis, but won’t do any on-field drills or physical testing since he’s still less than three months removed from ACL surgery on his left knee.
Last year, 11 Georgia players were invited and eight ended up getting drafted, led by linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree.
Lynch has spent the weeks leading up to the combine training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He arrived at the combine on Wednesday and will go through the first day of on-field workouts for position players on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium
“It’s four days of a six-month-long interview process,” said Lynch, who practiced and played in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in January where he was pleased with his showing. “It’s been kind of been my dream to do and I think if do well here, my name could be called earlier than some people might expect.”
The 6-foot-4 ½, 258-pound Lynch is projected as a fourth-round pick by draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, who ranks him sixth among tight ends.
“I think there are guys on the board that people might think are better than me, but I think ultimately I know what I can do and know what I can offer a team from a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint,” Lynch said. “When you put the tape on, has this kid played against the best competition and played at a high level? I think for me individually you could say that.”
Lynch was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick as a senior when he had 30 catches for 459 yards and five touchdowns.
“I think he’s more of an in-line guy with very average speed, pretty good blocker, will make a living in the NFL for a lot of years, but he’s not going to catch 100 passes,” Mayock said. “He needs to be a good solid blocker and he needs to catch the football in the short and intermediate zones.”
As for Murray, the SEC’s career leader in passing yardage and touchdowns is “well-ahead of schedule” in his return, agent Pat Dye Jr. said.
Murray rehabbed at the EXOS training facility in Gulf Breeze, Fla., where NFL prospects including South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney also are training.
Murray has used a hydrotherapy pool as part of his rehab and tweeted a training video of him jumping on a box, jogging straight ahead and high-stepping. He’s throwing on the practice field, but won’t at the combine.
Scouts will have to wait until Georgia’s Pro Day on April 16 for Murray to do his drops and go through the passing tree that is typical of quarterbacks going before talent evaluators.
Murray may not run a 40-yard dash that day, agent Pat Dye Jr. said.
“I’m not sure that they really need one,” he said.
At the combine, Murray will take part in the all-important medical tests and will interview with NFL teams and will get measured once again. He hit just taller than 6-foot at the Senior Bowl.
Even though he wasn’t playing, Murray spent time in Mobile, Ala., at team and quarterback meetings and stood behind the huddle on the practice field.
“I think it created a really, really positive buzz about him and just his intangibles,” Dye said. “He’s so hungry, so competitive, so eager to learn. He’s a gym rat. Teams love that in any player, but they particularly love that dynamic in quarterbacks. … Any fallout from the knee has been counterbalanced by the way he’s conducted himself with his rehab and the way he conducted himself at the Senior Bowl and I’m sure the way he’ll conduct himself at the combine this week.”
Mayock says Murray could be a third or fourth round pick in the draft, to be held May 8-10, and be a “developmental” player. That draft range meshes with what Dye has seen from other projections.
Lynch thinks the biggest question about him entering the combine is about his speed and quickness, but he said he hit good times in training. Prospects will be timed in the 3-cone drill, shuttle run and 40 at the combine, which runs through Tuesday.
“They set it up to a stress-induced situation, a weeklong process and how are you going to respond to it physically and mentally in situations that you’re not where you feel comfortable,” Lynch said. “I think I’ll be able to handle it well, but it’s a matter of just going out there and performing.”
Follow Marc online at twitter.com/marcweiszer.