Concerns about Boss Bailey's history of knee injuries was the apparent major reason the Georgia outside linebacker fell out of the first round. Though he shared the team tackles lead with inside linebacker Tony Gilbert last season, Bailey also faced questions about missed tackles in his senior season.
"I'm at a point where I'm not even going to worry about that,'' Bailey said Saturday. "Some people talked about my health and I guess some people listened and got scared off, but I know that I'm fine and that I can play at the next level." Added Bailey: "Everything happens for a reason, and I'm glad to be part of a club that really wanted me and wasn't taking me just because I was available."
Lions general manager Matt Millen took Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers in the first round with the second pick of the draft and said he didn't dream Bailey would still be available for Detroit's next pick.
"We were thrilled he was sitting there and think he's going to be able to come in and help us,'' Millen said.
As he watched the draft with his family in Folkston, Ga., Bailey was not thinking he could be picked by Detroit.
"They had that high pick in the first round and with me thinking I was going in the first round, I thought there wasn't a chance,'' Bailey said. "But when it came back around (to the second round) ... I was crossing my fingers with the Lions."
"He's been with me through the whole thing and he was just saying to work my butt off and go out there and work hard and be a professional and be the best Lions player on the roster," said Boss Bailey.
Georgia had five players taken in the first three rounds. Defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan and offensive tackle George Foster were taken in the first round - each high than most draft experts projected. Joining Bailey in the second round was offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, and running back Musa Smith was Baltimore's third-round pick.
The first big surprise for Georgia players was New Orleans trading up from the 17 and 18 picks of the first round to take Sullivan with the sixth overall pick.
"My heart just dropped to my shoes,'' Sullivan said. "I knew (the Saints) were interested, but not that high at number six.'' Sullivan was the second of 11 defensive linemen taken in the first round. Sullivan will join former Georgia teammate Charles Grant on the New Orleans defensive line.
The Saints added another Georgia player by drafting Stinchcomb in the second round, three picks after Detroit selected Bailey.
Stinchcomb will have an opportunity to make an immediate contribution. Kyle Turley, the starting left tackle in 2002, was traded to St. Louis.
Another surprise was Denver taking Foster with the 20th pick of the first round. Many draft analysts had dropped Foster out of the first round due to ongoing concerns about the broken wrist he suffered in a car accident before the 2002 season.
Foster watched the draft with his family in Macon and said the reaction in his home "was very loud'' when his name was announced.
"(Denver) expressed strong interest, but I didn't know if it was going to happen,'' Foster said. "I think it's a good fit. They said they wanted some more size up front. It will be a good situation for me. I'm just happy to be there.''
While some coaches and scouts were worried about Foster having to play through his senior season with a cast on his right hand to protect the surgically repaired wrist, Denver coach Mike Shanahan said he was impressed by the toughness Foster displayed in playing through the injury.
"Obviously, the guy can play with a lot of pain,'' Shanahan said. "We looked at his junior tape and we felt very good about him as a junior player. For him to play with the cast on his broken wrist shows a lot.''
Foster started only 11 games in his Georgia career, including only one as a senior.
"I know I haven't scratched the surface of my potential mainly because I think I can be a whole lot better,'' Foster said. "I am pretty much a perfectionist and I like stuff a certain way. If I make a block, I look at film and say, 'I need to work on that,' even if I made the block.''
Georgia could have four or more players drafted in the final four rounds today. Linebackers Chris Clemons and Tony Gilbert, offensive tackle Kareem Marshall, receiver Terrence Edwards, offensive guard Alex Jackson and fullback J.T. Wall are among the Georgia players who could be called today.
A former Georgia player, linebacker Kawika Mitchell, was selected by Kansas City in the second round. Mitchell transferred to South Florida in 1999 after sitting out the 1998 season at Georgia as a redshirt.