That’s the only time since at least 1982 any offensive guard has been selected in the top five of the professional draft. Jean-Gilles, Georgia’s senior guard, wants to turn back the clock this year.
“Honestly, guards don’t get drafted that high, but I’m trying to show I’m a different type of player,” he said. “I bring a different aspect to the game. My dream is to go top five.”
The ‘80s were a good decade for guards, who work in the middle where the bodies are the biggest and the spotlight is the dimmest. Four guards were selected in the top 10 from 1982-1988; however, since 1990, only one guard has been taken in the top 10. The last four years, the first guard hasn’t been selected before pick No. 30.
“It’s in the back of my head that my position is overlooked in the draft, so I’m trying to stand out,” Jean-Gilles said.
He did that last week against Tennessee, winning SEC offensive lineman of the week honors and helping Georgia rush for 198 yards while facing off against Tennessee’s standout defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona.
“I think Max had the best game of his career considering the production he had and who he went against,” coach Mark Richt said. “He went up against some really big, NFL-type tackles. I think he did himself well, and he did us well.”
The type of performance Jean-Gilles had against Mahelona will mean more to NFL scouts than anything he does today when the No. 5 Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) take on Vanderbilt (4-2, 2-1) in Nashville, said longtime NFL draft analyst Frank Coyle.
“Being able to do it against a kid who is that quick and that productive in that conference is a nice comparison (scouts) get,” said Coyle, who has published Draft Insiders’ Digest for 15 years and operates www.draftinsiders.com.
Jean-Gilles likely will be the first guard taken in the 2006 draft if he stays healthy, Coyle said, but he’s unlikely to realize his dream of being a top-five pick.
“Where does he go? It’s hard to say. He looks like a top 40, top 50 pick guaranteed,” Coyle said. “There’s certainly a chance he could be first round. Max is in a tough spot position-wise.”
When Georgia moved Jean-Gilles from tackle to guard during the Capital One Bowl following the 2003 season, it probably cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in NFL signing bonus because tackles are so much more sought after in the NFL. At least one offensive tackle has gone in the top 10 of the draft in nine of the last 11 years.
Still, Jean-Gilles never groused about the move.
“That’s selfish, and I’m not a selfish person,” he said. “Whatever the team needs me to play, I’ll play. It’s 'big team, little me.'”
Clearly, there’s nothing little about the 6-foot-4, 355-pounder. In fact, he’s too big this year, offensive coordinator Neil Callaway said.
“I try to push all of them hard, but at some point in time it has to come down to the individual,” Callaway said. “With his weight, that has to be him.”
Callaway thinks Max Jean-Gilles, who showed up for summer conditioning weighing 375 pounds, should get down to 340, and Jean-Gilles agrees.
“I’d like to lose more pounds,” he said. “I’d be perfect.”
Still, he was pretty good against the Vols, and he knows it.
“I just went up against one of the best d-linemen in the country,” he said. “I had to prove who was better. I graded out pretty good.”
Jean-Gilles will try to carry that momentum, he said, through the remaining games of his college career and right on into the NFL Draft.
“Every game,” he said, “is a money game.”