December 15, 2011

Draft ready?

Chris Givens begrudgingly admits Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is a better wide receiver than him, but maintains he is the second best in all of college football at that position.

Wake Forest's go-to-receiver certainly has the self-confidence and the talent to compete with the nation's elite in the collegiate ranks and maybe even at the professional level. Givens certainly believes that.

The First-team All-ACC player will have to decide soon if he wants to forego his final season of eligibility in pursuit of the NFL's riches, or return and likely have a much better shot at being a first or second round choice in 2013 than being one in the upcoming draft.

"I don't [know], I really don't," Givens said. "I've been going back and forth about it, but I don't have a definite decision yet. Just really trying to focus on the here and now, get finals finished up and get this W for the bowl game."

Head coach Jim Grobe said Givens proved this season that he is the best wide receiver to don the Black and Gold, which puts him at the top of the class; even in front of Wake Forest great and NFL journeyman Rick Proehl.

With the stat sheet Givens boasts one would think he may have an argument to be considered as one of the elite draft-eligible prospects. The man passed Proehl in the Wake Forest records book for most receiving yards in a season with 1,276, which is good for ninth nationally and tops in the ACC. He also tied for 29th nationally in receptions (74) and touchdown catches (nine).

So how good is Chris Givens? He is good enough to test the waters.

"I'm still waiting on my official evaluation back from the NFL, but I've heard some good things that I'm a top 100 player and if I perform well during these next three, four months I could potentially be a first-round draft pick," Givens said.

At the same time Givens could be left disappointed with a vantage point from the outside looking in at other players cashing in at the NFL Draft if he leaves early. ranks Givens as the No. 655 draft-eligible prospect and the No. 91 wide receiver for April's NFL Draft.

His ACC positional counterparts: North Carolina's Dwight Jones, Miami's Tommy Streeter, Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd and Aldarius Johnson, Virginia Tech's Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, NC State's T.J. Graham, Florida State's Bert Reed, Maryland's Tony Logan, Virginia's Kris Burd, Duke's Donovan Varner and Clemson's Marquan Jones were all ranked higher than Givens by the site as of Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011.

He outperformed all of them this season, but that is not what is most important to NFL coaches, general managers, owners, scouts and draft analysts; potential is.

"We're for Chris Givens, and we're for our players," Grobe said. "Selfishly I would like for none of our guys to consider ever coming out early. It didn't work out very good for Jon [Abbate] when he did that [went pro early in 2007], and I think Chris is smart. He's a smart guy, and he knows if he's not going to go high enough he's better off to get another year."

Grobe, one of Givens' biggest cheerleaders questioned the star wide receiver's toughness at the beginning of the season. The 6-0, 190-pounder from Wylie, Texas put his coach's doubts to rest when he persevered amidst an ailing hamstring at the beginning of the year, fought through an injured ac-joint midway through the season, and caught eight passes for 191 yards and a touchdown against Maryland while sick to help the Demon Deacons become bowl-eligible.

"As we started going through the season it was just obvious he's a different guy," Grobe said. "He's becoming an every game kind of guy, and he wasn't that before. If you're just flashy once in a while it's not a good thing to even consider coming out, because if you don't happen to be flashy at the right time you're not going to make it."

Givens has one more opportunity in a real-game setting [Friday, Dec. 30 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against Mississippi State] to prove himself as a first-round caliber prospect. If he decides to enter the NFL Draft then he will have the combines, pro days and maybe even an All-Star game to make an even greater case for teams to choose him early. However, even if he performs well it is not a guarantee he will be taken within the first three rounds.

Grobe added the role of the cash factor should increase in the decision-making process, because as a player falls on a draft board so do his monetary expectations.

Givens may count himself as one of the elite, but Blackmon decided to return after last season even when many thought he was ready for the rigors of the NFL.

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