Ed King, a consensus All-America offensive guard, reiterated yesterday that he hopes decide by next week whether to return to Auburn for his senior season or turn pro.
"I want to wait until after the bowl game to make any kind of a decision," said King, a junior. "I want to make sure my mind is on the ballgame."
There's one major hitch. King said he would leave only if given substantial indication that he would be a first-round pick in the National Football League draft next April. It's doubtful he will receive such assurance because the NFL discourages underclassmen from leaving college.
"That's what we're trying to eliminate," said Green Bay Packers vice president Tom Braatz. "I don't know a good way for juniors to find out their market value."
New York Giants vice president George Young said he was not familiar with King because NFL scouts spend most of their time studying seniors. But he suggested any lineman "be very careful."
"The big guys are the ones who should stay in longer. They're the ones who need more time and more training," Young said. "They're the ones seeing face-to-face combat. If you're in a quote-unquote 'skill' position, you don't need as much face-to-face combat. If I were a big player, I would be very careful."
There will be only 27 first-round picks because the New York Jets forfeited their No. 1 selection last summer when they chose Syracuse wide receiver Rob Moore in the supplemental draft.
Some observers believe King could be the second offensive lineman picked. Tennessee senior tackle Antone Davis is expected to go first. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kuiper Jr. told the Birmingham Post-Herald if no other underclassmen enter the draft, King would be the 12th pick.
King realizes the draft is a crap shoot for all but a handful of players.
"The draft is too tricky," he said. "Nobody knows who will go in which round or which pick."
King said he will talk to a family friend who is lawyer in Phenix City, Ala., for advice. Under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, since King is an underclassman, he is not allowed to confer with an agent. If so, he would automatically lose his remaining eligibility.
He may wish to consult with teammate James Joseph. Last year, Joseph was not rated highly by NFL scouts, so he returned. His value has risen to where he would be a second-round pick.
King, 6 feet 4 and 274 pounds, has been named to the first unit of every major All-America team announced this season. He was semifinalist for the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award.
King said before the Alabama game, a 16-7 loss on Dec. 1, that if he played well in that game on national television, he would strongly consider leaving. His performance is difficult to measure since the Tigers were held to 237 yards in total offense.
But he graded 80 percent or better in every game, with a high of 94 percent, which he achieved twice. Auburn coaches consider 65 percent to be a winning performance. King averaged seven "kill" blocks, where he completely took his man out of the play.