2011 NFL Draft: Why Has Everyone Forgotten Greg Little?

Eric SamulskiCorrespondent IFebruary 5, 2011

Despite his tremendous skills, Little has gone unnoticed in most draft talk
Despite his tremendous skills, Little has gone unnoticed in most draft talkScott Halleran/Getty Images

He stands 6'3" and weighs in at 220 pounds, but he has become largely invisible. 

With all the chatter prior to this year's NFL draft centering around the renewed dedication of Marvin Austin and the tremendous pass-rushing potential of Robert Quinn, there has been nothing more than a whisper in regards to their former teammate, Greg Little

Before the black cloud of NCAA sanctions, suspensions and dismissals fell over the North Carolina football team, Greg Little was regarded as an influential piece of their championship hopeful team.

Although they had made their name on the defensive end, Little had been a force at wide receiver. He displayed soft hands, punishing blocking ability and unparalleled run after the catch skills on his way to 727 yards and five TDs in his junior campaign.

When the ruling came down in October that Little, along with teammates Quinn and Austin would no longer suit up for the Tar Heels, the Durham, North Carolina native seemed to fall off the face of the earth. 

But as his teammates begin to be resurrected amidst the talk of workouts, 40 times and draft projections, Little's name still remains far from everybody's lips. 

The only question is why.

Little's talent remains far from a secret. Watch one YouTube compilation of his junior season and you'll see why he earned the nickname "Freak." A former running back, Little has burst and change-of-pace ability that is uncommonly found in wide receivers over six feet tall. He matches his shiftiness with physicality and a nasty streak. During a game against NC State last season, he drove CB Jarvis Byrd ten yards off the ball while blocking on an end-around before planting him into the turf and forcing him to be carried off of the field. 

But Little has talent when the ball is in the air as well. His time as a running back has given him tremendous vision to find the holes in the secondary and he uses his hands well, only rarely trapping a pass against his body. As Head of Scouting at National Football Post Wes Bunting says, Little "locates the football quickly, extends his arms well and acts like a power forward when asked to go up and make a play."

So how does a tall, strong, physical, shifty wide receiver with good length and hands fail to get mentioned in draft talk.

It can't be because of his off field transgressions. When the misdeeds came to the surface, Little was the least culpable of the three. Austin was dismissed from the team for having prior dealing with an agent, accepting unfair benefits and violating ethical conduct rules. In comparison, Little and Quinn were only ruled permanently ineligible for receiving benefits, but were not removed from the team.

In an October 11th article in USA Today, Erick Smith claimed that Quinn was said to have received two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings, travel accommodations for a trip to Miami and other benefits totaling $5,642. Meanwhile, Little was determined to have received $4,952 in extra benefits, including diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas and Washington D.C.

Last season, Syracuse WR Mike Williams walked out on his teammates—leaving the team completely—yet people still continued to talk up his on-field skills, claiming that if he ever got his head together, he could be a star. At 6'2" 205 pounds, Williams never had Little's physicality or post-catch skills and had an even longer list of off-field problems.

Little had never been involved in off-field incidents before and has stayed out of trouble in the wake of his difficulties.

Since October, Little has released a public apology condemning his actions, and has remained active in the community and various outreach programs that he was a part of during his early years at UNC.

However, he still wasn't chosen to participate in any of the post-season All-Star games, unlike Marvin Austin, a fellow senior who was chosen to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl. 

His first opportunity to get back on the football field in a competitive environment will be in Indianapolis at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. 

When that day comes, we might all have a hard time forgetting Greg Little again.