Orson Charles’ wait to be selected in the NFL draft ended Saturday when the Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the fourth round.
Charles, the Bulldogs’ only early entry into the draft, was the 116th overall selection and 21st pick in the fourth round.
Now he’ll form a 1-2 punch at tight end with Jermaine Gresham, who had 56 catches for 596 yards last season, which ranked 18th in the NFL among tight ends.
"I definitely have a great tight end I can look up to and resemble my game to and start to go to work and compete," Charles said Saturday afternoon.
“I like Orson Charles,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “I know he’s narrow, I know he’s never going to be a great in-line blocker, but when you have a Jermaine Gresham already on the roster, you’re bringing Orson Charles in to really do one thing -- flex him out and go stretch the field and create mismatches. That’s what this guy can do.”
Although some draft analysts once graded the former Georgia standout as the top tight end prospect in the draft, he was the fifth tight end selected -- following Stanford’s Coby Fleener, Clemson’s Dwayne Allen, Missouri’s Michael Egnew and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green -- after his draft stock slipped in the last six weeks.
He was arrested for DUI in Athens only a few days after Georgia's pro day workouts.
"I just elaborated to [teams] that it was a one-time mistake that would never happen again," Charles said. "That might be the worst thing that had ever happened in my life just because having to explain to my brother what I did and don’t follow in my footsteps and having to tell my mom that I’m sorry."
In addition to Charles’ off-the-field turmoil since declaring for the draft in January, scouts also expressed concerns about his blocking skills and the precision of his route-running.
McShay said he can learn to become more crisp in getting out of breaks in the pros and should use his straight-line speed to become a valuable receiving weapon.
“I think he gets off the line quickly, he has run after catch ability and he is explosive when he is going on that straight line,” McShay said. “I think Orson Charles is going to come into this National Football League with a chip on his shoulder and ready to prove that he can contribute right away.”
Despite some of the shortcomings that might have caused him to fall a bit in the draft, Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes seemed ecstatic about Charles' strength -- he benched 225 pounds a tight-end record 35 times at the NFL combine -- and effort.
"You turn on the tape and not only does he pop out as a receiver, but just as a football player," Hayes said. "You see him lock on people and he finishes through the people trying to put them on the ground. That’s what you like about guys. ... I don’t ever want to have to coach effort. This guy, he’s over the top in that sense."
A finalist for the John Mackey Award as a junior, Charles was one of the Bulldogs’ top receiving candidates last fall, finishing with 45 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns. After the season, he was a first-team AFCA All-American and a consensus first-team All-SEC selection.
He joins a Bengals draft class that many analysts are calling the best of any team thus far. Cincinnati had already selected Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu and Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson before taking Charles in the fourth round.
“They have arguably the best draft right now in the NFL,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said.