CHAPEL HILL — Dez Bryant missed the final 10 games of his college career at Oklahoma State last year after he lied to NCAA investigators. The wide receiver was projected to go in the top 10 of this spring's NFL draft but ended up being picked No. 24 by the Dallas Cowboys, a drop which potentially cost him about $16 million.
Does the same fate await the trio of North Carolina football players who were sidelined by the NCAA and UNC on Monday?
"We won't know until the draft," said Kevin Weidl, a draft analyst for ESPN's Scouts Inc. "We do know it's going to make their pro day and the combine that much bigger."
Scouts Inc. ranks UNC defensive end Robert Quinn as the third-best prospect in the 2011 NFL draft, Tar Heels defensive tackle Marvin Austin the 23rd-best and receiver Greg Little No. 71.
Quinn, a junior, and Little, a senior, were ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA on Monday for accepting agent benefits and for providing false or misleading information during the NCAA investigation. UNC dismissed Austin, a senior, from the program for the same reasons.
UNC coach Butch Davis, who was an NFL head coach for four years and an NFL assistant for six, said sitting out the 2010 season won't help Quinn, Austin or Little.
"Different teams and different people have different criteria," Davis said. "There will be some people that look at it as no big deal, and there will be some teams that look at it as a significantly big deal."
Weidl said Little stands to lose the most ground on draft boards by not playing. Scouts Inc. ranks Little as an early third-round pick, but his preseason prospects were based partly on how he finished the 2009 season. Little came on at the end of the season with 20 of his team-best 62 receptions in the final three games.
"You saw the improvement, and you saw the potential," Weidl said. "You wanted to see more this season, though."
Quinn's stock is less likely to fluctuate because of his physical tools (a time of 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and a 32-inch vertical leap) and size (6 feet 5, 270 pounds). The defensive end led UNC with 11 sacks last season and ranked fourth in the country with six forced fumbles.
"He's a unique talent," Weidl said. "His ability stands out for itself."
The biggest question about Austin was his consistency. He had a tendency to run hot and cold, Weidl said, to be spectacular in one game and to disappear the next.
Austin, a 6-3, 310-pound defensive tackle, also will face questions about his character, Weidl said, about his role in the NCAA's agent investigation at North Carolina. Austin has been linked to former UNC assistant John Blake, who resigned Sept. 5, and NFL agent Gary Wichard.
Bryant faced the same type of character issues before last year's draft after he was suspended by the NCAA.
Bryant signed a five-year contract worth $11.8 million; Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, the No. 10 overall pick, got a five-year, $28 million deal, so the drop proved to be costly for Bryant.
Bryant did get to play in three games last season before being shut down by the NCAA. Austin, Little and Quinn, though, won't have any game film from the 2010 season. That didn't knock former Southern California receiver Mike Williams out of the first round in 2005.
Williams and former Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett both unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's draft rules on underclassmen and left school before their junior seasons. They both missed the entire 2004 college season.
The Detroit Lions took Williams with the 10th pick despite his absence. Clarett ended up being taken in the third round by the Denver Broncos.
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