"It's time to move on to the next part of my life," Charles told ESPN's Joe Schad. "There is the injury risk. There is the ability to help my family. The time is right to chase my dream."
Charles, a 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior from Tampa, was named All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation and American Football Coaches Association after catching 45 passes for 574 yards with five touchdowns.
He also was a finalist for the John Mackey Award as the country's top tight end and was named All-SEC.
"I just felt like I met the majority of all my goals. I felt like I have grown spiritually," Charles said during an afternoon news conference. "Like coach (Mark) Richt says, that is the first thing you have to do."
Charles said a number of NFL players, including Georgia alumni Ben Watson, Randy McMichael and D.J. Ware, and Vernon Davis, as well as former NFL coach and current analyst Tony Dungy, helped him reach his decision.
As for where he believes he'll be drafted, Charles said: "I think I will keep that between me and the NFL. What they gave me, I felt real confident in, so that is why I made my decision to come out."
The Bulldogs, who went 10-4 and reached the SEC championship game, are expected to lose only one defensive starter from this past season's team, cornerback Brandon Boykin. Georgia will be losing offensive linemen Ben Jones, Justin Anderson and Cordy Glenn and fullback Bruce Figgins.
School officials announced later Wednesday that safety Bacarri Rambo will be returning for his senior year.
Rambo was named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press after leading the SEC with eight interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. His 157 return yards in a season ranks third all-time in the Georgia record books. Rambo, a native of Donalsonville, Ga., has 152 career tackles.
The 6-foot, 218-pound safety ranks third in career interceptions at George with 13. With Rambo trailing only Jake Scott (16), Jeff Hipp and Terry Hoage (14 each) for UGA's all-time record, he could become the all-time record-holder for the Bulldogs.
Junior linebacker Cornelius Washington is considering whether to enter the NFL draft, but is believed to be leaning toward playing one more season for the Bulldogs, sources told ESPN.com.
Junior linebacker Jarvis Jones already has said he will return to Georgia this season.
Chris Low covers the SEC for ESPN.com. Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. Information from DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi was used in this report.