Not that this will stop the boo birds, but this post has no drafting—it's the informative portion where we discuss what this exercise tells us about the Big Ten this year. User trueblueintexas already beat us to the punch on this if you want more thoughts.
Previously on Draftageddon:
Rounds 1-2: A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (M players: Peppers, Lewis, Butt)
Rounds 3-4: An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
Rounds 5-6: A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue J.J. Watt. (Charlton, Hurst)
Rounds 7-8: Hodor. (Mone, Darboh)
Rounds 9-11: We go on a mini Iowa binge, and Brian takes a true freshman (YTTF).
Rounds 12-14: A grueling three-rounder with safeties, RBs, and MSU legacies flexing. (O'Korn, Braden).
Rounds 15-16: We break out laughing at Tommy Armstrong. (Dymonte, Kenny Allen)
Rounds 17-18: Cheese and tackles. (Magnuson, Delano Hill)
Rounds 19-20: Tight ends, a boring Iowa safety, and Brian finally believes a Michigan coach quote over his own eyes. (Stribling)
Rounds 21-22: Slot Receivers (but no Grant Perry sorry)
Rounds 23-26: Shot through four rounds just to get done. (Clark, De'Veon, Speight, Kalis)
Click for big on these:
[Hit THE JUMP for what this all means and to share your thoughts on the conference this year. Also feel free to share any feelings you have about Draftageddon in the Kaepernick thread.]
1. HOMER MUCH? Which Michigan picks did we overslot and why? Anyone we might actually regret NOT taking?
Seth: On the surface it's hard to justify taking two backup DTs when the conference is full of good interior DL. For my part I believe Mone is just that good--I grabbed him and Darius Hamilton in quick succession. Hurst however is a reach and one example of several times we leaned a bit too heavily on PFF. He went before Replogle and Hamilton, two more developed 3-techs.
Braden was a reach too. As for Mags and Kalis, those guys went kinda where they should have. OT is super weak this year, and once we're into PFF-hated Dan Voltz and Rutgers guards, a three-year starter and former 5-star in Year 2 under Tim Drevno is a better idea than the other bad ideas.
Ace: Hurst was a reach because of the available talent and the potential for limited snaps, but at least we’ve seen him in games playing at a high level. For Mone to go in the seventh round in a draft that didn’t see Jaleel Johnson selected until the 23rd—to Seth, again, because he’s also playing Mone out of position as a 3-4 end—made little sense to me.
I’ll repeat my belief that we overvalued interior linemen in general; it’s one of the conference’s deepest position groups, and while I understand taking the All-Americans (Elflein and Feeney) in the early rounds, Mason Cole going one spot after Feeney seems a little high to me—I’m optimistic he’ll be a very good center, but we haven’t seen him play there in a game yet. Braden going before all but one offensive tackle, meanwhile, might’ve been the biggest reach in the draft.
The good news is a lot of these guys are reaches based more on the other available talent in their conference than their actual skill level, especially in regard to the defensive linemen. I don’t think we missed anyone we’ll regret unless injury strikes, but Adam could come out looking brilliant for waiting on quarterbacks and ensuring one way or another he got Michigan’s starter.
Brian: I don't think Hurst is a reach at all; my grading in UFR had him just as good as any of Michigan's DL until late in the year when he was forced to be the starting nose tackle. Now that he's a year older, 295 pounds, and able to play three-tech I expect him to have a terrific season. Playing time is not a concern for me since Wormley is going to get a bunch of DE snaps; Hurst should get starter minutes despite being a nominal backup.
Taking Mone that early was the reach of the draft. He has played something like two dozen snaps in his career. Yes, he's hyped. He's also stuck behind Glasgow, a high-endurance and lethal NT. Every Michigan OL was over-drafted. All of them save Cole are Just A Guy... at best. It's not a great year for OL in conference but there was no reason to not wait until literally everything else was filled to take Michigan OL. The one guy who did go that late, Kalis, blew a ton of plays in the Citrus Bowl and probably shouldn't have been drafted at all.
Adam: I think it's easy to forget how little Mone's played because of the veritable mountain of press conference hype he's received. Still, hype and on-field production are disparate things at this point. I don't think Seth will regret taking Mone, I do think he'll regret not waiting a while to take him. I'm in the same boat with Braden. I think he'll be improved enough this season to warrant being drafted, but the optics are bad. I got caught up in the rush to fill in the interior line to counter the manbears being drafted across from them and ended up taking a guy I could have waited quite a while on.
I don't see any guys we'll regret leaving on the board. There are some guys (Guys?) we passed over (Godin, McCray, Gedeon, et al.) who will probably be productive players this fall, but there's no way we could justify picking them because a) their respective position groups are pretty dang deep and b) they just aren't top-100 players in the conference.
2. Best players in the conference we didn't draft?
Brian: Three people playing for OSU who we don't know enough about yet to pick.
Ace: That’s essentially why I drafted Malik Hooker.
Brian: Also Shannon Brooks, who was terrific as a freshman for Minnesota. He's slippery, he's got long speed, and he should break out even further as a sophomore as long as Minnesota's offensive line can do anything. Brooks averaged six yards a carry and added 17 catches despite not being Minnesota's full-time tailback; I would have taken him over Justin Jackson, whose main asset is the ability to not erode.
Ace: As Seth reminded me today, last year I nailed the answer to this question by pointing to a specific position group (cornerback, with one being Desmond King, which would make me feel brilliant if not for the fact that I didn’t actually draft him). This time around, we’ve left some promising running backs on the board. (Brian just mentioned one while I was typing this up.)
This is largely a product of the format—there’s really not a need for any of us to take more than one—as well as many good backs being stuck in platoon situations. In addition to Brooks, I like Rutgers’s duo of Robert Martin and Josh Hicks, and both MSU backs that weren’t selected would see a lot more carries on less talented squads.
Seth: I was about to take Brooks until the OSU RB battle settled itself. I backed off from OSU's open secondary spots when they moved Arnette into the free safety battle. Webb is Ohio State's Kalis so far. Smith gets hurt tying his shoes. Lattimore gets hurt watching him. Burrows can play like five positions but isn't going to remind people of Peppers at any of them.
Ace: The rest of the guys that come to mind are mostly players who are potential breakout candidates this year, especially at receiver. If anyone on Maryland could get him the ball, Levern Jacobs would be worth a selection. If Penn State’s quarterback situation turns out to be addition by subtraction, DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall could have big years. Wisconsin’s Jazz Peavy is another receiver to watch, and only in part because of his name.
Oh, and DeAngelo Yancey manages to be productive in Purdue’s offense, which is quite the feat.
Seth: We left some RBs on the board because of format but we can't even claim that for linebacker, where we drafted 13 players and might've kept going for 10 more rounds. Wisconsin's Chris Orr might be James Ross or might be what we wanted Ross to be, and their new starting OLB is a Watt (not to mention I dropped T.J. Edwards, the best coverage LB in the country to PFF, at the whiff of an injury).
Minnesota's Jack Lynn and Cody Poock might get drafted in a weaker year as Desmond Morgan types. Nebraska's Michael Rose was drafted in years past, and he's only the 2nd best LB on the Huskers (Josh Banderas). Iowa's Ben Niemann had 6.5 TFLs, and Iowa fans expect WLB Aaron Mends to break out. State's got Jon Reschke next to Bullough, and might hoodwink the NCAA into an extra year for SAM extraordinaire Ed Davis. And then Dante Booker (replacing Josh Perry) and Chris Worley (the new Star) are two talented Buckeyes who actually have nailed down starting jobs and we didn't even have to take the risk.
Ace: Yeah, linebacker is super deep this year.
Also, in an attempt to continue my tradition of pointing out corners who very much should’ve been drafted, I came really close to taking Nebraska’s Josh Kalu in the last few rounds. Bigger corner with some nice playmaking ability.
I bet he would’ve gone off the board if Nebraska’s pass rush didn’t hold back their pass defense last year.
BiSB: What about that Illinois corner who is talking smack to Jourdan Lewis? I'm sure HE is quite good.
Seth: We also skipped the annual Ohio State tight end who averages 12 yards per target on 20 targets, when this year's was one of the better blocking TEs in the country.
3. Other guy's pick you were particularly impressed with/mad about?
Seth: I hope Ace felt as confident when he drafted Nick Gates as the rest of us were nauseated at the drop-off after him. I think Gates has a good case for best OT in the league (Croston's in the pile of okays for me) and we were down to a D-III transfer and a new starter who looked terrible in spring and has only "Urban's tackles always end up fine" going for him in a few rounds.
Adam: I was certain that I was getting Jermaine Carter--Brian already had Raekwon McMillan on his roster--only to see him scooped up two picks before me; I ended up taking Hard Nickerson Jr., a guy who's great in coverage and should be alright otherwise but is certainly no PFF fave rave. I also was pretty frustrated when Ace grabbed Jalen Myrick two picks before I would have taken him, though Matthew Harris is a relatively nice consolation prize.
Ace: In the early rounds, Adam snapping up Dawuane Smoot and Taco Charlton on the round 4-5 turn was an excellent move—getting the top two pass-rushers in the conference in a year when there aren’t many proven 4-3 DEs was quite a feat. While Adam already mentioned this, I also was waiting on Jermaine Carter; I didn’t expect Brian to take a third ILB, and when he did I ended up shoehorning Brandon Bell into a role he doesn’t play that often. Finally, while this was as much about timing as anything else, Seth getting Mike Weber in the penultimate round was a steal.
And, yes, I tented my fingers when making the Gates selection.
Seth: Yeah, Myrick and Harris going in succession hurt my plans way more than Brian taking Will Likely the turn before it. Brian probably made up for that blunder by taking Stribling way late though. Also Ace would never know this, but if he hadn't taken Beathard when he did I was about to Heiko this draft hard.
Ace: This won’t be the last time in this review that someone expresses surprise at the Likely pick.
Seth: The book on him is don't punt to him, and only one of us drafted a punter. However Durkin apparently plans to make Likely a nickelback, which protects him somewhat and showcases his agility and excellent tackling in space. Last year they had him outside and brought their safeties down against the run every play. That was probably the best use of their safeties, but not ideal for a guy who's 5'9.
Adam: In terms of value for where they were selected, I thought Brandon Bell (57th overall), Matt VandeBerg (84th overall), and Marcus Newby (86th overall) were great picks. Bell's HSP-y enough to take a run lane or cover a guy; VandeBerg had pretty good advanced stats in 2015, and he has a luxury many B1G receivers don't in having a returning starter at QB; Newby was ranked sixth on PFF's list of 25 breakout players in 2016.
Ace: Yeah, I expected VandeBerg to slip a tiny bit more, and ended up having to settle for Mitchell Paige when Brian took him.
Seth: The afore mentioned punter probably deserves a mention in this section. Cameron Johnson is never not a good pick, and the amount of field position value he brings probably adds up to what a good running back gives you over replacement.
Ace: At the same time, I really liked Brian’s Kenny Allen pick—even that early—because of the extra roster spot it afforded him. Usually pulling that move comes with a considerable cost to special teams but this time he took an actual K/P.
Seth: Oh come on: Santoso's a better kicker and Minnesota fans have been treated to the same punting exposition we've got on Allen, and I got that in 17 picks after Allen.
Ace: I liked that pick, too.
Seth: Damarius Travis was another good pick. Safety is a spot where the top guys are B+ and there's a lot of C options but until Adam made that pick I'd totally forgotten about that guy.
Brian: Jaleel Johnson slipping to #91 was stupid and I am angry at all of you for letting that happen after I had two DTs.
Ace: I’m pleading innocence due to Glasgow and Replogle.
Brian: Seth does not get points for that pick because it was mostly his fault because he took a sure backup who has barely played and 215 pound Darius Hamilton. Tiny person, tiny midget Darius Hamilton person.
Ace: He’s made remarkable strides to get up to the size Mo Hurst was at last year.
Seth: That's why I made him basically an end. If Rutgers tries to make him a nose again, that's on them. Maybe they shouldn't be a Big Ten school.
Brian: Every year you have a mid-draft panic and end up running a three-man line with guys who play in 4-3s. I can't wait to see how you pull it off next year.
Ace: The best part about this is Adam grabbed by far the best 3-4 OLB before Seth even took a single DL. And, come to think of it, the way you could’ve made it kinda work would’ve been to take Kemoko Turay.
Who’s still on the board.
Seth: Newby and Cichy are better players. But sure, keep arguing the 3-4 is a gimmick.
Won't lie though: Biegel and Ace taking Bell were fist-shaking moments. Ace has Bell playing middle linebacker and in order to play Biegel how he should be (as a quasi-end) Adam has Taco back at the DT-ish end spot we didn't want him at all last year. Not the worst fits but if we're going to argue about the best use of certain players... (edited)
Plus, if it ain't broke...
SETH'S 2015 DL:
Ace: At least Bell actually lined up at WILL (which is where I’m playing him; Jewell is my MIKE) on a number of occasions last year. And part of Brian’s point is it is broke. Glasgow’s a hell of a 4-3 nose but I’m not sure he’d thrive as a zero-tech.
Seth: We're getting 3-4 concept and 3-4 personnel mixed up again. Michigan actually called itself a "3-4" last year and we made fun of anyone who took that as more than "we play odd fronts."
Ace: But you don’t really have 4-3 personnel, either. And last year you deployed Schobert as a 3-4 end.
BiSB: 34 OLB, no?
Seth: Yeah 3-4 SAM. Which is what he played. Biegel was the boundary guy last year and takes over Schobert's field side this year.
These days the line between a 3-4 OLB, a 1990s SAM, and a standard weakside DE is indistinguishable. D.J. Durkin's "Buck" linebacker was supposed to be one of these hybrids, but Michigan didn't have anyone like that. If Michigan had Schobert or Biegel right now they'd be weakside ends, or more specifically "Backers" and "Tractors" and "Cheetahs"—Winovich and Furbush and Uche.
4. Is this an accurate distribution of the conference's talent?
Seth: I'll say six Indiana offensive players and the kicker is an exactly accurate distribution of Indiana's talent. Also 4 of the 5 Wisconsin offensive players we drafted didn't play for much or all of last year, and the 5th was a redshirt freshman. Voltz it turns out won't play this year either, but I take this as evidence the Badgers won't be THAT bad again.
Brian: Looks good to me save for 3 or 4 too many Michigan players. (Should be noted that one doesn't really count since it's Adam picking Speight because of Michigan's uncertain QB battle.)
Seth: Is Iowa this good?
Brian: 8-4, 9-3 good, sure.
BiSB: They haven't finished higher than #29 in S&P+ in the last five years. They were #47 last year. So it depends on your definition of "good." But still, probably not.
Brian: They should be better than last year. They get a lot back.
BiSB: True, but they lose their two best OL and most of their receiving corp
Brian: Smith was hurt most of last year, VandeBerg is secretly very good, and Kittle helps paper over depth issues. I think they'll play better and end up with a worse record.
BiSB: If healthy Beathard is significantly better than sports hernia Beathard, 9-3 is possible. I'm just not optimistic
Brian: Big Ten West, man.
BiSB: But Northwestern... uh... and Wisconsin might... yeah, never mind. Talk to little Denard Robinson Cook about Undefeated Iowa.
Seth: As we said in HTTV:
5. What did we learn about the rivals? Are there any positions on Ohio State we would have drafted if we knew which guy would start? Ditto MSU?
Ace: I’m not sure we learned a ton about OSU and MSU outside of the expected: both teams have some very good players, both teams are replacing a lot, and OSU has more talent (especially proven talent) than MSU. We may regret not taking a skill player or two who emerges from a position battle, and even then we took fliers on the likes of Noah Brown and Corey Smith. Brian is the only one of us who didn’t take a first-year starter from one of those two programs.
I’m trying to temper my optimism, but most of the position battles we didn’t touch were for very good reason. OSU is starting a true freshman at guard, MSU might go back to Darian Hicks as their #2 corner, Tyler O’Connor didn’t exactly wow anyone, and so on.
Brian: Montae Nicholson could have the light go on and be very good. He remains very, very athletic and reclaimed his starting job late in the year. That coincided with a bunch of teams like momentarily-insane OSU and boring-ass Iowa who ignored the big flashing kick-me sign stapled to the MSU secondary, so we don't know if he actually improved much or not. Still, strong Dymonte Thomas potential.
As far as what we learned, the thing that jumped out to me is that MSU's lines look shakier than they've been in a while. We took four guy off of them; there is nobody else remotely on the radar. They took two DL grad transfers and are set to play one of them, a 275-pound DT from Nebraska. They're starting David Beedle, a converted DT, at one tackle, and that Machado JUCO guy we saw struggle last year. MSU's made chicken salad out of guys like Tyler Hoover before, so I hesitate to say they'll be outright bad. I'd be pretty nervous going into a season with MSU's setup.
Ace: This is where I start to have difficulty tempering my optimism.
Adam: I can't think of a position battle that would have changed the way I drafted should we have known which way it would go. What struck me about both rivals is that they aren't just replacing one or two guys across a bunch of position groups, but are replacing the majority of a position group in many cases.
Of those, Ohio State's offensive line and Michigan State's receiving corps come to mind. State's rolling with presumed no. 1 receiver (in terms of returning production) RJ Shelton, who has spent his career as a third option. Ohio State will roll out a guy with a pretty recruiting profile and no experience at LT, a true freshman guard, and a guy who has played 30 snaps at RT. And that's coming from the guy who liked the LT's upside enough to draft him. There's a lot of talent on both teams, but most of that talent came with insufficient evidence to merit drafting.
BiSB: /in the distance, the Horn of Disrespekt sounds
Whoops, wrong horn.
Seth: I started scouting the Ohio State secondary battles hard--even bugging some OSU bloggers for intel--thinking they were hiding the next Eli Apple or whatever in position battle bluster. But the thing is the deeper you go into their FS and cornerback battle heuristics, it starts to look less like the 2015 QB battle royale, and more like the kind of uncertainty that ends with a position switcher. This goes for both Ohio State and Michigan State: you shouldn't run quarters with guys who haven't practiced it a lot. And then you factor in the absence of Chris Ash, and another year past Narduzzi's influence and...NO OPTIMISM NO! DOWN BOY!
The thing that prevents me from making fingertents is Urban Meyer is the Fielding Yost of our age, he's had awhile to prepare for last year's class to move on, he's got a lot of good clay to play with, and he's got until Thanksgiving to teach them all to play football.
I got nothin' for Michigan State--except for 2012 the last time they went into a season with so many holes was right after they hired Dantonio. Donnie Corley is a legit future star at wide receiver, but freshman Donnie Corley can't do any better than senior Aaron Burbridge against Jourdan Lewis. I don't doubt the power of irrational loathing, but can it block Taco Charlton, or threaten the Buttzone, or keep up with Jehu Chesson?
BiSB: I can only assume that no one took Robert Martin or Kemoko Turay because y'all haters. Can't see past your unbridled hatred of Rutgers and fear of the #AshEra.
Brian: Mike Weber would have gone way way higher if Brionte Dunn was out the door when Draftageddon started.
Seth: Given our defensive lines maybe we're underrating the value Justin Jackson provides by being able to churn out yards post-zombification.
Ace: I just put up a post a few days ago calling him “just a guy,” so you can guess where I stand on this. He’s only good in the context of Northwestern having inexplicably little offensive talent.
Seth: Seriously though, State isn't BAD, but it's certainly the worst-looking team by preseason heuristics that Dantonio's had since 2012. They were a far better team going into last year, and last year's team should have gone 7-6 and lost to Michigan by four touchdowns but for dipshit luck.
Reschke might get drafted by us in a year that isn't loaded with LBs, and in a bad year we might have used a late pick on the off chance that State actually can retroactively fake a 2011 injury for Ed Davis when their own website proves he redshirted. Not even TOCageddon would put Cox or Hicks in their backfields.
Ace took Vayante Copeland based on his performance against a broken-handed Oregon QB and WMU's screen-a-thons, plus hype from the least reputable press corps north of the bagman line, and we didn't knock it because Dantonio has a track record. After the way things ended last year, and given how the schedule sets up with the bye, and Harbaugh, Michigan might finally be able to match them in hate/over-preparation too. No more #disrespekt. Time for a boot to the face.
Peat had not been practicing with MSU team during preseason camp even though he was listed in the two-deep at defensive tackle.
That sentence does not portend glory and riches.
|Ben Bredeson||Fr.||Ben Braden||Sr.*||Mason Cole||Jr.||Kyle Kalis||Sr.*||Erik Magnuson||Sr.*|
|Grant Newsome||So.||David Dawson||Jr.*||Patrick Kugler||Jr.*||Michael Onwenu||Fr.||Nolan Ulizio||Fr.*|
Michigan's line took a quantum leap in 2014, going from a flaccid crew of confused gibbons to pleasingly mediocre. Last year's edition of this post positively marveled at the fact that these gentlemen got in the way of the opposition frequently enough to be average-ish:
It got better. It really did. The OL nadir is in the past. We can come out of the bunker and rebuild society now.
That assertion was based both on my charting and a bunch of stats, many of them of the advanced line variety. Advanced line stats make total guesses about assigning credit and blame between tailback and line but they're worth peeking at in case they tell a story. Michigan's 2015 stats are mostly about treading water:
|Year||Adj Line Yards||Opportunity Rate||Power Success||Stuff Rate||Adj Sack Rate|
Michigan was less likely to get tackled for loss and less likely to get the 5+ yard carries that opportunity rate tracks. Those were a wash as Michigan's line yards stayed static. Contrary to your memories of the OSU game, pass protection took a big leap forward.
A certain level of treading water is expected when a new coach with a new, complicated system arrives. With four starters back and Mason Cole moving to his natural position, a step forward is likely. It's just that fifth guy who gives pause…
An Editor's Note About Charts
With four returning starters you're going to see a bunch of charts derived from last year's UFRs. Here's how to read them:
|Game||Opponent||+||-||TOT||Pass -||Error Rate||Comment|
|1||Utah||5||8||-3||5||8%||Guy did X|
Game and opponent are self-explanatory. The +, –, and TOT columns are my evaluations of how the player did when run blocking. Keep in mind that zero is not good, or even average. It is the nature of the beast that any successful run has many successful blocks; many unsuccessful ones are submarined by a single error. We're looking for a 2:1 positive-negative ratio to be decently successful. A future pro might be more like 3:1 or 4:1.
"Pass –" is derived from the protection minuses in UFR. Two protection minuses are approximately equivalent to one sack or severe hurry. "Error rate" is the number of protection minuses divided by the number of available protection points. The above line is Ben Braden's from the Utah game, in which he was almost 1:2 in run plus/minus and had protection errors on 8% of snaps. That's terrible; the good news is that Braden got better.
TACKLE: JUST A GUY WOULD BE FINE THANKS
present, he said [Brian Fuller]
Senior ERIK MAGNUSON was thrust into the lineup too early as one the umpteen guys tossed into the maelstrom of the 2013 offensive line. He was a guard then; the next year he played some there and, after an injury cost him his job, as a blocking tight end. Last year he got flipped out to tackle.
There he... well, he was there. He was neither forceful nor overrun. He didn't shut down elite pass rushers or get blown through by mediocre ones. His UFR chart from last year is decidedly sparse when compared to Cole's:
|2||Oregon State||5||0.5||4.5||0||0%||Not as involved as others but got his job done.|
|3||UNLV||6||6||0||0%||Clean positive sweep from the OL.|
|4||BYU||2.5||3||-0.5||0||0%||M clearly left-handed when it wants to rely on tackles.|
|5||Maryland||4||4||0||2||4%||Clear left handed bias again.|
|6||Northwestern||6.5||1||5.5||4||10%||End of game was pretty.|
|7||MSU||3||2||1||3||7%||A little frustrated with his second level blocking.|
|8||Minnesota||5||1.5||3.5||1||2%||Good day for him although M is clearly left-handed.|
|9||Rutgers||3||4.5||-1.5||0||0%||Not real good on perimeter.|
|11||PSU||3||3||4||6%||Also took advantage of weak edge.|
|TOTALS||55||29||26||24||4%||65% run blocking|
It's not so much that Magnuson didn't execute, it's that he wasn't called on to do much. He's right around our run-blocking Mendoza line thanks to some good days against the overmatched bit of the nonconference schedule. 24 pass protection minuses over the course of a season isn't anything to write home about, but Cole's maturation and Magnuson's move to tackle are the top two reasons Michigan's pass blocking got a lot better a year ago. When I started to talk about the OL individually in the middle of last year this was the conclusion:
Magnuson is [just a guy] right now. He's okay at blocking. They don't run to him very much. There are not many plays on which he has a big role and that seems to be about half Cole and half Magnuson. He is the Jarrod Wilson of the offensive line.
He's boring. We appreciate this immensely, because we are well aware of the alternatives to boring after the past half-decade.
It's maybe a little disappointing that Magnuson seems to be topping out at boring. I usually pick out the particularly good or bad plays to embed in these previews; Magnuson doesn't have anything to embed either way. On the ground I had him for zero +2 blocks a year ago and one –2 block. Part of the reason he doesn't have a lot of magnitude in that chart above is that he usually does something completely adequate and not that notable. When he does score a plus it's frequently for excellent awareness. Here he reads a blitz and manages to redirect enough to hit the linebacker who would otherwise be burying Smith in the backfield:
When Magnuson does move a guy it's usually because the guy is already moving. He was good at reading and staying attached on slants in Michigan's zone game; a bunch of cutbacks opened up last year because he was able to shove a guy past his intended destination.
This is a power play but it's the same principle and from a camera angle that makes it very clear:
The other times Magnuson moves a guy is because he's already engaged with Kalis:
Magnuson was effective at doubling a guy and popping out to the second level.
These are all real assets. They are offset by what I described as a "lack of oomph" after the Indiana game. Magnuson is not likely to get drive in a one-on-one block, and occasionally he ends up looking a bit… finesse.
That play was an outlier but I don't have anything in the way of a one-on-one drive block in an entire season of clips. This is an area he should get incrementally better in since he's got another year of weight training behind him; the time for big leaps forward is likely past.
Not everyone is as indifferent as this space was. CBS NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler called him a "legitimate NFL prospect" and "one of the top ten senior offensive tackles in the country."
...moves with a smooth shuffle and wide base, transferring his weight well in his kickslide to mirror edge rushers. He stays low off the snap and prefers to use his hands to control the point of attack to out-leverage and out-power defenders. Magnuson is able to secure downblocks and anchor at shallow depth, driving his legs to finish in the Wolverines' power offense.
I disagree with this take, but it's out there. NFL.com's Chad Reuter told Mike Spath that Magnuson could work his way into the first or second round with a good 2016; I disagree with that take as well… but it's out there.
Magnuson was relatively advanced mentally a year ago and will benefit less than some of his compatriots from increasing familiarity with the offense. Improvement should be clear but not transformative; a good goal is for Magnuson to move beyond Just A Guy status, get on the All Big Ten team in a very down year for the tackle spot conference-wide, and get drafted late.
[After the JUMP: the biggest question mark on the team. And Jabrill Peppers! (Not really. But maybe!)]
Jim Harbaugh is the first person to admit he's obsessed with football. Everything else is secondary. This is a man who traveled to Paris with his wife, went to a Mexican restaurant that appears to be decent but by no means world-renowned, and declared it the best restaurant while also boiling down his personality into a damn near perfect tweet.
I"m not a food critic, merely a blunt instrument who only knows football. In my opinion this restaurant is the Best! pic.twitter.com/oIdvpemrIn
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) July 15, 2015
Harbaugh is a blunt instrument. He doesn't get sick. He doesn't take holidays. He's a jackhammer. We know this.
Harbaugh also has strong ties to the military. One of his oldest, closest friends is retired Marine colonel Jim Minick, who now serves at Michigan's director of football operations. He has a well-documented history of bringing in military officers to speak to his teams. He stops by Omaha Beach while on vacation. He welcomes servicemen into his office and genuinely looks more excited to take a photo with them than vice versa.
Which brings us to yesterday. Harbaugh emerged from the fall camp submarine—his term; he's also referred to it as a "bunker"—to address the media for the first game-week press conference of the season. Harbaugh is well-known for his unpredictable, off-the-cuff answers in pressers (not to mention on Twitter). We have a "jim harbaugh says things he probably shouldn't" tag, and the proprietor of this site has described him as "being himself at maximum volume at all times" on multiple occasions.
The odds that Harbaugh had the time or inclination to seriously ponder Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem before the press conference are exceedingly low. This is a football coach known for being way more football-obsessed than even the average football-obsessed football coach. He's briefly emerging from three weeks of fall camp and its four-hour practices and endless film study to talk about the Hawaii game. He's probably aware of the basic details of Kaepernick's protest, but that's not anywhere close to his primary focus. He's thinking about his team, preparing for Hawaii, and not letting on anything about the ongoing quarterback competition.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
|Henry Poggi||Jr.*||Khalid Hill||Jr.*||TJ Wheatley||Fr.*||Jake Butt||Sr.|
|Bobby Henderson||Sr.*||Henry Poggi||Jr.*||Devin Asiasi||Fr.||Ian Bunting||So.*|
|Michael Hirsch||Jr.||Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Zach Gentry||Fr.*||Nick Eubanks||Fr.|
A few years ago we split tight ends from the WR post and fullbacks from the RB post, figuring that under Brady Hoke there would be enough of them to warrant it. We even split guys into various categories because a tight end is not just a tight end. Then Jim Harbaugh came in. After an internal struggle this site has decided not to split each one of these columns into its own post, but it was a near thing. Those columns are:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets
two50 carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley, Sione Houma.
- H-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger than the H-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: AJ Williams, Jerame Tuman.
- FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Tyler Eifert, Jake Butt.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
So. These are the categories. The men who, uh, man them are many and varied and in one case the bar-none best in all the land. Let's start with him.
TIGHT END AND FLEX
opponents will call Butt dastardly this year [Fuller/MGoBlue]
In keeping with this site's tradition of dignified reserve, last year's preview claimed Jim Harbaugh called Jake Butt an "Ertz/Fleener Voltron" based on this quote:
"Jake is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said. "We've produced a lot of great players in college at the spot and it's vital to our success."
And lo, he pretty much was an Ertz/Fleener Voltron. Per Pro Football Focus he graded out better than any tight end in the country as a receiver. Survey says: yup. I sort catch opportunities into four bins: routine balls, challenging ones, crazy ones, and uncatchable ones. Butt was a perfect 36/36 on routine balls, an outstanding 10/12 on challenging balls, and 3/3 on circus catches. Meanwhile Butt's enormous catch radius and excellent route running tend to move opportunities into easier categories. Only eight times last year did a Jake Butt target get filed uncatchable. (I don't count balls thrown away in the general vicinity of a player.) That means 83% of the time Jake Rudock tried to hit Butt, Michigan moved the ball. Butt targets averaged over 11 yards a pop. Voltron achieved.
There's still no better example of Butt's prowess than the touchdown from the opener where Jake Rudock first explored the wonders of the #buttzone:
Unless it's this sensational one handed catch against Rutgers in 2014:
Jake Butt can make your wrong-ass wrong throws of wrongness into something so right.
Even so, after eight catches in the opener Butt's production fell off. Over the next six games a struggling Rudock only hit him 14 times downfield for a measly 133 yards—there was a 44-yard screen that Harbaugh conjured in there as well. Butt's a tight end. Sometimes he's covered, sort of, and Rudock didn't look for him.
Then Harbaugh beat the stone-cold fact that a covered Jake Butt still isn't covered into Rudock's brain and production took off. Butt had 28 catches in the final six games and 376 yards. That's double the catch rate and triple the yardage. Much of that production returned to the magical land where only Jake Butt frolics:
In addition to his pterodactyl-like catching radius and Wilt Chamberlain hands, Butt's athleticism allows him to shake safeties with his routes...
...and occasionally split them after the catch:
Or just flat outrun a corner. An Indiana corner, yes. Still, this is a guy who had a 70-yard screen against OSU as a freshman and drew this praise from an anonymous Big Ten player even before his breakout junior season:
"We played them late in the year, and [Butt] was someone that was really tough to defend. He's incredibly athletic. He made a catch against us that not that many receivers even make, so he has great hands."
You could not draw up a better receiving tight end.
As a blocker... I mean... he's a great receiver. I say this somewhat seriously. Opponents have to treat him differently than a normal tight end, and the run game benefits from it. Against OSU Jabrill Peppers picked up a seven yard chunk largely because he looked like he'd throw to Butt for a moment and that was enough for two OSU players to freak out.
When it came to making actual contact with the opposition, Butt was decent. Middling. Okay. He was very much a finesse blocker, and this was good enough given the strictures his presence put on the opposing defense. This isn't a brutal finish; it's good enough:
[Butt is on the right side of the OL]
That is kind of the cap, though. Get him soloed up against a defensive end and it'll go like "tight end versus Chris Wormley" most of the time. In UFR his run contributions came out moderately positive against the lesser teams on the schedule and negative against likes of Utah, BYU, MSU, and... uh... Rutgers. The bowl was a nice step forward but repeatedly caving in the edge of Florida's defense could be interpreted as a motivation issue for the Gators. Pro Football Focus tastefully omits mention of his blocking when they reference him because he came out negative on the year.
Remaining upside in this department is limited since he's going from his third to his fourth year. What remains is probably more about the mental side of the game than a sudden surge in ability like AJ Williams had. He'll get a little stronger and a little wiser; what you see is close to what you're going to get.
That happens to be a guy who is going to break Jim Mandich's all-time TE receiving record, a guy guaranteed to be off the board by the end of the second round of the next NFL draft. Jake Butt is a captain on a team with Jehu Chesson. I mean. Harbaugh:
"From day one, Jake Butt is an A++ guy as a player. We're in a meeting or in an install and I see him on the edge of his seat sitting through a two-hour meeting and he's communicating with guys next to him. He's interpreting for the younger guys. He has pizzazz."
Butt's about to be the best tight end in Michigan history.
[After THE JUMP: Ol' Skillet Hands and friends.]
David and I didn’t have to travel far to scout our first game of 2016, as Corey Malone-Hatcher’s St. Joseph squad traveled to Michigan Stadium to face off against Kalamazoo Central as part of the three-day-long Battle at the Big House. St. Joseph started out slow, holding a 3-0 lead at halftime of a plodding back-and-forth contest. The second half, however, was a different story entirely, as Malone-Hatcher played a big part in St. Joseph’s 23 unanswered points; he got to the quarterback in the end zone on the second play of the half, forced intentional grounding that resulted in a safety, and the flood gates opened from there.
Malone-Hatcher finished with the kind of stat line you’d expect from a top-300 prospect: 10 tackles, four sacks, five TFLs, and one forced fumble. If you threw in QB pressures his stats would be even more impressive, as he was able to get into the backfield almost at will. It’s worth noting that he was able to accumulate those numbers while often deployed out of position at MLB; he certainly won’t be playing there in college, but he was able to tear through the middle of the line when asked to blitz.
[After THE JUMP: the highlight video and scouting report]
Hello. This post is sponsored by XFINITY, which is a space company. They'd like to take you to Mars—
It's a cable company.
Ah, so it is. Good catch. Back in my day we had to watch television on big stone tablets, but if you're an on campus student you can sign up for free(!) streaming of live sports, including BTN, to any of your gadgets. Off campus students can get both TV and internet service for $79.99 a month with no contract. Non-students, also known as "sad adults," can check out what's described by XFINITY as the "immersive X1 system"—are we sure this isn't a space company?
Fine. Can check out the immersive X1 system here.
[NOTE! This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: challenging. 1: crazy. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
This is a 1. [Bryan Fuller]
|Amara Darboh||Sr.*||Jehu Chesson||Sr.*||Grant Perry||So.||Jabrill Peppers||So.*|
|Moe Ways||So.*||Drake Harris||So.*||Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Chris Evans||Fr.|
|Eddie McDoom||Fr.||Kekoa Crawford||Fr.||Nate Johnson||Fr.||Drake Johnson||Sr.*|
Michigan returns the entirety of a receiving corps that was amongst the best in the country by the end of the year. Last year's preview issued both inside and outside receivers a "2" in one of a few posts that were insufficiently optimistic about Harbaugh player development. That was accurate for a bit what with Chesson's inability to get on the same page with Jake Rudock and Grant Perry's freshman deer-in-the-headlights start; by the end of the year Chesson was putting the Florida secondary to the sword and Perry was juking guys for touchdowns on the goal line.
I have no reason to put this in the post but refuse to delete it [Seth]
Chesson enters this year a player highly anticipated by NFL types, usually named one of the top five wide receivers in the country whenever someone deigns to put a list together. Meanwhile, Harbaugh has spent the last several months swearing up and down that Amara Darboh is the team's best receiver. Per anonymous Big Ten players they're kind of a big deal:
“two receivers that they have, I think they are arguably the best duo in the Big Ten.”
Also Jake Butt exists. Whoever ends up taking snaps at quarterback is going to have a good time.
OUTSIDE RECEIVER: OUT OF AFRICA, INTO ENDZONES
Time is rapidly dwindling for Tom Rinaldi's soft-focus feature on Michigan's all-African-refugee starting WR corps; it says here that by midseason their collective performance will demand one. I wish I could bet on things like this.
Let's start with JEHU CHESSON, whose single-season performance took off like no other Michigan receiver in recent memory. Last year's edition of this preview said it was "anyone's guess" who got receiver snaps other than Darboh and spent a big chunk of its time talking about Chesson's vicious run blocking. This was because Chesson was coming off a 14-catch season during which he was "imprecise" and had a Darryl-Stonum-like ability to turn reasonably well-thrown balls downfield into adventurous incompletions. Drake Harris was given nearly-equal billing based on a torrent of practice hype and a relative silence regarding Chesson.
A couple of games into the season it seemed like nothing much had changed. After the Oregon State game—in which Chesson failed to adjust to a deep ball and picked up a bad offensive pass interference call—I said he was "just not consistent enough."
Here began a parabolic upward curve that ended with The Assassination Of Vernon Hargreaves By The Nice Person Jehu Chesson. Entering this season Chesson is hyped as a potential first round pick by CBS, NFL.com, and Sports on Earth. That is some kind of trajectory.
The breakout came in two stages. Against Maryland he had his first career four-reception game. He brought in a couple quick posts despite getting hit on or actually before the catch and burst open on another couple deep routes. He was overthrown on one and couldn't bring in a tough over the shoulder catch on the second. The latter was on Chesson—he didn't take the fastest path to the ball because he misjudged its flight—but all was forgiven on an eyepopping end-around:
Over the next few weeks Chesson established himself as a regular, productive receiver. From the Maryland game to Rutgers five weeks later Chesson had 16 catches, exceeding his previous season high. The 66-yard touchdown you see above was trumped by a kickoff return touchdown against Northwestern. I started comparing him to Steve Breaston. Chesson had a ton of catch-and-run chunk plays last year thanks to his speed; against Northwestern he impressively got the corner on Anthony Walker, the fastest LB in the Big Ten:
"I really feel like Jehu has everything it takes to be a great player, a great pro player," Harbaugh said ... "The only thing he was missing was tracking the deep ball and making those deep ball catches."
The lasting memory of the Utah game was a sure touchdown just evading Chesson's fingertips because he slowed down. While I thought that was the right play since he'd burned his man by yards, the lack of comfort and communication between QB and receiver was costly. There was a drop or two in there as well.
Chesson was the beneficiary of the Indiana defense and Jake Rudock's late season surge. He went off for over 200 yards, 64 of which were on a telepathic Rudock strike between four defenders. But even if you provide an Indiana discount, this was a new level for Chesson. He adjusted to a Rudock punt downfield...
...and on fourth and goal he went up and secured overtime despite getting nailed by two guys. Yes, that was just Indiana, but Chesson added 100-yard days against both Ohio State and Florida to end the year. The Assassination Of Vernon Hargreaves By The Nice Person Jehu Chesson caught eyes nationally, and while yes it's nice that Chesson beat a top 15 NFL draft pick deep twice, for my money that wasn't even the best thing he did in that game. My vote goes to this incompletion:
Chesson also had a spectacular over the shoulder catch while getting interfered with. Reasonable people can disagree on which of the five spectacular things Chesson did against Florida is the best one, and there is your massive improvement in a nutshell.
How much of this was massive improvement and how much was simply being given opportunities Rudock was not affording him earlier in the year is unknown. You have to wonder what his season would have looked like with a locked-in Rudock from the drop. He wasn't any less open early:
Add in a few of those early bombs and expectations this year would be truly out of control.
Or possibly just plain accurate. Chesson has everything you want in an elite receiver. You can heap expectations on Chesson and he'll be fine with it. Chesson's an A+ dude committed to The Team The Team The Team:
Asked if he put in papers to seek information from the NFL draft advisory board this winter, Chesson nearly started laughing.
He says he's more focused on wrapping up his degree in May and finding a graduate program to enter for next year.
"Maybe it was naive, I don't know," Chesson said with a smile. "It's great to have individual success, but that's not where I get my happiness from. If I don't play and I see other guys being successful, that's great. If I feel I can help the team win, anyway I can help I'll do it."
His speed is unquestioned, and occasionally subject to absurd hype.
"People don’t realize just how fast Jehu is, said UM tight end Jake Butt. "He’s easily a 4.3 (40) guy. He might even run in the 4.2s in Indy.”
While that's only possible in the land of handheld stopwatches, Dane Brugler asserts that Chesson's a "loose athlete with galloping speed" and a "a legitimate fifth gear," and he's judging with an eye to playing in the NFL.
He's a terrific blocker. Chesson's proficiency in this department is such that you probably know what gif comes next...
...and there was little to no dropoff even as he emerged into Mario Manningham 2.0. Against Rutgers he wrecked a DE:
Michigan frequently motioned him closer to the tackle box and used him as a blocker against linebackers, generally with success. (They also lined him up as a tight end on occasion, but he almost never actually blocked in those cases.) He had 28.5 positive run points to just 8 negatives, and while a chunk of those positives were for what Chesson did with the ball in his hands every NFL scout goes out of their way to praise his work without the ball. ESPN:
Excellent effort as a blocker. Leaves it all on the field. Takes good angles and busts his tail to get into position. Big and strong enough to sustain blocks once in position. Throws his body around in order to make a block when he can't get into good initial positioning downfield. Love watching this guy play the game.
His hands are solid to good—36/38 on routine catches and 9/14 on challenging ones a year ago. He's 6'3". He's not a technician yet but if he continues on his current path it won't take him long to get there. (Brugler: "prone to body catches and needs to add polish to his route tree.") That's the last box to check.
His trajectory is straight up and he's got the physical and mental ability to scrape his ceiling. He's going to be great as long as someone's throwing it to him. All Big Ten and off the draft board by round two, it says here. The huge numbers required for postseason awards are probably off the table given the diversity of weapons Michigan has.
[After THE JUMP: Peppers! (Was addressed as a running back and is not in this post!)]