‘Give ’em the works, Cubby! We ain’t got a minute to lose! This ain’t a newspaper story — it’s a career! Why, they’ll be naming streets after you!’
Wolverines in the NFL: Draft Class of 2006
I like to keep tabs on my fellow Wolverines who have gone on to play in the NFL. So, while checking up on their stats and forecasting the upcoming season, I decided to jot down my notes and thoughts for everybody. If people like what they see then I can keep going with more players down the road. Let me know if you disagree with any projections or if you notice any errors.
I forgot to mention Tyler Ecker in my look back at the 2007 class. Here’s what he’s been up to (or not up to):
Tyler Ecker (TE, Washington)
- 2007 Stats: DNP
- 2007 Season Review: Ecker was drafted in the 7th round (216th overall) by Washington. He did not play at all in the 2007 season. Apparently he hurt his groin in training camp and was on the IR all season.
- 2008 Season Projection: Is he still even on the team? I don’t know, but even if he is there is no way he sees the field barring several injuries. The Skins have Chris Cooley (arguable their best receiver) with backups Todd Yoder (veteran, blocking-type) and rookie Fred Davis (rookie, athletic-type). Good luck, Tyler.
Gabe Watson (DT, Arizona)
- 2007 Stats: 16 games, 34 tackles (25 solo), 2 pass deflections
- 2007 Season Review: Watson was the highest drafted Wolverine in 2006 (barely), going in the 4th round (107th overall) to Arizona. In 2007 Watson started all 16 games for the Cardinals, racking up 34 tackles. He put together a nice season, but 2007 still looked to be a building year towards 2008...
- 2008 Season Projection: ... until he slipped on a treadmill and broke his kneecap. That’s correct. He had surgery to repair the damage and he missed all of the off-season workouts. Last I heard he was questionable to participate in training camp, but the team is optimistic that he’ll be ready come the start of the season. I think he’ll rebound and be contributing at a high level by the end of the season, but when you miss workouts and camp it’s going to take some time to get back in game shape. Look for Alan Branch (Go Blue!) to pick up Watson’s lost playing time.
Jason Avant (WR, Philadelphia)
- 2007 Stats: 15 games, 23 rec, 267 yds, 2 TD
- 2007 Season Review: Avant was also drafted in the 4th round (109th overall) by Philadelphia. He was relatively effective as a slot receiver for Philadelphia but he also played on special teams, recording 13 special teams tackles (good for 4th on the team).
- 2008 Season Projection: Avant seems to have found his niche as a #3 or #4 receiver. The Eagles essentially return the same receivers as last year, with Avant appearing to have the #3 slot locked up. As Avant continues to develop, I expect to see slightly better numbers than 2007. Wikipedia also notes that Jason is an “avid Scrabble player”, so there you go.
Tim Massaquoi (TE, Buffalo)
- 2007 Stats: DNP
- 2007 Season Review: The next (and last) Wolverine drafted in 2006 was Tim Massaquoi, going in the 7th round (244th overall, just 11 spots away from Mr. Irrelevent) to the Tampa Bay Bucs. After being released by Tampa following training camp in 2006, Miami signed Massaquoi for the 2006 season. Despite being on the active roster for 6 games, he did not have any catches. He was released by Miami prior to the 2007 season and was later signed by Buffalo. He was on the active roster for 4 games in 2007 but again did not have any catches.
- 2008 Season Projection: Not good. Buffalo drafted TE Derek Fine (Kansas) in the 4th round in the draft earlier this summer. I’d be surprised if Massaquoi is still on the roster after training camp.
Pierre Woods (OLB, New England)
- 2007 Stats: 16 games, 21 tackles (14 solo), led team in special teams tackles
- 2007 Season Review: Woods went undrafted in 2006, eventually signing a free agent contract with the New England Patriots. He saw mostly special teams action in 2007, though he did play some backup linebacker as well. He impressed his coaches by leading the team in special teams tackles, which should help him earn more playing time moving forward.
- 2008 Season Projection: The LB corps is heavy with former Wolverines. Victor Hobson starts at ILB, Shawn Crable is expected to see some action as a backup his rookie season, and Woods’ role should expand from just primarily special teams. However, the New England LB corps is also heavy in veterans (Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas at OLB, Teddy Brusci and Hobson at ILB). The Patriots also drafted Jerod Mayo with the 10th overall pick this past draft, but he is likely to play ILB in the Patriot’s 3-4 defense which shouldn’t steal time from Woods. I expect Woods to still be a regular on special teams while receiving more playing time on defense in a backup role.
Watson was certainly of planetary size during his days in AA, but apparently he was working hard with the Cardinals. Here's a quote from one of Arizona's assistant coaches Ken Whisenhunt:
"The thing that's disappointing is that Gabe has shown such great progress and he's getting it," Whisenhunt told The Republic. "Just the fact that he was working to get himself in shape after he had done his workout here is a testament to him.
"One thing that's an advantage for him is that he's in such better shape at this point than he's ever been in, it gives him a much greater chance at getting back quickly."