in town for free camps
The NFL preseason is officially underway, and with mandatory roster cuts (down to 75) set for August 26th, now is a good time to check in with the former Wolverines currently playing in the league. After scouring the interwebs, here's my best guess at where each Michigan representative stands as we near the start of the season.
Locks To Make It
Jason Avant, WR, Carolina. After being relegated to decoy duty in Chip Kelly's offense for Philadelphia in 2013, Avant—who boasts the lowest drop percentage in the NFL over the last three years—should be one of Cam Newton's top targets with his move to the Panthers.
Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady threw for over 4,300 yards with 25 touchdowns last season while working with a very raw receiving corps. It was universally considered a down year. I think he's gonna make it, y'all.
Alan Branch, DE, Buffalo. Branch was an integral member of the D-line rotation for the Bills last season, recording 39 tackles, and he should reprise that role working behind up-and-coming star Marcell Dareus again this year.
Stevie Brown, FS, New York Giants. After finishing second in the NFL with eight interceptions in 2012, Brown missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL. He's back from the injury and expected to start at free safety.
Larry Foote, ILB, Arizona. The longtime Steeler—Foote has played 11 of his 12 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh—was cut in the offseason, but quickly found a home in Arizona, which lost both of their starting ILBs from last season. He's currently atop the depth chart, and even if he doesn't hold that spot, he should stick around to provide veteran leadership for a young position group.
Jonathan Goodwin, C/G, New Orleans. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodwin and Tim Lelito, the two players competing to start at center, are "certain to make the final roster." Goodwin's ability to play both center and guard gives him extra job security, even at 35 years old, as does his relatively cheap one-year deal.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati. While Hall tore his right Achilles tendon last season, just two seasons removed from tearing his left Achilles, he's back in the starting lineup as Cinci's slot corner, a spot he plays about as well as anybody in the league when healthy. Barring further injury, his spot is very much safe.
David Harris, ILB, New York Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan called Harris "the most underrated player in the league" after he was left of the NFL Network's top 100 players list for 2014. Yeah, he's safe.
Junior Hemingway, WR, Kansas City. Even though Hemingway missed a good deal of training camp with a hamstring injury, he came right back and was a prime target for QB Alex Smith out of the slot. This very thorough rundown of the Chiefs' roster situation has Hemingway safely on the team—in fact, he should start in the slot—and that doesn't look likely to change.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville. Though Jacksonville used the #3 overall pick on QB Blake Bortles, Henne started the first preseason game, and the Jaguars higher-ups insist there's no QB controversy. Bortles is the QB of the future; for now, however, this is Henne's job.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee. First-round picks don't get cut in their rookie seasons, especially when they're competing for starting jobs.
Jake Long, OT, St. Louis. Long is coming back from a torn ACL and MCL, so he's been held out so far in the preseason, but he's on track to make a surpringly quick return. Also, he's Jake Long, which should be enough.
Ryan Mundy, S, Chicago. Even though the Bears have shuffled their safeties around, Mundy has seen the most action on the first team of anyone, and he can play both free and strong safety in their system. He started the preseason strong, picking off a pass in the opener.
Michael Schofield, OG/OT, Denver. Third-round picks also don't get cut in their rookie season, except in very unusual circumstances. Considering Schofield is "in the mix" at both left guard and right tackle, it looks like he'll be a critical backup at the very least in Denver.
LaMarr Woodley, DE, Oakland. After seven productive years in Pittsburgh, Woodley was unceremoniously released by the Steelers over the offseason, and the Raiders were happy to get him. He provides a major upgrade from them at DE, a spot that may suit him better than 3-4 OLB, where he played in Pittsburgh.
Charles Woodson, S, Oakland. At 37, Woodson came back to Oakland, where he's beloved by the fanbase. He'll play safety there, and he is Charles Woodson, so he'll play well until he decides it's time to hang up the cleats.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the list.]
Hey, Butch Woolfolk, are you excited for the game tonight?
Agreed, Butch. How do you feel about it being the last Michigan-Notre Dame home game for the foreseeable future?
We're on the same wavelength, Butch.
[If you're wondering "why?" those are from the intros to the '81 ND game. For many more GIFs from Notre Dame games of the past, hit THE JUMP.]
During a wee hours period break of a wee hours Wings game last weekend, I ended up in a conversation about the #1 jersey and who might be the next player to wear it. The guy was really high on Chesson or Drake Harris or some future giant; I was like thatsracist.gif because the best receiver since Braylon is on the roster RIGHT NOW
Unless you’re just categorically against changing numbers for seniors (which I totally understand in all circumstances but this), if we’re truly honoring elite receivers with the 1 jersey it could be time we give it to Jeremy Gallon. The case against: is 5’8, has always been just mediocre at returning punts and kicks, is 5’8, took some time to work his way up the depth chart, would ideally be a slot receiver because he’s 5’8. The case for: is secretly 8 feet tall, among his various Inspector Gadget peripherals is a cloaking device that saved Under the Lights I, and the WAR stat for receivers says he’s the best in the conference by a wide margin.
When I was doing the receivers pages of HTTV last week I went looking for some more advanced stats to put in tables aside from the usual Bentley things like receptions, yards, TDs, games played, and what you can get by dividing those things together. I remembered cfbstats’s Marty Couvillan last year made all of those targeting data available to the public, with an assist from Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.*
What Marty did is took that play by play ticker information that the NCAA makes available, and through some ninja text-to-columns work, managed to pull out data for when each receiver was targeted. This is groundbreaking work in receiver stats, knowing what happens whenever a ball is thrown in the direction of a player. It still doesn’t say how well it was thrown, how deep if it wasn’t caught, or how many defenders had to be shooed off, but until we have official scorers UFR-ing every game this is about the best we can get. Guys like Bill began building their own stats out of the new data and came up with YRPR, which formula is:
The % of your team’s targets you receive
Times how many yards you average per pass thrown in your direction
Times an adjustment for the rest of your team’s passing game so we don’t just get the guys with great QBs and lines
Times an adjustment for how often your team passes, so that we don’t just award wide open receivers on run-heavy teams, e.g. Roundtree 2010.
And what it said was…
2012 Big Ten Receivers by YRPR:
|Rk||Name||Targets||Catch Rate||School||Rk (FBS)||YRPR|
|6||Corey Brown||85||70.6%||Ohio State||52||118.22|
|7||Devin Smith||58||51.7%||Ohio State||73||109.21|
I know what you’re thinking: that top five includes three of the receivers I drafted in last year’s Draft o’ Snark, and my fourth is in the Top 10. That and our tiny receiver who looks like Snoop was best in the conference and 14th in the nation. Not “one of the best after Allen Robinson and Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis and those Ohio State and Indiana guys,” but best-best.
Nationally Gallon was one spot behind West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, also a 5’8 mite, also the first receiver taken in this year’s NFL Draft. In fact most of the guys above Gallon were drafted this year—only USC’s Marqise Lee, SJ State’s Noel Grigsby, Bama’s Amari Cooper, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Mathews, and Fresno State’s Davante Adams return among those who finished above Jeremy Gallon in this metric.
When Brian gets to the receiver previews later this offseason he will undoubtedly point out that Gallon blew up after Gardner stepped in, projecting to Braylon-like numbers if you extrapolate the Gardner starts across an entire season. Well, the advanced stats guys took his entire year and said he’s Tavon Austin.
* [Where’s LSAClassof2000? Follow those links and stop writing personal diaries.]
[After the jump, how Gallon’s 2012 compared with those of past M receivers, and how the Big Ten has fared against the others]
Sponsors with benefits. Hotels: there are none on gameday unless you want to stay in Canada or Ohio. These places are inconvenient. Few people even speak English. Houses: Ann Arbor has many, lots of them right across the street from Michigan Stadium. Money: can be used to convince people in these houses to let you borrow the houses. Thus your crew of 8+ people can stay in the same, convenient place.
You are probably entering URLs that seem likely candidates to host such a service as we speak. Your fingers ache, your keyboard smokes. Well, enter nonexistent website URLs no longer. You can use Money to avoid Hotels at Gameday Housing, which not only benefits you but also the site. A bonus: mention MGoBlog when you sign up (in the "you heard about us from" box) and they'll take 50 bucks off your first rental*. You can lock down accommodations for Michigan State for about what a hotel would run you, except instead of a hotel room you get a house. Doing so also supports the site.
*[Fine print: only valid until the end of 2012, can't combine with another promotion, one per user.]
2011 photo spectacular. Max starts an excellent thread of favorite pictures from last year:
No sources are listed, unfortunately. Everyone should be shoving the metadata in their files so people can credit back if so inclined.
Troubaaaargh. The Daily's Matt Slovin reports that Jacob Trouba has a 200k offer from the OHL sitting on the table and that this is a source of OHL-related optimism in re: guy breaking his commitment to leave. Again. Kitchener denies this because kids in the OHL get 45 bucks a week only. It's not a professional league, man. You have to believe us.
We'll see how that goes. It's a chunk of cash, but for a guy who's likely to sign a max rookie contract in a year or two it's not a life changing amount. Insert usual bits about how Something Must Be Done, but what? It's clear the OHL doesn't care about its own rules, and the NHL is never going to step in, so what can be done?
UPDATE: Trouba has again reiterated he will play at Michigan.
Werner something. You're probably aware that Joe Paterno's legacy is even further tattered after the release of emails that imply the university administration was about to go to some sort of police-type organization that would have put Jerry Sandusky's crimes to an end until Joe intervened on Sandusky's behalf. But are you aware of the contortions many on the Penn State rivals board are willing to undertake to maintain their worship?
I Would Like to Pose a Question to the Board
Let's see who can answer this question. Bear with me -- I have a point to make. Here it is:
The human body consists of 99.9% of something. What is it?
[several posts in which people respond.]
Congratulations! Three of You Got It.
The answer is empty space. Now, on the face of it, the answer is absurd. How can the body be empty space? Well, because atoms are empty space. Vibrating energy (I think) is what gives things solidity (this is a quantum physics deal, so I can't elaborate). But, here's the point. It is absolutely PREPOSTEROUS to claim that the human body is empty space, just as it is preposterous to claim that Joe Paterno was not involved in covering up Jerry Sandusky's child abuse. Yet, the human body really is empty space; so why can't Joe Paterno not be involved in a cover-up, particularly since no one yet has forwarded any evidence of such? It is a supposition that Paterno was involved, just as it is a common supposition that the human body is not empty space.
This guy has a future as a noir defense attorney.
Meanwhile, Vijay comes out of retirement to re-evaluate the "Grand Experiment."
If this really happens… If Wisconsin's nonconference scheduling goes from sad to decent, yes, Virginia, strength of schedule will be a big deal in the new playoff world. Alvarez is talking about it, at least:
“If you want to be a player (in the national championship equation) and strength of schedule is going to be a part of it, then you really have to consider (a different approach),” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said.
That might explain why UW football coach Bret Bielema disclosed on his Twitter account this week that he’s reached out to his Notre Dame counterpart Brian Kelly about a possible series with the high-profile independent. Bielema is targeting openings for 2018 and ’19 when Michigan drops off the Irish’s schedule.
It might also explain why Alvarez disclosed this week that there were recent discussions, orchestrated by ESPN, about matching the Badgers against defending national champion and Southeastern Conference power Alabama at a neutral site.
Alvarez, who handled scheduling when he coached the Badgers from 1990 to ’05, said Bielema countered with an offer to play a home-and-home series with the Crimson Tide — no specific years were discussed — but that Alabama coach Nick Saban declined.
That's all talk now. I have a hard time seeing SOS becoming important enough to overrule our current how-many-losses ranking system except in intraconference instances like last year's Oregon-Stanford hypothetical controversy, and if that's the case Wisconsin will continue its steady diet of cupcakes. Something to keep an eye on, at least.
Mario. He got suspended that one game and was kind of frustrating at other times, but Mario Manningham could play, yo:
In other Wolverine Historian bits, he captures the 1994 Minnesota game.
Big Ten Network programming breakdown. A poster on BSD totaled up a month's worth of BTN programming this summer and came out with these numbers:
A quick breakdown of school and how many hours of programming they have, in order from least to greatest:
Nebraska 27.5 hours Minnesota 32 hours Northwestern 40.5 hours Penn State 47.5 hours Purdue 49 hours Illinois 73.5 hours Iowa 82.5 hours Indiana 85 hours Michigan 106 hours Michigan St 108 hours Wisconsin 127.5 hours Ohio State 153 hours
Wisconsin and MSU benefited from frequent replays of the inaugural champinship game. OSU's edge on the rest of the field is a combination of football and basketball prowess that no one else is matching at the moment. The jump from Purdue to Illinois is… odd.
Left tackles can't stand normal bikes. Via a TTB interview with Erik Magnuson:
That is a 6'6", 300 pound man on a unicycle. Maybe we'll see him performing during halftime at Crisler next year.
Etc.: Hardaway, Burke, McGary all second-round-ish NBA prospects at the moment, with Burke in that gray area between the first and second round. The 2013 class rankings are rejiggered: Walton, Donnal up, Irvin down a little.
Sam Mikulak makes the Olympic team. Jeff Porter makes it in the 110M hurdles. Michigan alum Richard Kaplan is mayor of a small Florida town that is way into cricket. Brady Hoke returns to his old stomping grounds to out MANBALL Ball State's new coach.
Good lord, this was brutal. Hockey had a pretty clear cutoff that sat nicely at five, and getting to five in basketball was a stretch. I left Steve Breaston, Leon Hall, Allan Branch, and Zoltan Mesko out here. Jebus.
PROS: Tough-talking no-neck was a four year starter at center perfectly suited for Michigan's zone running game; won the Rimington as a senior. Hilarious interview with absolutely no regard for cliché. High fantangibles rating. At times seemed to be the difference between doom and success in the Michigan ground game. Broke something serious in his foot in the Sugar Bowl, watched Rocko Khoury make some panic snaps on Michigan's first series, and played the rest of the game seriously damaged.
Experienced both coaching changes and was one of the seniors Who Stayed™. A huge factor in the locker room uniting behind Hoke.
CONS: Had some injury problems. Inexplicably had his snap count jumped against MSU and only MSU for like three straight years.
PROS: Four-year contributor and three-year starter who always teetered on the edge of being great. Finally accelerated down the senior-year stretch into a dominant nose tackle. During this period forced a pitch on a Nebraska speed option.
This is about all you need to know. You could not block him. Michigan's insanely good third/fourth and short defense started with him (and ended with Kovacs).
But wait, there's more: with Michigan's already-thin defensive line depth shattered by injury before the Sugar Bowl, Martin and Van Bergen faced off with future first-round pick David Wilson in a game where getting a stop meant you got four snaps before you were back on the field. They singlehandedly kept Michigan in the game despite dying halfway through the second quarter. A performance that should pass into legend the same way Hunwick's North Dakota game will.
Also a member of Those Who Stayed™. Along with Molk and Van Bergen, Martin got the Full Andy Dufresne from his time at Michigan.
CONS: Seemingly endorses "In The Big House." Not as highly regarded by the NFL as a few other guys on this list.
Ryan Van Bergen
PROS: Third and final member of Those Who Stayed™ on the list. Also a four-year contributor and longtime starter, underrated because of his lack of playmaking but still the TFL leader on last year's team. The other guy holding Michigan's defensive line together through sheer force of will in the Sugar Bowl. Virtually impossible to knock down. Screwed up a check in the 2009 Indiana game, leading to an 85-yard touchdown, then singlehandedly annihilated the next IU drive, giving Michigan a chance to pull it out.
CONS: Probably the least-great player on this list. Here as a tribute to Michigan's phoenix act in 2011. Not enticing to NFL. Still… look at that. This is not a list of the best players ever, so…
PROS: The best player on an awful Michigan defense and awful Michigan teams. Did not get the Full Andy Dufresne since his career ended halfway through the sewage tube. Still bore all of this with a Denard-like beatific smile. Just killed people, all the time.
NFL did really like him, drafting him in the top half of the first round.
CONS: Unfortunately his impact was limited because the team around him was terrible.
PROS: Sideline-to-sideline missile was cerebral to the point of near-genius. Always there. Always. Made a habit out of juking(!) offensive linemen in zone schemes, making them think the play was going one way, then exploding into the ballcarrier when this was not the case. Junior year was tremendously underrated thanks to chaos around him; was major lynchpin and possibly the best player on Michigan's monster 2006 defense. Yes, I mean that seriously.
Early and still prime example of the usefulness of UFRing makes him near to my heart; not sure if you care. Validated all praise from Michigan fans by instantly becoming NFL tackling machine upon entry to the league.
Kind of looks like Worf.
CONS: Lacks iconic wow play. Others started longer than he did.
PROS: Emphatically does not have David Harris's problem since he was the target on two of the most iconic plays of the aughts: Oh, Wide Open and Lloyd Carr's Last Second. An electric playmaker the rest of the time, a guy who wasn't the biggest but was the fastest and hardest to keep track of. Had that brilliant slow-up-to-stall-the-DB-then-extend-for-the-TD move down pat. More of a technician than given credit for. Whenever I think of Manningham, I think of that Citrus Bowl when DeBord said "screw it, spread time" and Holly Rowe reporting that Florida deathbacker Brandon Spikes was chasing Manningham all over the field on his incessant end-arounds, saying "damn, boy, you good."
Did the worm after the 2007 Penn State win.
CONS: Got suspended for the weed, something that took some doing in the mid-aughts. Widely regarded as kind of maybe not the nicest guy to ever make it through the program.
PROS: Amongst the nicest guys to ever make it through the program. Skillet-sized hands are made of industrial-strength adhesive. An elite-level possession receiver who was everyone's safety blanket. Targeted all the time and made all the catches. Probably the most common ex-player to be referenced in "You May Remember Me From Such Players As," to the point where I actively try to avoid it now.
That about sums it up.
CONS: Did drop that one pass once, you know, that one. Never a huge deep threat.
PROS: Four year starter with great backstory and running style burned into your brain. No speed at all but capable of juking in a phone booth and grinding out two, three, four yards after contact. Got a standing ovation for a particular eight yard run against Penn State once. Came out of a tiny school in upstate New York with outlandish rushing stats and a youtube clip in which he jukes every player on the opposing team twice.
Never, ever fumbled except twice inside the five against Florida in his last game. Pretty much the only thing standing between Michigan and a yards per carry under three during his time at Michigan.
CONS: Injury prone. Started this incredibly annoying "little brother" business. Spice added by mouth often backfired; went 0-fer against OSU.
PROS: Kills people. Brandon Graham was Woodley 2.0, a devastating defensive end who could not be blocked one-on-one. Has enormous Wolverine tattoo on arm. Finished off the Oh Wide Open game with the Yakety-sax-capping scoop and score. Fighting with David Harris and Allan Branch for title of best player on 2006 defense.
CONS: OSU 0-fer does not quite apply but really kind of does since he did not contribute much in 2003. That's about it. Kind of think maybe Graham was better since he had way less help and still produced.
PROS: Is he a man or a block-long wall? Only his mother knows, and these days she's not even sure. Four-year starter who rolled off the NFL left tackle prototype line and let exactly zero guys not roid-raging get to the quarterback when he was on the field. The first overall pick his draft year, all-American everywhere, etc, etc, etc, you get the idea.
CONS: Fantangibles low. Another Michigan great who had to suffer through the indignity of 0-fer OSU. Hurt most of the 2005 season. Not sure what I'd write about him.
Recently, Football Study Hall provided a spreadsheet of epic length to anyone who wanted it detailing not only catches and yards for the 2005-2011 seasons, but "targets"—ie, the number of times a guy had the ball tossed in his direction. FSH did this for all of D-I. I sliced out the other 119 teams to focus on Michigan.
This data spans a fascinating period in Michigan history:
- 2005-2007 are the last three years of the Henne era, except 2007 is a third Henne, a third Mallett, and a third injured Henne who shouldn't be playing but Mallett is insane.
- 2008 is the Threet-Sheridan disaster.
- 2009 is mostly Forcier.
- 2010 and 2011 are mostly Denard, with 2010 RR's best shot at a great offense and 2011 the first year of Borges.
Here's the interesting stuff that came out.
YARDS PER TARGET
The top 20 (min 10 targets). Bet yourself a dollar you can guess #1:
|11||2007||Carson Butler Jr.||25||20||9.8||12.3|
You win a dollar from yourself. Junior Hemingway is the king of yards per target. Not only does he share the #1 spot with Martavious Odoms, he also finishes #6 and #8. It's too bad this data doesn't go a couple seasons further back, allowing us to have a YPT battle royale between Hemingway and Braylon Edwards.
The other thing that jumps off the page is the impact of the spread. The only pro-style WR to crack the top ten was Mario Manningham's 2006 season. Tyler Ecker also made the top ten but on just 15 targets; he made his hay by catching 80% of his limited opportunities. Also, Roundtree does very well to show up at #18 despite being the target of dozens of screens. That target number is off the charts.
This is expected, since the spread came with a huge shift towards running the ball. Passes are naturally more likely to go far when you run 70% of the time.
The bottom 20:
|48||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||5.4||9.1|
This is mostly sparsely-used tight ends and tailbacks with the notable exception of the top three receivers in 2008 and their 200 targets between them. Also I would like to note the presence of Tim Massaquoi towards the bottom of the list. This is not his fault. Massaquoi broke his hand in 2005. Michigan kept throwing the ball at him.
Note that two of the worst yards-per-target guys—the 2008 versions of Odoms and Mathews—show up in the top 10 here. Guys, I'm beginning to think that Michigan's 2008 offense wasn't very good.
Manningham's 2007 year is a clear winner here, with Jason Avant's 2005 a distant second yet distant from the #3. In context, Avant's stats scream "guy who will be a possession receiver for 20 years in the NFL": Michigan went to him all the time, never threw him screens, and he still checks in with a terrific catch rate.
Also catch Roundtree's 2011: bad. His production fell off not only because he was targeted less frequently but because his catch percentage plummeted from 67% to 39%. No screens, no easy TDs, a lot of doubt about whether he can take over Hemingway's downfield duties.
[NOTE: The spreadsheet erroneously listed Sam McGuffie as the #1 player here with 39 catches on 39 attempts… in 2010. The spreadsheet is right, in a way: those are McGuffie's numbers from his 2010 season at Rice. McGuffie still finishes #1 for his 2008 season, a 19 of 22 campaign.]
Unfiltered, these are of debatable utility since all of the guys at the top are small-sample size guys. Tailbacks, tight ends, and slots dominate. Let's limit it to players with at least 30 targets in a season and see what we get. The "rank" is rank amongst everyone. There are 59 seasons in the DB.
|33||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||59.4%||9.1|
I highlighted it this time. Roundtree's regression from 2010 to 2011 was enormous. He went from the #5 player in this sample to second-worst.
In other news, Adrian Arrington's 2006 was secretly great. And when you combine the catch rates with the yards you have a dead heat between Mario Manningham '06 and Junior Hemingway '11 as the best season in this time frame, with Avant's '05 drawing an honorable mention for moving the chains.
MOVING THE CHAINS
There are two subsets provided in the data, with attempts split into "standard downs" and "passing downs." Passing downs can come on second and long but using them as a proxy for third and let's-not-run isn't going to introduce too many distortions. The top 20 security blankets:
|19||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||19||12||63.2%||12.4%||19.6|
You get a dollar for betting that you should throw it to Jason Avant on third and medium, too. Only low-usage versions of Arrington and Roundtree bested him on catch percentage and they were far less-frequently targeted; Arrington's 7.4 YPC further implies that some of those completions were well short of the first down.
Avant has a combination of catching the ball and maintaining a great YPC that makes it totally unsurprising that he's a solid NFL player and a little wistfully sad whenever I compare yet another incoming WR to him when I know deep in the soul of my heart that there's no way Freshman X will be half as good.
BONUS: Steve Breaston would like you to take your criticisms about his hands and shove them up where Bill Hancock's head is.