UM in the NFL

Submitted by AC1997 on April 25th, 2012 at 10:57 PM

On the eve of the NFL draft I thought I'd spark some discussion on the board by asking the following two questions:

  1. Which former Michigan player surprised you with how successful he was in the NFL?
  2. Which former Michigan player shocked you the most for failing to be successful in the NFL?

Here are my thoughts:

  • I was always surprised at how long Chris Calloway played effectively in the NFL.  He was undersized, had modest stats at Michigan, and always shared the spotlight with Greg McMurtry.  Yet he played a long time with a fair amount of success for the Giants.  (Much in the way that Jason Avant will play a long time.)
  • The guy I am still amazed about his flame out is David Terrell.  I know he wasn't known for his work ethic or fundamentals, but he was so amazing at Michigan and did absolutely nothing in the pros.  Maybe he should have been the first evidence that Tom Brady was really good. 
  • I know it is early and there's still time for him to turn it around, but Chad Henne's lackluster career surprises me also.  I do think that the lousy Dolphins played a part, but I thought he'd be solid. 
  • Other surprise disappointments that were mostly due to injury were Tripp Welbourne, Marquis Walker, and Brandon Graham (so far). 



April 25th, 2012 at 11:12 PM ^

A) Brady aside, I did not expect Breaston to have this sort of career especially after all the "Stevie no!"s during his M career. His speed is his weapon which usually doesn't suffice but he seems to have found his niche.

2) I was a mega Perry fan as most of you probably were. Thought he was destined for NFL carries especially after his 40+ carry game against MSU ( I think ). I was also a huge Marquise fan but his speed and route running were something his superior catching abilities couldn't make up for.

Blue in Seattle

April 26th, 2012 at 10:55 AM ^

Michigan's OL does pretty well in the NFL.  Carrying the ball 50 times just shows the trend of the OC playcalling, not the players talents.  Yes he was tired, and he's a tough guy, but so is Vincent Smith.

I think Michigan creates a lot of great people in their football players, so I definitely like all the players everyone is mentioning, and while Michigan always has great RB's, it rarely had an NFL elite back.  Also for quite sometime the NFL has been a pass first to setup the run league, so any running back who can dominate multiple years is exceptionally rare.  It's also the position taking the most punishment, since every play multiple people are beating on you.

Although Wheatley didn't end up on a championship team, he did play quite a while.  Michigan RB's are never going to do what they did in College.  Maybe Hoke can pull in a Barry Sanders, but I don't think that's required for this offense.  Borges is an establigh the pass to setup the run guy, so I expect our next Heismen to come from QB or WR.


April 25th, 2012 at 11:42 PM ^

He's called the space emperor for a reason. In about twenty years, when we're all living in orbit, he'll have the entirety of space named after him. 


And then, in his accent, he will say, "Space, bitches." 


April 26th, 2012 at 12:05 AM ^

Was anyone else in AA when the university sent out a memo detailing the 'appropriate' abbreviations for the University of Michigan? I loathed that email, yet now when I see someone write UM I can't help but think... no, that's wrong.

U-M made me a snot.

Actually, just a bigger snot.


April 26th, 2012 at 12:14 AM ^

1. Has to be Tom Brady. No real discussion there. As a surprise pick, I'll also say Brian Griese. I couldn't stand him during his U of M years (although he shut me up in the end). Never expected him to make it in the NFL, let alone start for multiple teams. I know it was a far from stellar career, but it's one I never in a million years thought he would have.

2. Terrell is the obvious pick. Outside of him, I'd say A-Train. After his awesome rookie season, I didn't expect him to fizzle out so quickly. I foolishly thought he was going to be the quasi-second coming of The Bus.


April 26th, 2012 at 12:50 AM ^

Based on some inital comments, here are my responses:

  • Brady - seemed too obvious to mention
  • Graham - definitely way too early to judge, but bummer that he hasn't had the impact that we expected right away due to injury
  • Joppru - certainly flamed out for his draft position, but was on IR for his first three seasons so he never really had a chance.
  • Breaston - good one.  He was up and down at Michigan and I didn't think he'd latch on as a receiver in the NFL - maybe just a punt returner. 
  • Henson - he ruined both of his careers by trying to do both, unfortunately.  And in both cases he was rushed into playing time that he wasn't ready for.  I would have liked to see what would have happened if he stuck with football full time.
  • Running Backs - I think there's an interesting trend in that so many of the best RB didn't do much in the NFL.  I have a couple of theories behind this:  First, I think we assumed they were better than they were since our offense centered around them so much and was built on tons of carries.  Second, I think we used them up more in college than some other college backs and they reached their half-life sooner.  Perry, Thomas, Wheatley, and Biakabatuka all had some degree of success but it was very short lived and then they were out of the league.  Wheatley revitalized his career somewhat by becoming a power back in a part time role, but that's about it as far as longevity.  It is hard to even come up with a RB that had any prolonged career - Leroy Hoard? 


April 26th, 2012 at 1:26 AM ^

I think the nature of the position has something to do with it as well.  I haven't looked up anything to support this but I'm guessing the failure rate of RB's is really high compared to other positions in the NFL. Running backs are easily replaced and injury prone.  Unless you're insane good like Adrian Peterson or LaDainian Tomlinson, the chance of having a successful NFL career is pretty slim, even for great college running backs. 


April 26th, 2012 at 6:57 AM ^

I'm surprised he's showing up on bust-lists here. He had two years as a starter and averaged about 4.5 YPC for those two years. It was a freak (and horrific) injury that put him out of the league--in his case I don't think the half-life argument applies and it certainly isn't the kind of career that the word "bust" summons to mind. Ryan Leaf was a bust. Reggie Brown was not.

He's evidence for your second point though--he was the most successful of the M running backs and he had a short college career, in terms of rushes.


April 26th, 2012 at 1:00 AM ^

Best... Lamarr Woodley. As a steeler fan I get to watch this guy do work every game he plays in. One of the best olbs in football. Will go down as one of the great Steeler lbs if he stays healthy and that is huge company to be in...ok legendary.
Bust... Think it's been said with perry, Terrell, Henson etc. but I'm going with earnest shazor. I think Arizona gave him an invite but he totally failed. I thought he had a place in the nfl and I was right... Watching it with us. no one said hart yet either.


April 26th, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

But Hart ran behind Jake Long for 4 years, was pretty undersized and doesn't have any speed.  Put up great numbers at Michigan, but I don't know if anyone was expecting him to be great, or even good in the NFL.


April 26th, 2012 at 2:11 AM ^

1.  David Harris.  Even after his breakout senior year, I never expected him to burst onto the NFL scene like he did.


2. Jason Avant.  The best hands I ever remember.  Never expected him to be a backup


April 26th, 2012 at 8:15 AM ^

Not usually one to argue with another person's opinion.  But Avant as a bust?  really?

He was a fourth round pick.  He ran a 4.7 or something at the combine.  Not too many people expected much out of him and now he is heading into year 7 as a solid number 3 option, with 2,500+ yards 10 TDs for his career.

We must just have 2 different definitions of the word bust.



April 26th, 2012 at 2:22 AM ^

1. A couple surprises- I never thought he could perform in the NFL, but Elvis Grbac had a couple good years in KC, statistically. Todd Collins is another example. He never played much, but he was around a LONG time.

2. A couple disappointments- Glen Steele was an absolute BEAST in 97, but didn't last long in the NFL. Also, Jaime Morris was a big disappointment considering how successful his brother was. Granted Joe played behind Jumbo Elliott and the boys, but still. Still 3rd on Michigan's all time rushing yards list and had 45 carries in one game for the Redskins. I think thats still a record.


April 26th, 2012 at 6:01 AM ^

1. Steve Breaston (echoing what others have said here)

2. Drew Henson (Still haven't figured that out ... I realize that he was perpetually distracted, but I wonder if the speed of the NFL game was too much for him, intelligence and athletic ability aside.)

- - -

A word on Michigan RBs: This wouldn't apply to Chris Perry, but with the others mentioned here I wonder if Michigan's historically outstanding offensive lines made some of those guys look a little better than they were. UMich was an O-line factory right up to the point where Hutchinson, Backus, Maurice Williams, and that other guy all started in their first NFL year. (After that, it was Jonathan Goodwin, David Baas, and Jake Long, if you restrict to yourself to guys that actually made a roster and played in a game. Hopefully the draught will end soon.)


April 26th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

1) Like others, it would have to be Tom Brady. In the seasons where he has been the starting QB in New England, he has not thrown BELOW 60% for completions and has averaged around 3,500 yards total passing per year over 11 seasons. He was a great QB at Michigan, but his performance at the  next level, as QBs go, has been phenomenal.

In this category should go the longevity award too - while he didn't have a statistically impressive career,  kudos to Todd Collins for fighting for playing time over parts of 15 seasons.

2)  It seems like many of the example that come to mind for this question are RBs and WRs, but these are among the high-risk, high-reward picks for teams, but also, I am forced to wonder sometimes if excellent play on the line can make the running game look better than it might actually be. 

The classic modern example is probably David Terrell, as others have mentioned - I would have honestly thought he would be one of the most discussed WRs in the last decade coming out of school. An off-the-wall bust might be Trezelle Jenkins, who went in the first round in 1995 and looked to be a great OT - he played in parts of three seasons and vanished with virtually no productive  stats, I believe. 

I will say that thought Tyrone Wheatley underperformed at the next level - I think "bust" would be way too harsh in his case. I would have  expected him to be a far better RB in the NFL than he ended up being overall, though he did have something of a renaissance with the Raiders, as I recall. Going with  merely "underperforming", Braylon Edwards hasn't had the career I thought he might either, but he has some good years under his belt with the pontential  for many more. 


April 26th, 2012 at 7:06 AM ^

Surprise: Cato June. He was a solid but not spectacular safety in the mid 90's, but somehow he blew up in the pros and made a pro bowl as a linebacker.

Bust: the usual suspects: Terrell, Perry


April 26th, 2012 at 7:39 AM ^

1) Mario Manningham... I knew his speed would be an asset in the NFL but considering all the rumors of  marijuana use and the low score he received on the Wonderlic exam as well as his draft position, I saw potential bust written all over him. He started off slow but gradually has come into his own and seems to have a bright future.

2) My bust would be David Terrell as well and also Gabe Watson as i figured he would be a man beast in that middle.

R Kelly

April 26th, 2012 at 7:51 AM ^

I know he had some injury problems, but I was hoping that Marlin Jackson would have been able to stick around the league longer than he did.  


Edit:  I also thought Alan Branch would've been more successful.

the Glove

April 26th, 2012 at 8:00 AM ^

Best: Steve Breaston- not so great senior year and was always light as a feather.

Bust: Braylon Edwards- talks too much off the field and too many drops.


April 26th, 2012 at 8:19 AM ^

I was always most surprised by Brady (obviously), but also Armani Toomer.  Guy played for over a decade and was a pretty good WR for most of that time.  As for disappointments, it would have to be Wheatley - he was an amazing athlete who got to the NFL, gained some weight, and nothing more than a battering ram toward the end.  Could have been a much better player than he turned out.  

More recently, the biggest surprise has been Leon Hall - I thought he was a good corner in college, but to be a Pro Bowler so quickly was surprising.  Brandon Graham is also starting to worry me a bit, though with Philly you never know if that is a scheme issue or an ability problem.