LAST TIME ON DRAFTAGEDDON: I saw a pale horse ridden by a guy who thinks Shilique Calhoun is a first round NFL draft pick.
ROUND 3 - PICK 1: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Stefon Diggs (MD)
D: DT Carl Davis(IA)
BRIAN: Stefon Diggs is recovering from a broken leg that snuffed out his year 7 games in, but we've already got plenty of evidence that Diggs is the most explosive WR in the Big Ten. A five-star recruit with offers from everyone, Diggs put up 848 yards as a freshman and was on pace for 1090 before the injury last year. He made the All-ACC team as a freshman and is being projected as a first rounder a few places despite the leg and the uncertainty about whether he'll come out.
I'm not particularly worried about that injury. Diggs returned to drills and 7-on-7 in early April, and broken bones are not the kind of thing you might worry about long term. He says he's faster than he was before despite being only 90%, and even if that's not true... I'll live with it.
The main issue with Diggs is that his production is dependent on his quarterback and his quarterback plays at Maryland and therefore will die six ways and be replaced by a linebacker midseason. Probable starter Caleb Rowe had 131 attempts last year and completed fewer than half of them. But in terms of my team, he's a perfect fit. Miller's good over the top and commands so much attention that WR screens feature one on one matchups. He's a guy who would be able to get a ton of free yards paired with Miller. Dana Holgorsen called him a "Tavon Austin clone"... except like four inches taller. As a bonus, he had two KR TDs as a freshman.
ROUND 3 - PICK 2: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
O: WR Devin Funchess (U-M), LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU)
ACE: I could drag out all the stats on how Funchess blew up once Michigan realized he's a wide receiver, period. I could tell you how awesome it is to have a 6'5", 230-pound living matchup nightmare on the outside. I could discuss in exacting detail how Funchess, just a true junior, should have by far his best season in 2014. I could mention the (terrifying) possibility that he'll be a first-round NFL Draft pick at this time next year.
But you know all that. So let's just admire the freaky athletic ability for a little bit:
Is this a homer pick? I won't say no, though Funchess is the leading returning receiver in the entire conference.
Do I feel bad about it whatsoever? Noooooope.
BRIAN: That's no homer pick, man. Funchess is also getting first-round hype and with good reason. Not the reasons that the people picking Funchess in the first round have, like "is a tight end," but Funchess was the other guy before a big dip in available talent at WR.
ACE: Yeah, I mostly just wanted to set up that Archer reference. I would've taken Funchess here even if he played for Rutgers. Okay, maybe not Rutgers, but literally anyone else.
BISB: Anyone else? I'm picturing Funchess catching passes from Danny Etling, which would be a "Denard as pocket passer"-level crime against man-panda.
sorry, I heard "crimes BY man-panda" –ed
ACE: I stand by my original statement.
Also, I am now dead.
[AFTER THE JUMP: additional man-panda crimes! Seth Dumars!]
SETH: As Brian said, returning productive receivers are so thin on the ground that the first one taken is an injury-riddled athlete with less than 600 career yards, and a quarterback under more duress than ours. If this was 2011 I couldn't pick Funchess out of a pile of Marvin McNutt, B.J. Cunningham, A.J. Jenkins, etc., but this isn't 2011.
If I must pick a downside, well, there were those Edwardsian dropsies which suddenly appeared against Iowa and finally pushed last season's enjoyability level below that of bowling.
But the greater cause for concern is that Funchess is the lone threat in a bad offense. He got to be a matchup nightmare last season because the other half of the field had to stay preoccupied with Jeremy Gallon, or else get Indiana'd. I tried to update Bill Connelly's one-WR-stat-to-rule-them-all stat this week and came up with a huge 196.5 for Gallon's season. That would be top 10 in the country most years since 2005, and just outside of the best 50 seasons by any receiver in that time. Absent a threat like that (and a run game that isn't going to frighten any defense past the MAC) I expect defenses will double-up on Funchess until Michigan can produce something else worth covering.
BRIAN: "Injury riddled" == had an injury. "Less than 600 career yards" == was all ACC with nearly 850 yards as a freshman and was on pace for 1090 last year
BUT THANKS FOR PLAYING
BISB: Someone else worth covering, you say?
ACE: As for Funchess, the "lone threat in a bad offense" bit need not apply here, as my hypothetical team won't be fielding Michigan's offense.
Also, someone is totally taking a late flier on Canteen, and that person is totally probably going to be me.
BRIAN: Also also, Michigan actually has terrific WR depth with Canteen, Chesson, Darboh, Norfleet, and eventually Butt available.
ROUND 3 - PICK 3: Kurtis Drummond, S, MSU
O: QB Devin Gardner (Michigan)
D: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), S Kurtis Drummond (MSU)
BISB: CURSE YOU, ACE. I was going to give Devin Gardner his safety blanket. Instead, he'll be catching passes from... oh, that's right. you don't have a quarterback. /salty
Anywho, one area that is actually pretty shallow in the B1G this year seems to be safety, and I might be taking the only elite one. Along with Kurtis Drummond's 4 picks and 6 PBUs, he made 91 tackles from the free safety spot. That typically signals DOOM for a defense, so to put up those kinds of numbers in such a dominant defense is really impressive.
He doesn't just get to play center field, either; MSU's Cover 4 requires him to defend receivers in essentially single coverage all over the field, and he looks like a corner when he does so. He has great ball skills and can flip his hips and run with anyone in the league. That's him running stride-for-stride with Devin Smith.
It might be too early for a safety, but the #NeverForget years lead me to reach a bit to lock down the back end.
ROUND 3 - PICK 4: Venric Mark, RB/KR/PR/Slot/Secret Agent/International Man of Mystery With Ninja Powers/Smurf, Northwestern
ROUND 4 - PICK 1: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
don't blame us for the Mark thing
O: RB Venric Mark (NW), OT Jason Spriggs (IN)
D: DE Randy Gregory (NE), DT Michael Bennett (OSU)
SETH: Receivers are coming off the board but I can't justify taking Kenny Bell this high (gives 2012 self high-five for Kenny Bell pick). I've still got three 5-star players left on my board, and here's two of them.
Venric Mark started last year on the DL for a pulled hamstring, played 3 games on it, then broke his ankle; he missed spring in recovery. Or that's what he wants you to believe. As revealed by John Bacon in Fourth and Long, Mark really spent the year doing undercover ops, helping to undermine Iran's illegal nuclear efforts and finally forcing them into a treaty. In 2012 he accumulated 1,366 rushing yards (6 ypc) and added 2 punt return TDs, earning All-America for that.
I grant you that Abdullah is the safer pick given the injury, but Venric's versatility is going to be key in a draft with very few play-makers. Wherever I deploy him, he's bound to wrack up yards, and piss off Brian, so long as the guys around him can make that eensy bit of space he needs to operate.
As to that, I'd better get me some OL while the gettin's good. I'll leave the Wisconsin right tackle du jour to Ace Cheesebender and snatch up Spriggs, an honorable mention All-B1G and freshman All-American in 2012, who followed that up by having the best left-tackle season that nobody talked about ever. IU's offense was the 28th most likely to pass, yet had the 14th-best sack rate in the country. So let's look at this left tackle whom OL coach Greg Frey compares to...you know what let's not do that to ourselves right now.
He's really athletic. In high school he initially tried out as a receiver and he played tight end as much as tackle. IU fans drool over his... dunking ability.
Never change, Indiana.
Spriggs is 6'7 and though he played his underclass years at 270-290 (starting all 24 games), he was listed at 307 in spring. IU fans expect his junior year he'll take that next step to first-day NFL pick. If there's another lockdown left tackle out there after Scherff, this is the guy.
BRIAN: NOW WHO'S INJURY RIDDLED
SETH: Yeah, I fully acknowledge that I've given up any and all rights to make fun of certain wide receivers Michigan didn't get for reasons of injury. I figure taking Mark off the board would make you squirm more anyway.
BISB: My dude is also injury-riddled. Fortunately his father Odin knows a really good orthopedic guy.
ROUND 4 - PICK 2: Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan/Asgard
O: QB Devin Gardner (Michigan)
D: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), S Kurtis Drummond (MSU), LB Jake Ryan (Michigan)
So, the thing about Jake Ryan is that
ROUND 4 - PICK 3: Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern
O: WR Devin Funchess (U-M), LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW)
ACE: Ariguzo may not be the best player left on the board, but he's certainly one of the most productive and versatile players out there. As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, he started every game at strongside linebacker, tallying 10.5 TFLs and three sacks. Last season, he started every game on the weak side, bumped his tackle total up to 106 in 12 games (compared to 91 in 13 games the previous season), doubled his interceptions from two to four, and still managed to get into the opposing backfield for six TFLs and two sacks. He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten in each of the last two years, and every member of last year's first- and second-team linebacker corps (both coaches and media) has graduated or left for the NFL.
At 6'3", 235, he can conceivably play all three linebacker spots, though he fits best on the outside. After watching film on him a couple times last year I came away impressed with both his play in space and ability to tackle in the box despite playing behind a defensive line that often allowed blockers a clean path to the second level. He also gives my defense a playmaker at the second level—over the last two seasons, he has six interceptions, seven pass deflections, and five fumble recoveries. While some of that can certainly be chalked up to luck, he does a good job of baiting the quarterback to throw against zone coverage before undercutting for the pick:
I feel comfortable slotting him in at either OLB spot, and I'll see how the rest of the draft unfolds before deciding. After so many of the Big Ten's top linebackers either graduated or left early for the NFL, I like the value I'm getting here—a proven, productive, versatile player who holds up against the run and is adept at both blitzing and pass coverage.
BISB: Dude, I think he died last year. I seem to remember him being crushed by a fat quarterback.
ACE: In related news, I have learned my lesson, and will not be reaching to pick a Northwestern defensive back this year.
[looks at available safeties]
Well, probably not.
ROUND 4 - PICK 4: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), RB Melvin Gordon (UW), WR Stefon Diggs (MD)
D: DT Carl Davis(IA)
BRIAN: Um, so... yeah. I was hoping but not expecting that one of the two prime backs in the league would fall to me. Instead both did. But, hey, when you can take a 5'8" guy who missed virtually all of last year you've got to do it, I guess. Seth Dumars FTW. Instead I'll grab Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, who might not be quite the returner Venric Mark is when Venric Mark isn't in a hospital ward with gangrene but did run for 1600 yards last year... on 209 carries. This gentleman averaged 7.8 yards a pop. As a freshman he averaged an even 10!
And this was no Dayne-esque smoke and mirrors show. Wisconsin played two real nonconference opponents in Arizona State and BYU, with only two cupcakes. Gordon tore through South Carolina for 143 yards in the bowl at nearly 6 a pop. Opponents stacked the line to stop him with the Badgers running almost two-thirds of the time; he actually had fewer(!) carries than senior James White, who's gone. Gordon outperformed him by nearly a yard and a half. Now apply half those carries to Gordon to project this year. Yowza.
When asked, NFL scouts rushed to anoint Gordon not only a potential first-rounder in this year's draft but hypothetically the first guy off the board in the just-completed draft if he elected to come out. Anonymous NFL scout hates everyone, but he loves him some Melvin Gordon:
"He's so fluid and easy and graceful," one NFL personnel director said at the scouting combine. "He's (expletive) really good. He's a first-rounder."
With White gone, Gordon figures to pick up a heavier workload this year, which will push him into 2000-yard territory and the Heisman conversation. Yeah, he doesn't catch passes. I'll live.
FIT? He's a tailback. Cumong man.