Previously: Devin Funchess
We've reached the second day of the NFL Draft, and at least one former Wolverine—Devin Funchess—should hear his name called relatively soon when the second and third rounds begin this evening. Another Michigan player with some positional uncertainty is the next up in our draft profiles: Jake Ryan, who could find a home at either inside or outside linebacker in the NFL as a projected 4-5 round pick.
By The Numbers
Height/Weight: 6'2", 240
40 Time: 4.65 (combine)
Senior stats: 112 tackles (67 solo), 14.0 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 FF, 1 INT, 3 PBU
Junior stats: 30 tackles (23 solo), 4.5 TFL, 1 PBU (8 games, coming off ACL injury)
Sophomore stats: 88 tackles (57 solo), 16.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 5 FF, 3 PBU
By the end of his college career, Ryan proved very productive at two different positions, terrorizing backfields as a sophomore SAM and leading the team in tackles as a senior MIKE. He could end up at either of those spots in the NFL, and his versatility should help him secure a roster spot and make him a valuable backup regardless of his team's scheme.
While Ryan's combine numbers are merely average, his athleticism is more impressive on the football field. He closes quickly on the football and covers the field sideline-to-sideline, and when he's confident in his assignment he's very quick off the snap. Add in a relentless motor and good things happen when Ryan blitzes, whether off the edge or up the gut:
Ryan is usually a good tackler, though the above play does feature a weakness in that regard—he'll occasionally come in too fast and fail to break down in time to wrap up.
Ryan improved over the course of his career at diagnosing plays—something he had to re-learn a bit when he transitioned to the middle—and staying in his lane. He reliably set the edge as an outside linebacker, and in the middle he wasn't the type to jump over a gap and open up a cutback lane.
I'm no coach, but even I could see some of the ways Ryan worked around blocks—especially early in his career—and tell you he needs to work on his technique; Ryan takes the occasional false step, and while he got away with that a lot at Michigan, it'll be harder to cover at the NFL level.
I also have my doubts about Ryan's ability to play in the middle. While he had excellent performances his senior year against the likes of Indiana and Penn State, flawed and therefore predictable offenses, he struggled against more well-rounded teams. When offenses kept Ryan guessing, he was slower to diagnose plays, which mitigated his explosiveness off the snap; that often resulted in Ryan catching a blocker without the momentum to do anything about it:
While opponents had a very difficult time keeping Ryan blocked during his sophomore season, when he came off the edge, they had an easier time controlling him when he lined up in the middle. He's not always as physical as he needs to be when taking a block head-on, making it difficult to shed and make a play.
Ryan also had his issues in coverage, mostly with putting himself in the right spot in zone coverage. Given those problems, I think he fits better as a SAM.
Ryan's stock could be a whole lot higher if he hadn't essentially lost a year to a torn ACL before switching positions. Instead of establishing himself as an elite SAM or having a year of playing the MIKE under his belt, he spent much of his senior season still learning the finer points of playing in the middle.
On the plus side, his experience at multiple spots gives him versatility that's very coveted at the NFL level; anyone who can fill multiple roles while taking up just one roster spot is quite valuable. Ryan has the opportunity to add to that by being a special teams demon; he seems well-suited for that role.
Ryan has the size and physical tools to be an NFL starter. Whether or not he gets there depends on how quickly he can improve his technique and instincts.