There is an interesting article in today's Chicago Tribune looking at the upcoming draft of college football players.
I'm not sure whether you'll be able to read the article, as I have a Trib subscription and it may not open for you (I can't tell.) The author's basic point is summed up in the title.
As for the idea colleges and spread offenses are producing more NFL-prepared wide receivers, well, you can forget about that.
The problem is that spread offenses have very limited route trees. If his stats are correct, of the last 13 WR taken in the first round from 2015 - 2017, there isn't a single true number 1 receiver.
In this year's Senior Bowl practice, the best of the bunch, Ok State's James Washington, apparently isn't wowing scouts. He averaged 66 catches 1339 yards and 11 TD's over the last 3 years. But he is limited.
"I have to expand my route tree because that was the thing most scouts talked about coming into this week — I have a limited route tree,” said Washington, the winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver this year. “I just want to prove I can do more.” Reality is the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Washington was asked to run about three, maybe four routes at Oklahoma State. Same thing goes for Jaleel Scott, the 6-foot-5, 216-pounder from New Mexico State who has an 81½-inch wingspan that makes you think of Calvin Johnson.
The problem isn't limited to wide receivers.
As one college scouting director said, the problem facing teams as they sort through potential wide receivers is the same one they battle when it comes to identifying quarterbacks. A guy who runs three routes in college could be asked to run dozens with options off of most of them as a pro. His playbook goes from being thin to a stuffed binder and there’s a ton of information that must be assimilated. The spread offense is simple reads for quarterbacks and simple routes for receivers. “We’re getting fundamentally unsound players,” one general manager said Wednesday between the North and South practices.
The article is interesting enough on its own merits. I thought of Michigan, because of the difference between Tariq Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones. What I've read here is that Black was more polished, and that DPJ struggled to learn routes. He just was faster and bigger than DB's in HS, but basically didn't really have to learn route trees, and so wasn't as prepared for Michigan.
If all this stated in the article is true, it gives me even more hope for Harbaugh and Michigan. My rudimentary understanding is that the coaching staff at Michigan is playing more of a pro-style offense, affecting especially the OL, QB, and WR group (also the TE, I suppose.) It is much harder to do, but we could reap benefits down the road.
My hope is that Michigan will eventually master concepts, which allow them to basically have an NFL offense playing against a spread defense. This will do two things. Most importantly, Michigan will be well equipped to win games. But secondarily, this is a huge, huge selling point to kids who want to be prepared for the NFL. If Harbaugh and Drevno and Hamilton are doing their job, they are identifying kids who have the ability to play in the NFL, regardless of ratings for college ball.
I don't know enough of football concepts to be sure, but I for one am willing to be patient, to see this come to pass. In the short term, I'd love to see this bring Anderson and Petite-Frere to Ann Arbor. We shall see.