Mario Manningham's college production in his three seasons as a Michigan wide receiver cannot be ignored when looking at him as an NFL prospect.
He appeared in 34 games and caught 137 passes for 2,310 yards and 17 touchdowns in his time at Ann Arbor.
While those numbers, taken on their own, might not be as impressive as the statistics accumulated by players in more pass-friendly offenses, two key statistics jump out: Against Big 10 competition — particularly the stifling defenses of Ohio State and Penn State — he averaged 16.8 yards per reception for his career and scored a touchdown on every eight receptions.
To put those numbers in perspective, Reggie Wayne averaged 14.5 yards per reception and a touchdown every ten receptions in 2007 and touchdown machine Greg Jennings has averaged 15.8 yards per reception and a touchdown every seven catches — which includes a 2007 season in which he averaged a touchdown every four times he caught the ball. And both of those men had the luxury of operating in a pass-first offense.
After starting his offseason badly with a 40 time of 4.59 at the Combine — many had assumed that, with his high yards per reception numbers and the perception that he was a deep threat, he would run in the low 4.4s or high 4.3s.
He recovered well at his Pro Day, posting a time of 4.42, as well as measuring in at a shade under 6 feet and 181 pounds and boosting his vertical jump from 32 to 35 inches.
Manningham is a first-round talent, but his off-field issues raise question marks
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Given everything Manningham has going for him, the Colts would not waste their time bringing him in for a visit since they do not hold a pick in the first round ... but, recent questions regarding his character have come into play and he risks the potential of a draft-day spiral into the later rounds.
By now most have heard that Manningham denied testing positive for marijuana during interviews at the Combine and those statements later turned out to be untrue.
Recreational marijuana use is not necessarily a death sentence for anyone's draft stock in particular — think of the 90's Cowboys, Onterrio Smith, and a certain dreadlocked tailback from Texas — but lying about a history of it most certainly is.,/p>
And, given the recent disciplinary actions of Roger Goodell, teams will understandably be weary of prospects that have a history of positive drug tests, even though Manningham claims that he no longer engages in marijuana use.
Performing damage control, he recently sent out a letter to all NFL teams apologizing for the deception, stating that he no longer uses the illicit substance, and offered to re-test and re-interview with any team that was interested.
Manningham is obviously hoping that his letter has similar results to the one sent out by Luis Castillo prior to the 2005 draft, in which he offered an explanation for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Castillo was drafted 30th overall that year, but Manningham will probably not be as fortunate.
However, he is an excellent player with tremendous potential, has the correct measurables and skill set to succeed as a member of the Colts, and would have the time and opportunity to sit and learn from more experienced professionals and mature before he is expected to contribute.
Ed Johnson found himself to be the unwanted recipient of a red flag in last year's draft, Randy Moss fell further than his talent level because of character concerns, but so did Antonio Bryant and Jimmy Williams, two men that could be out of the league by the end of next season. And, the issues that the Cincinnati Bengals have endured as a result of signing players with questionable characters is well documented.
The real issue at this point is whether or not the Colts believe that Manningham has stopped smoking marijuana and whether or not they can reconcile themselves with the fact that he lied to them and other teams in February.
Time and experience may heal all wounds, but there aren't many things that can heal a misused second-round draft pick; even over time.
In the third or fourth round, Manningham becomes less of a gamble. He could be available at that point, since it has been reported that a number of teams have taken him off their draft board completely.
He's a first-round talent with some seventh-round question marks. If he's still there in the fourth round, that sounds about right.