Scouting the Big 10: Michigan

While the success of Michigan in 2004 likely rests on the shoulders of a new quarterback one thing is certain, Michigan should have a big impact in next April's NFL draft offering both quantity and quality in 2005. Receivers, linemen and defensive backs head the list.

This could be the deepest crop of wide receivers at Michigan in more than a decade and it is headlined by Braylon Edwards.  A big, fast athlete, Edwards beats defenders in footraces down the sidelines or out muscles them to make the difficult grab.  Quickly releasing off the line of scrimmage, Edwards displays great body control and adjustment, easily getting vertical to make the difficult reception in midair.  Add into this Edwards' ability to consistently come away with the important catch during the games critical moments and at face value you are looking at an early draft selection.  Yet their is room for improvement as Edwards must improve his route running skills and become more intuitive as to what's happening on the field.  A complete senior campaign could push him into the top few selections of the next April's draft.  Jason Avant has neither the size nor strength of Edwards but is an excellent receiver prospect in his own right.  Quick and elusive, Avant is an excellent route runner that consistently gets separation from defenders then makes the reception with his hands. He displays terrific focus as well as timing and a junior offers a lot of potential for the next level. Steve Breaston is the smallest of the trio yet plays the fastest of the group and also adds the element of return specialist to his game.  A year behind Avant, he is also one to keep on the radar screen.  Michigan also has a pair of outstanding tight ends, both of whom are underclassmen.  Starter Tim Massaquoi is an outstanding athlete who looks like a star in the making.  A terrific pass catcher, Massaquoi is big, fast and strong.  Consistently making receptions into the secondary, Massaquoi causes a lot of mismatches for the defense.  He needs to improve his overall blocking yet with repetition he will be a hot prospect down the road.  Though not as athletic as Massaquoi, Michigan's other tight end, Tyler Ecker is also a pro-prospect.  Ecker quickly gets off the line and is a solid pass catcher who also does well blocking for the run or in pass protection.  Unlike his teammate, Ecker does not make his many plays down the field.  As is the case almost every year the Wolverines have a bevy of prospects on the offensive line and this year David Baas heads the group. A dominant lineman who destroys opponents off the snap of the ball, Baas is outstanding either blocking for the run or protecting the passer.  Nasty, strong yet also smart, comparisons will be made between Baas and former Wolverine Steve Hutchinson, though Baas is not in that class.  Still, he has the potential to be a top 45 pick in next April's draft.  Matt Lentz is not nearly as dominant but a solid guard prospect in his own right.  Just an underclassman, Lentz is best in a small area blocking for the run.

Defensively the top prospects come from Michigan's secondary, which is a surprise to no one.  Had he entered last April's draft Marlin Jackson would have certainly been a first round choice.  Off the field problems and a change of positions resulted in a disappointing 2003 campaign for Jackson, yet he still looked upon in scouting circles as an outstanding secondary prospect.  Most agree his best position is at cornerback where he combines both the athletic skills and technical aspects to be a very early pick in next April's draft.  That is assuming he has a solid senior campaign and stays out of trouble.  Like many of his predecessors who wore an Maison blue, safety Ernest Shazor is a hard-hitting, run defending safety that looks to intimidate the opponent.  Best in a straight line, Shazor displays good speed as well as a willingness to mix it up with opponents.  His pass cover skills are deficient and he must improve his abilities to make plays sideline-to-sideline yet at the very least Shazor is a solid strong safety prospect.  Markus Curry is a cornerback to watch and a senior who could really elevate his draft stock with a solid campaign in 2004.  Finally, outside linebacker Lawrence Reid is neither flashy or  explosive rather a solid defender that consistently makes positive plays.  Only a junior, he is one to keep an eye on.


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