Scouting the Big 10: Michigan

One of the best programs in college football the past decade, Michigan consistently puts quality players into the NFL draft and next year will be no different. From round one until the final frame,as many as seven Michigan seniors stand to be drafted next April while another trio of underclassmen must be watched.

As is the case almost every year, Michigan has a number of quality NFL blocking prospects.  Guard Matt Lentz is a hard working blocker best in a small area.  A heads-up lineman who works well with teammates, he is strong at the point and effectively uses body positioning to keep opponents from the action.  Lentz also displays outstanding hand technique yet is not a finisher and will only be effective in a limited number of NFL blocking schemes.  Tackle Adam Stenavich is another lineman best in a small area but a blocker who gives top effort and plays a smart brand of football.  Possessing adequate size, Stenavich is a late round selection and NFL back-up to this point.  Red-shirt sophomore tackle Jake Long is one to keep on the radar screen.  Technically sound, Long plays heads up football, displaying great power with the ability to get movement from run blocks or hold the point in pass protection.  Marginally effective on the second level, he does not block with great balance and needs time to mature physically as well as on the football field.  Even with that Long looks like a future first rounder.  Once again Michigan offers several quality prospects at both the tight end and receiver positions.  Wide out Jason Avant is a nice fit as a large, possession receiver.  Consistently coming away with the tough grab on third down, he possesses outstanding eye\hand coordination as well as focus.  Adjusting to the errant throw, Avant pulls the fastball out of the air with strong hands and exposes himself to make the tough reception.  He also stands out as a blocker down the field.  Not a wide out who stretches the defense, Avant won't beat opponents in a foot race and is best in the short or intermediate passing game.  Speed is not a problem for junior Steve Breaston, a receiver that also impacts the game as a return specialist.  Consistently coming back to the quarterback to make himself an available target, Breaston quickly transitions from making the reception to running after the catch and is elusive in the open field, picking up a lot of yardage afterwards.  Technically sound in all areas, he is not a receiver who can take a pounding and hold onto the ball yet does offer size potential.  Consistency is another way to characterize tight end Tyler Ecker.  A heads up prospect, Ecker reads the defense, finds the soft spot on the field and extends to make the difficult reception.  A leverage blocker, he effectively uses angles and also displays footwork in pass protection.  Marginally strong at the point, he must improve as a blocker to complete his game, yet is a solid late round pick.  He'd fit as a number two tight end in a Pittsburgh Steelers-type system.  Michigan's other tight end, Tim Massaquoi is an enigma of sorts.  An outstanding athlete who flashes dominance and the ability to break games open with long pass receptions, Massaquoi is also in inconsistent player who disappears for stretches.  Running well in any direction of the field, he makes a lot of athletic plays catching the ball as well as blocking.  Yet with that Massaquoi seems lost on the field at times, does not display consistent hands nor finish blocks.  A big senior season and could push Massaquoi into the first day otherwise he will be late round gamble. 

Defensively the Wolverines have a trio of prospects to watch on the line, starting with Gabe Watson, their massive tackle.  A space eater in the middle, Watson takes up a lot of room and is tough to get around.  Quickly getting off the snap with a nice first step, he is a powerful lineman and effective when he plays with leverage.  Getting a lot of push up the field, Watson collapses the pocket, commands double teams yet at the same time can change direction and move laterally.  Not always on balance, Watson gets sloppy with his technique, pops up out of his stance and lets opponents get on the inside.  And while overwhelming at times, he seemingly is not properly conditioned and wears down as the game proceeds.  Doing the smart thing by returning to college for another season, Watson possesses the skills and has the ability to make a big leap up draft boards into the early reaches of round one next April with a productive senior season followed by quality interviews before the draft.  One prospect who does not get a lot of notoriety, LaMarr Woodley is consistently around the ball and in the offensive backfield making plays.  A leverage defender, Woodley reads the action, forces the play and is rarely off his feet.  Quickly getting off the snap, Woodley immediately alters his angle of attack and pursues from the backside to catch the ball carrier.  Disciplined, he works hard to make a play and can be used in a variety of roles in the NFL.  Only a junior, Woodley has top 40 potential.  Finally Pierre Woods is an outside linebacker who more times than not lines up in a three-point stance.  Tough to move off the point, Woods plays with excellent leverage and effectively uses his hands to protect himself.  Tall and thin, he must add bulk to his frame or be used as a rush linebacker in a 34 defense at the next level.

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