Monday, April 30, 2012

Michigan's Undrafted Free Agents - Find Out Where They Ended Up

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The 2012 NFL Draft is over. Luck and Griffin III have been drafted to their predicted teams. There have been good picks, and head scratchers. It has already been written about the Michigan Men (Martin, Molk, Hemingway) who were drafted onto an NFL team, so here's one about the guys who weren't.

Let it be known that when a player goes undrafted, that doesn't mean he doesn't receive a shot. Every player who enters the draft hires an agent, and when they are drafted by a team, that agent then works out the contract particulars for that player. However, when a guy goes undrafted, that player gets to choose between a limited number of teams who have expressed interest.

Most undrafted playres rarely get a starting job. Of course, the same can be said for players from the 4th round to the 7th round. These are your backup players, your practice squad guys. They're not granted the starting job right away, but have to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Now, just because I've said this, doesn't mean it's the bottom of the barrel. There are many players who go undrafted who go on to be stars in the NFL. Jeff Saturday, Wes Welker, Rod Smith, Antonio Pierce, and Bart Scott are just some of the guys who went undrafted, busted their tails, and went on to star careers in the NFL. Can our guys do the same? It is possible, and here's my guess as to how it might work out:

Troy Woolfolk
1. Troy Woolfolk, CB--Cowboys. Woolfolk has a good shot here. Cowboys were weak in the secondary before the draft, which is why they traded up to the 6th overall spot to grab Claiborne from LSU. It wasn't until they drafted a safety, Matt Johnson, out of Eastern Washington in the 4th round, that Dallas even drafted another secondary player. We all know Woolfolk has a rocky history at Michigan, when you include injuries and being on one of the worst defenses ever during the RR era, but I think he has the potential to grab a solid backup spot behind Claiborne. I still think the weak side of the Cowboys secondary is going to be a sore spot, especially with the heavy passing league the NFL has become. And typically, you'll find more teams adding secondary players to their teams and practice squads in case there's a major injury. Only Woolfolk's injury prone history might stop him for now.

Michael Shaw
2. Michael Shaw, RB--Redskins. This is very intriguing. Most fans are very well aware of Shanahan's penchant for picking different starting running backs. Last year, it was a mix of Hightower, Torain, and Royster. This year will have an even bigger change. Hightower left via free agency, and Torain was released. What did the Skins do this year in the draft? They took Griffin III of course. Then, against all common sense, they drafted Cousins out of MSU in the 4th round. The only running back they drafted? Alfred Morris our of Florida Atlantic in the 6th round. So, bottom line--Morris has just as much of a chance as Shaw does. Shaw, at 6'1" and 195 lbs, might seem sort of tall for a prototype running back in Shanahan's zone blocking offense. Shaw ran for just over 1,000 yards and 14 TDs in his career at Michigan; a respectable number but a low one compared to others who were drafted. Bottom line--the future is bright for Shaw, and would be for any running back for Mike Shanahan.

Brandon Herron
3. Brandon Herron, LB--Buccaneers. Herron, a 4 yr letterman might have the longest road to making an NFL team. Herron starred in some games last season, even making 1 start. His 2 defensive TDs in 1 game against WMU is a highlight no fans will be soon to forget. However, his play was never steady and he only seemed to show up big in non-conference games. The Bucs have a young defense on their team, which shows when they were blown out in their last 5 regular season games, and their head coach was fired. Now, they bring in Greg Schiano from Rutgers, who had a good head coaching career there, but keep in mind that for years he coached in different defensive positions at Miami, Penn St, and even the Chicago Bears for some time. The Bucs went mostly defense during the recent draft, and with Herron's playing history, the whole situation could be iffy. Bottom line--I think Herron will be cut before training camps start in July, or at least in the first couple weeks of camp.

Ryan Van Bergen
4. Ryan Van Bergen, DE--Panthers. I have to say, Van Bergen going undrafted surprised me. At 6'6 and 288 lbs, I thought he'd be the ideal pick for any team. He's had the experience on the line, and his motor was just closely mirroring that of Mike Martin. The Panthers defense was absolutely porous last year. Keep in mind that, before Cam Newton showed up, the Panthers scored 17 TDs and went 1-15. Last season with Cam, they scored 48 TDs as a team and went 6-10. Now yes, that is a significant upgrade from the previous season, but if their defense had been better, they might have contended for a playoff spot. The Panthers love their linebackers and defensive ends to be solid, and rush the passer consistently. Van Bergen shows these traits in spades. Bottom line--it will only be a matter of time till Van Bergen is able to grab an occasional starting nod, maybe due to injury or otherwise.

The next few months will prove to be interesting. Rookie mini-camps will start, and full team training camps begin towards the end of July. The NFL draft gave me just a little reprieve from the monotony of the NBA and NHL seasons. I will continue monitoring any news coming up on our new guys in the NFL, drafted or undrafted.

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