(This post originally appeared at NFLDraftMonsters.com. Be sure to check both sites for my latest posts)
Last season, Michigan emerged from three dark years under Rich Rodriguez and finished 11-2 under new Head Coach Brady Hoke. The team’s success included a win over archrival Ohio State (its first since 2003!) and a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech. This year the Wolverines set out to prove that their revival under Hoke is no illusion. They return with a record-setting quarterback, an emerging running back, and a potential first round offensive lineman. Here’s a look at Michigan’s top draft-eligible prospects. Underclassmen are designated with an asterisk…
Denard Robinson QB 5’11 195 – Robinson’s eventual switch to wide receiver is inevitable. His slight frame is one thing, but it’s his popgun arm that simply won’t allow him to play quarterback in the NFL. Despite his limitations, he has thrown for almost 5000 yards and 40 TDs for Michigan. Still, he legs will be his ticket. Robinson has rushed for 3229 yards, averaged 5.9 yards per carry and run for 35 touchdowns in his three seasons – 30 coming in the last two. He reads openings in the defense well, and when he recognizes a running lane, his blazing speed allows him to burst through the hole. Robinson makes quick cuts, can stop on a dime, and has exceptional change of direction skills. His vision and open field speed make him an interesting punt and/or kickoff return prospect. His durability would be tested in this role, but he’d have a chance to contribute immediately. Make no mistake though. Robinson has never caught a pass or returned a punt in college, so even though he has gaudy statistics for the Wolverines, he is a project going forward.
Taylor Lewan* OT 6’8 309 – Lewan redshirted in 2009, but started nine games at left tackle in 2010. Last year, as a redshirt sophomore, Lewan started all 13 games at left tackle and was named second-team All-Big 10 by the conference coaches. Lewan has a tall, athletic build and long arms he can use to ward off defenders in pass blocking. He does a good job of not getting too upright and keeping his hands inside the defender. Lewan has good upper body strength, best demonstrated in his matchups with Ohio State’s John Simon, a well-known weight room warrior. On run blocks, Lewan exhibits his power with good pop out of his stance. He tends to attack the defense on run plays and tries to dictate where he wants his opponent to move; and once he opens a hole, he’s able to disengage and get another block at the second level. Lewan is a strong candidate to leave school after the season. He’s a fourth year junior who is one of the top prospects at a premium position, and that makes him a likely first round draft pick. For a detailed scouting report on Lewan, click here.
Fitzgerald Toussaint* RB 5’10 202 – After taking a redshirt season in 2009, Toussaint saw action in just six games the following season after missing two separate stretches of games for knee and shoulder injuries. He arrived on the scene as a redshirt sophomore last season, rushing for over 100 yards five times, including in four of the team’s last six games. Michigan went 5-0 in those games, and 7-0 in games in which he ran for at least 60 yards. Toussaint’s success took pressure off of Robinson and opened up some running lanes, as opposing defenses were forced to account for a player other than the dynamic QB. Toussaint has quick feet and good vision, and is an excellent cutback runner. He accelerates to top gear quickly and has good open field speed. He has the makings of a solid change-of-pace back, but he has little experience as a receiver or pass protector. Toussaint’s status is in question for the 2012 opener against Alabama and the early part of the season after he was arrested for DUI and suspended indefinitely. He has two years of eligibility remaining but many running backs in their fourth year out of high school opt to leave early.
Craig Roh DE 6’5 281 – Roh came in as a freshman and started 12 games at outside linebacker. As a sophomore, started games at both outside ‘backer and defensive end. Last season, under Hoke, Roh became a full time defensive end, starting all 13 games and amassing four sacks and eight tackles for loss. Roh isn’t a dynamic athlete. He struggles with more athletic left tackles and looks stiff operating in open space. He’s an able run stopper and he does have enough speed to maneuver around plodding right tackles. With his size and skill set, his best fit may be as a five-technique end in a 3-4, or a left end in a four man front. Roh is a solid player, who hustles hard on every play and is a valuable special teams contributor. He should come off the board in the mid to late stages of Day Three of the draft.
Jordan Kovacs SS 6’0 202 – Unrecruited out of high school, Kovacs attended an open tryout in 2008 in an attempt to walk on to the Michigan football team. His performance impressed coaches, but an existing knee injury spoiled his chances of making the team. Kovacs had surgery to repair a torn meniscus then tried out for the team again in the spring. This time Kovacs succeeded, and by the season opener he was on the kickoff team. Four weeks later, he racked up 17 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in a loss to Michigan State. Prior to the 2010 season, Kovacs was put on scholarship by the coaching staff. That year he started 13 games, made 116 total tackles – 8.5 for a loss – and intercepted two passes. Last season, with Hoke at the helm, Kovacs was set lose on a number of blitzes. He finished the season with four sacks and eight tackles for loss. Kovacs is a hard-nosed player and a heavy hitter. He doesn’t shy away from contact and possesses a kamikaze mentality perfect for special teams play. He’s an average athlete and will struggle in pass coverage so he probably won’t get more than late round or undrafted free agent consideration. But Kovacs has been counted out many times before so he’s used to fighting to earn everything he gets.
Roy Roundtree WR 6’0 180 – Roundtree redshirted in 2008 then caught 32 passes as a freshman in ’09. As a sophomore, he led the team with 72 catches, 935 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. This included a breakout 246 yard, two-touchdown performance against Illinois. Last season, as Michigan’s passing offense fell off by almost 900 yards, Roundtree’s production plummeted. He accounted for just 355 yards (on 19 catches) and two TDs all season. With two of the Wolverines’ top four receivers having departed for the NFL, Roundtree has a chance for a bounce back season. With a thin build and speed in the 4.5 range, he won’t ever be a starting wide out in the NFL. But if he can continue to show ability to get open down the field and adjust to balls in the air, he has a chance to catch on as a late round pick and develop into a solid rotational receiver.
Kenny Demens ILB 6’1 242 – Demens saw minimal action in 2008 before taking a redshirt season. In 2009 he appeared in 12 games while primarily playing special teams. He became a full time starter as a sophomore and finished third on the team with 82 tackles. Last season, was Demens’ best as he finished with 94 tackles and the first three sacks (he actually had half a sack in two separate games, and one each in two other contests) of his college career. Demens demonstrates pretty good reaction skills and moves well sideline to sideline. One issue though is that Demens lets the action come to him on many plays; and, as a result, many of his tackles come down the field. His pass coverage needs work as well. He can cover in close quarters, but when a receiver or back has him in space, Demens has trouble changing direction and keeping his feet under him. He doesn’t have the look of an every down NFL linebacker, but his experience on special teams and consistent effort will likely get him a look on Day Three of the draft.
Also keep an eye on: J.T. Floyd CB 6’0 183, Thomas Gordon* FS 5’11 207, Vincent Smith RB 5’6 175, Patrick Omameh G 6’4 305, Elliot Mealer G 6’5 308, William Campbell DT 6’5 308