Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Five Good Questions with . . . Jim Carty of The Ann Arbor News about Michigan and the NFL Draft

Today is our last installment of "Five Good Questions" that deals with the NFL Draft....after taking a skiing vacation in Colorado, Jim Carty of The Ann Arbor News was nice enough to still respond.....Jim covers Michigan football and provides some insight on the Wolverine players who are getting ready for Saturday's draft...

Q1. Some of the updated draft sites have Alan Branch sliding out of the top 10. He has all the physical talent to dominate at his position. However, the knock on him is that he does not fully utilize his talent. Seeing Branch play and practice over the last few years, what is your assessment?
Well, first it should be noted that since Michigan only allows the media to watch practice once or twice a year, my analysis of Branch and other players is based mostly on game performances with some feedback from folks who regularly see practice. Branch has tremendous physical gifts. He's 6-6, 335 pounds and moves like a player 50 to 75 pounds lighter, which allowed him to actually play multiple skill positions and basketball in high school. He recovers quickly from mistakes and relentlessly pursues when the play moves to the other side or gets by him. Physical analysis aside, he's also highly intelligent, extremely engaging and a positive locker room influence. His ceiling as a person appears as high, or higher, than his ceiling as an athlete.

So, what's not to like? Well, at Michigan, I think there's a certain value put on an almost blind belief in the program and coaches, a belief that I don't think Alan had. He wasn't a "Go Blue!" rah-rah sort of guy. It's almost like you have to blindly surrender to the program here - remember, Braylon Edwards, one of the most well-liked players in recent Michigan history, was in the dog house as late as his junior year -- and I never got the feeling Branch was fully on board. There have obviously been rumors he doesn't always practice as hard as he plays, and that he wasn't a big fan of the academic side of college football (although the second one is a bit puzzling to me, since he seemed like a much better intellectual fit for Michigan than many other athletes I've met).

I think once he decided to come out, he got caught up in the moment a little bit, let his conditioning go, and has been playing catch-up ever since. He's got character, smarts and all-pro raw ability. I think that combination keeps him in the top 10 or pretty close to it. Does he put it all together in the NFL? I'm betting he probably does.

Q2. Leon Hall is rated as the top cornerback in the draft. However, he was beaten in both the Ohio State and Rose Bowl games. How good of a pro do you see him becoming and what does he need to work on?
If work ethic and character could guarantee you'd be an All-Pro, you could pencil Hall in for a trip to Hawaii for the next ten years or so, but I think there's a fundamental issue with his speed. A lot of times you see a guy who has better football speed than track speed, i.e. he can make plays even though he doesn't run a 4.4. Hall is the opposite. His times in the 40 are very respectable, yet he struggles when matched up with an elite speed receiver such as Ohio State's Ted Ginn. I don't think Leon ever becomes an elite 1-on-1 cover corner, but will be a very effective player for a team that runs zone coverage.

Q3. Michigan has two linebacker prospects in David Harris (photo) and Prescott Burgess. Describe each player and which of the two will have a better pro career?
I don't really think you can compare the two players. Harris plays faster, hits harder, has more drive and dedication, and a much more accomplished track record of success. Few defensive players in America, and none in the Big Ten, had a better senior season than Harris. Something just clicked for him. I'd be very surprised if Harris doesn't become a stalwart inside linebacker for some team. Probably not a star, but a guy who could play 10 years and make a ton of plays if he stays healthy. Think Victor Hobson with the Jets, maybe with a little more upside. Burgess? It's hard to tell. He has tools and makes plays - sometimes big plays - but also seems to disappear for long stretches. Clearly a better pass-rusher than Harris. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a nice little NFL career and I wouldn't be surprised if he was cut in training camp and never heard from again.

Q4. Lamar Woodley is often described as a “hybrid” defensive player who can play either DE or OLB. In college, he played DE. Does Woodley have the ability to play both positions in the NFL?
This is a tough one. Part of me wants to compare him to Dwight Freeney. Freeney faced a ton of questions about his size and speed coming out of Syracuse, but his ability to make plays simply out-weighed his measureables. There's some of that about Woodley. Yet is there enough of it? I'm just not sure. He has a relentless motor, a dedication to the game and unquestioned toughness, but he's obviously a little bit small for an NFL end and a little bit slow for an outside linebacker. At the least, I'd expect him to be an effective situational pass rusher, and there's a chance he'll be more than that. There are a lot of safer picks in the first and second rounds of the draft, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him fall to the third round or below.

Q5. Is there a place in the NFL for Steve Breaston?
I don't think so. Breaston simply isn't an NFL-level receiving talent -- not fast enough, not big enough, questionable hands. That leaves him as a return specialist and, even there, I'm just not sure he's special enough to dedicate a roster spot to. Maybe he gets drafted, but I can't see him having much of a career.

I want to thank Jim for taking the time to respond....it is much appreciated......on Thursday we have another guest columnist who is going to breakdown the NFL Draft -- The Maverick rides into town....

Also, check out Zach at The Big Picture...he has an interesting question going on about sports movies

The Big Picture

Also check out Marcos at Just Call Me Juice...he is doing a survey of the worst jerseys you own

Just Call Me Juice


Anonymous said...

An NFL fan here, but not a Michigan fan. This had to be one of the best interviews you've had. Carty really answered all your questions. In full.

Erika PW said...

Boy...As I look back over your comment and review each of these players and their success in the past few seasons, I laugh at how WRONG you were about each of them and their ability, especially Steve.

Nice try with the analysis, however.

Erika PW said...

Boy...As I look back over your comment and review each of these players and their success in the past few seasons, I laugh at how WRONG you were about each of them and their ability, especially Steve.

Nice try with the analysis, however.