Saturday, September 10, 2011

NCAA week 2, NFL week 1: 2007 Wolverines get PAID

*Programming note:  Now that it's college football season, I'm thinking of restricting Michigan-related posts to weekends (other than PC pickups during the week) and trying to bring the focus back to baseball and general collecting during the week.  I hope this makes as many people happy as possible, but of course this is subject to change--we'll see how it goes.

A perfectly-timed ESPN article:  Wolverine$
Due to this being week two of NCAA football, plus the start of the NFL season, I'm pleased to have something to comment on that covers both in a way that applies to this here blog.

Adam Schefter's 10-Spot column this week includes an interesting stat in item #4:  "No draft class in college history has produced the type of contracts that Michigan's Class of 2007 has."  The combined contracts earned by these players total a staggering $165.5 million!  Because this is the mainstream media we're talking about, and more specifically ESPN, I'm skeptical that they did the research to confirm this, but the "most" superlative does't interest me as much as the impressive numbers anyway.  So let's have a look at the players the brief note discusses.

The 2006 Wolverines were a fairly impressive squad that flew out of the gate undefeated until the historic 1-2 matchup with Ohio State, a classic game that was won by the Buckeyes (shortly after the sad and untimely passing of Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler).  Michigan, maybe let down after being passed over for a chance at a rematch with OSU in the title game, or maybe just poorly-coached against this type of team (I'm looking at YOU, Lloyd) played an uninspiring Rose Bowl game against USC, losing by a 32-18 score that wasn't even really that close.  This was the last truly great season from a team coached by Lloyd Carr before he retired, and Michigan hasn't come close to that kind of record since, though hopefully new coach Brady Hoke turns things around.

Regardless of the standings, this was an extremely talented Michigan team, a group that included an impressive number of players who were ultimately drafted (including a bunch of my favorites the following year).  As the above linked ESPN column notes, a bunch of players acquired in the subsequent 2007 draft have since performed at a high level and/or contributed to what amounts to a dump truck of money in contracts this offseason.  Here they are:

Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals, first round, #18 overall:  Although Hall was the only Wolverine chosen in the first round that year, an ESPN re-draft done this year (click on "2007") actually puts his value at five spots higher.  He earned his original draft spot with a nice Michigan career, including a Freshman All-American First-Team nod and the Michigan record for career pass break-ups. He's actually played better in the NFL, though, with 18 INTs and 70 PDs.  The Bengals, in a rare good decision, made him a big part of their future with a four-year extension worth $39 million.  He may not be Charles Woodson, but Hall is another fine example of a star Michigan CB in the NFL.  Bonus:  Terrell Owens calls him "Mr. Cause-A-Fumble."

Alan Branch, DT, Arizona Cardinals, second round, #33 overall:  Arizona traded with Oakland to grab Branch with the first pick in the second round.  He was an absolute beast on a defense full of stars, and no matter what happens in his life, he will forever be a legend for getting away with murder:
Yep, walk away, Penn State--your QB is dead
He hasn't been nearly the player in the NFL that he was in college, (he's the only player here not to be re-ranked into the first round) but all the same, Seattle gave him a two-year, $9 million contract.

LaMarr Woodley, DE/LB, Pittsburgh Steelers, second round, #46 overall:  LaMarr was a big-time recruit out of high school and he ultimately lived up to that honor at Michigan, where he won the Hendricks (top DE) and Lombardi (best DL/LB) awards.  After joining the Steelers, one of the 2000s' dominant teams, he became a sack machine when he was moved to OLB in Pittsburgh's excellent defensive scheme.  His play, along with Pittsburgh's success, allowed him to hoist another trophy with Lombardi's name on it as he was part of the Super Bowl XLIII-winning Steelers.  His 39.0 career sacks and overall defensive expertise earned him a six-year, $61.5 million extension to stay with the recent champs after originally being tagged as their Franchise Player.  ESPN also realized his relative worth, bumping him up 37 spots to #9 in their redraft.  On a personal note, it just makes me sick inside to know the Lions could have had Woodley, or even the next guy here, instead of Michigan State QB and likely career backup Drew Stanton.

David Harris, LB, New York Jets, second round, #47 overall:  The second round was kind to the Wolverines in 2007 (even if they deserved to go much higher!) as Harris followed his teammate Woodley when the Jets traded with the Packers to grab the former star Wolverine LB.  In college he was a tackling machine, leading the Wolverines in both of his full seasons, 2005 and 2006.  That habit certainly hasn't been broken in the NFL, which is why his teammates call him "Hitman," and why the Jets Franchised him before signing him to a four-year, $36 million extension.  ESPN's redraft moves him up the exact same number of spots as Woodley, meaning he falls one spot behind him again at #10 overall.

Steve Breaston, WR, Arizona Cardinals, fifth round, #142 overall:  Breaston came into Michigan as somewhat of a Devin Hester-type, playing WR and returner.  While he was sometimes inconsistent, he was undeniably electric, and you did whatever you could to get him the ball.  I was definitely surprised he was chosen so low, especially after some of his college performances, highlighted by a record-setting 315 all-purpose yards in the 2005 Rose Bowl.  His NFL career has also been a bit inconsistent, mainly due to injuries, (plus Arizona declining to put a decent QB on the field) but on the basis of his speed and skill, the Chiefs gave him a five-year, $20 million deal this year.  Though I don't exactly expect his career to flourish there, Breaston is still fairly young and may eventually find a team that will appreciate his talents, assuming he can ever get and stay healthy.  ESPN at least thought enough of him to move him up 114 spots to #28 overall (back to the first round) in their redraft.

These five players, three of whom are unarguably stars at their positions, earned some major bank this offseason, and hopefully this will be a trend for Wolverines in the NFL for years to come!

More NFL stuff:
The Lions open up their season this Sunday at Tampa Bay.  As are many Lions fans, (I'm more of a casual fan, to be fair--my loyalties tend to lie with teams that often draft Wolverines) I'm cautiously optimistic about this season.  As usual, the biggest threat to Detroit's success is the health of Matthew Stafford, but this is a potentially explosive offense with a much-improved defense, so big things could happen for the Lions this season.

Ok, enough NFL, back to college FOOTBAW!:

I've gotta kill a lot of time today due to Michigan's unprecedented home night game, hence the longer post today.  That and I'm watching lots of other games, including Toledo at Ohio State, just for a laugh.  At the time I'm writing this, the Rockets are actually in it, down 27-22 late in the third (thanks to a Toledo two-point conversion!).  While I doubt the Rockets can pull off the upset, it's been a fun game, though if that miracle does occur, I'll make sure to update this post.

More importantly:  Notre Dame visits the Big House tonight for Michigan's first ever home game under the lights.  It's something that I hope becomes a tradition, and with a new, forward-thinking AD, it certainly could happen.

Notre Dame is somewhat surprisingly favored by three, despite last week's faceplant at home against USF.  This is often a close game, though, so really, anything could happen.  The last two years, Michigan QBs have pulled off nail-biters to upset the Irish, and I don't know that my nerves could take that again, so I'm rooting for a Michigan romp.  For what it's worth, ESPN's GameDay guys all favor the Wolverines.

Speaking of GameDay, I caught a bit of the show towards the end this morning and was fairly impressed with the fans that showed up in droves on the Ingalls Mall with hilarious signs, (my favorite was a Brian Kelly "U MAD BRO?") cowbells and lots of noise.  The highlight was definitely Desmond Howard asking one of his sons, who couldn't have been more than three or four, who would win tonight.  Naturally, the younger Howard responded with "Michigan."  I hope so, kid, I hope so.

Come back tomorrow as I take a look at this week's Big 10 games, other interesting matchups, and hopefully some upsets.  Until then, LET'S GO BLUE!

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