After a review came in from Big Ten Nation earlier in the week, we talked to After a review came in from Big Ten Nation earlier in the week, we talked to

Michigan Wolverines Top Prospects for 2012 and Beyond Part II


After a review came in from Big Ten Nation earlier in the week, we talked to Ace Anbender of the Wolverine Blog and contributor at FanSided’s Side Lion Report. Ace was kind enough to supply us with a second layer of scouting for the Michigan Wolverines, particularly a few of the team’s top seniors…

While Michigan’s storied football program has traditionally churned out top-level NFL draft picks, the rocky transition into the Rich Rodriguez era and the poor seasons that followed have left the Wolverines without their usual stock of high-level pro prospects. Brandon Graham (No. 13 overall in 2010) is the only Wolverine to go in the first round since 2008, and seeing linebacker Jonas Mouton go as high as the second round in this year’s draft came as a shock to most who saw him suit up in college.

While the Maize and Blue have fallen on tough times, however, they still have players who should make an impact at the next level:

68 Mike Martin (Senior), DT, 6’2” 299


In my (admittedly amateur) opinion, Martin is far-and-away the best pro prospect among all of Michigan’s upperclassmen, 2012 draft-eligible or not. He has often been the lone bright spot on what has been a terrible Wolverine defense for the past two seasons despite playing out of position at nose tackle while battling injuries (at one point last season, he was playing on two high ankle sprains) and constant double-teams, and I think he’s criminally underrated both by draft gurus and college experts alike. Martin is a former high school state wrestling champion and record-setter in the discus and shot put, and he has only added strength at Michigan, earning comparisons to the Hulk in the process. While his sheer power – especially for his size – is likely his best attribute, Martin is also very nimble for a defensive tackle and his low center of gravity gives him the dual threat of bull-rushing or simply using his quickness to split through the line. Martin’s production has been lacking – just 37 tackles (six TFLs) in 12 games last year following a 51-tackle, 8.5 TFL season in 2009 – he’s been stuck with incompetent coaching and ever-altering schemes (seemingly all of which wasted his talent and versatility) for the last two seasons. This year, former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison takes over the same position in Ann Arbor, and he’s already shown a willingness to move Martin around (even lining him up at linebacker during the spring game) to take advantage of his combination of power and athleticism. I think Martin will have a breakout senior year, and with him already on the radar of some NFL draft experts (Kiper has him as 2012’s No. 2 DT), I could see him earning his way into the first round. If he drops any lower, some team will be coming away with a steal.

50 David Molk (RS Senior), C, 6’2” 288


I’ve had the privilege of seeing Molk and Martin lock horns in practice over the last couple years, and their battles often end up a stalemate. The Wolverines have boasted a strong offensive line in their last two seasons under Rich Rodriguez, and Molk has not only been the leader making sure everyone is on the same page (one of the underrated duties of a center) but the team’s most consistent lineman. While he lacks ideal NFL size, Molk moves very well for a lineman and has displayed an impressive ability to execute difficult reach and pull blocks when playing in Rich Rodriguez’s zone-blocking system. This year, Michigan will move to more of a pro-style offense under Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges, and this should give Molk the chance to work on his man-to-man blocking – he needs to prove he has the strength to handle NFL defensive linemen. If he does – and I expect he will, given the opportunity – I could see Molk going in the third or fourth round as one of the first few centers to go off the board.

53 Ryan Van Bergen (RS Senior), DE, 6’6” 283


Van Bergen is another Wolverine defender whose draft stock has likely taken a hit thanks to the team’s poor performance and lack of solid (or just lack of, period – Greg Robinson is somewhat of a persona non grata around these parts) defensive coaching. Van Bergen has great size for a defensive end, but on a razor-thin Michigan squad, he’s bounced between DE and DT for much of his career as the team desperately tried to find a scheme and personnel that didn’t completely suck (they failed, hence the new coaching staff). Because of this, it’s tough to get a handle on Van Bergen’s NFL prospects – or even how good he is as a college player – but he’s been a standout in the weight room and posted decent stats (90 tackles, 15 TFLs, and nine sacks in 26 career starts – 14 at DE, 12 at DT). He does tend to disappear for stretches, but it’s difficult to assess whether that’s his own fault or an issue of circumstance – on top of RVB’s position switches, Michigan’s back seven has been atrocious these past two years, and it’s certainly hurt the production of the front four. Now that Michigan is committed to the 4-3 under and RVB is back at his natural position at DE, his numbers could make a leap that catches the attention of scouts and make him a later-round pick.

Barring a wildly-unexpected early exit or breakout performance, I’m sad to say that I don’t see another Wolverine getting drafted in 2012. The one player who could sneak into the draft with a breakout senior year is tight end Kevin Koger, who has shown flashes of NFL potential but was not a large part of Michigan’s spread offense and has struggled with drops during his collegiate career – he’ll get a chance to be a much bigger part of the new pro-style offense, and he is capable of making catches like this, which will at least spice up his highlight reel. There’s a ton of young talent on the Wolverines (keep your eye on redshirt sophomore left tackle Taylor Lewan, who has already drawn comparisons to 2008 top overall pick and former Wolverine Jake Long), but it will be another year or two before Michigan is back to being their traditional NFL talent factory.

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