For the second year in a row, Michigan turned out just three draft picks and none in the first round. This year, that total tied for fourth in the conference behind Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, with the Buckeyes turning out four times that mark.
It’s all part of the transition to Jim Harbaugh, whose track record for recruiting and player development projects to get Michigan back on track as a factory for NFL talent, something it hasn’t been since the Lloyd Carr era.
In April’s draft, the Big Ten churned out 47 draft picks through the seven rounds. That still trailed the SEC’s 51, but it beat out every other league and topped the previous year’s total by 12.
This is the fourth part of a series that takes a look at the Big Ten’s draft picks and how they might fit in early on with their NFL teams.
Today, we continue with the Wolverines:
Round 3, Pick 33: Graham Glasgow, C, Detroit Lions — The Lions continued their overturn of the trenches, following up the first-round pick of Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker with a Michigan rival in Glasgow. Glasgow was a warrior for the Wolverines, logging time at guard and center for a rebuilding offensive front and playing with a consistency and mean streak that made him one of the unit’s best leaders. In Detroit, he’ll enter a battle with incumbent starter Travis Swanson, who struggled mightily last season for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing attack. Glasgow was considered a reach in the third round, but he’ll take it, heading to an organization that has prioritized his position as a major need.
Round 4, Pick 34: Willie Henry, DT, Baltimore Ravens — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is known for plucking value out of the middle rounds of the draft. That alone should be a promising sign for Henry, whose quickness and technique seem advanced but whose discipline and consistency could use a boost. At just 21 years old, Henry is a bet on potential for Baltimore, which is hoping he can add the strength and resolve to be a three-technique defensive tackle or a nose tackle in its hybrid scheme. Until he can add mass to his 303-pound frame, however, he’ll stay buried on what is a pretty strong defensive line depth chart.
Round 6, Pick 16: Jake Rudock, QB, Detroit Lions — Rudock will join Glasgow in Detroit after a strange college career that found him starting for two different Big Ten teams in Iowa and Michigan. He helped re-energize the latter with his consistency and intelligence, two traits that made him an intriguing backup option in the NFL. Rudock doesn’t have the arm strength to really scare defenses or to bail him out of difficult situations, and he’ll need to work on his pocket presence, but his experience in a pro-style offense should expedite the process of competing for a backup spot behind Matthew Stafford.
Will it change?
The drought of top picks could well end as soon as next year for Michigan, as defensive tackle Chris Wormley and do-it-all safety Jabrill Peppers have surfaced in early mock drafts as potential first-round selections.
Michigan isn’t going to start regularly turning out high draft picks until it can compete for top recruits, and it isn’t going to produce draft classes with depth until it develops the under-the-radar players with limited upside. Fans are looking to Harbaugh to fix the Wolverines in both areas.
Early indications are that he can do both. The Wolverines went 10-3 last season, doubling the wins the group had under Brady Hoke the previous year. Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class this spring ranked fifth in the country, according to 247sports.com’s composite averages, and his 2017 crop already sits fourth in the early goings by the same rankings.
Harbaugh made Michigan competitive overnight, but the talent gap didn’t immediately disappear, as a 42-13 home loss to the arch-rival Buckeyes proved. Luckily for the Wolverines, that came at the hands of 12 draft picks, including an NFL-record 10 going in the first three rounds. Those stars have left the conference, although the challenge will be raising the bar rather than expecting Ohio State’s cupboards to ever truly clear out.