Start of Something Big: Recapping Michigan’s 2016 NFL Draft

The biggest event in the American sports world this past weekend, aside from the NBA and NHL playoffs, was the NFL Draft.

This year’s big headline, one that chagrined Michigan fans everywhere, was Ohio State’s success in the draft. They pumped out 12 picks total, including 5 in the first round. Insane numbers that are a testament to how well they have recruited under Urban Meyer since he took over in Columbus in 2012.

That certainly is not to say, however, that Michigan didn’t do well themselves. They had 3 total draft picks, and, as of now, 5 former Wolverines will at the least be appearing in NFL training camps.

OL Graham Glasgow, DT Willie Henry and QB Jake Rudock heard their names called in the NFL draft. While none of them heard their names called on the first day, the fact that a walk-on, a 3-star and guy who transferred to Michigan because he was not going to play at all at Iowa, is certainly an impressive thing. It also may be an indication of the program’s direction under Harbaugh.

Let’s start with Glasgow. Graham joined the Wolverines as a walk-on in 2011 before earning a scholarship in 2013. He has been a mainstay on Michigan’s offensive line, starting 37 games since making his debut in 2012. He was a versatile and completely reliable contributor to the Wolverine offense.

Luckily, for most Wolverine fans, they will be able to continue to root for Graham. The Detroit Lions took the versatile lineman in the 3rd round (95th overall). His ascension from walk-on to 4 time letterman to being drafted within the first 4 rounds is impressive. The Lions are lucky to have him, and are certainly happy to keep rooting for him.

Hell, even Urban Meyer himself had good things to say about the former Wolverine: “I think he’s a hell of a player. I saw him the last four years, he’s a great player and wish him well. They had a left tackle last year that was a high draft pick as well (Taylor Lewan in 2014). Fantastic player. This guy, we’ve seen him and have a lot of respect for this guy. Real tough guy, moves well and a good second-level blocker.” (Via: Detroit Free Press) 

One round later, defensive tackle Willie Henry was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens with the 132nd pick. Henry was a low 3-star coming out of Cleveland’s Glenville High School in 2012. He picked Michigan over Pitt, Illinois, Hawaii and Eastern Michigan. He appeared in 35 games in 3 seasons as a Wolverine, and was arguably the best member of a great defensive line at Michigan in 2015.

The lowly rated Henry would forgo in final year of college eligibility and declared for the 2016 NFL Draft. A move that not many might have expected when he signed with UM in 2012. projected Henry to be a 3rd round pick, and that was just about the consensus on him. As it turns out, John Harbaugh did his brother Jim a solid and grabbed Henry in the 4th round. While that was a bit lower than most had projected, the fact that he was even drafted is much far beyond what anyone would have expected of him coming out of high school.

One big question on the minds of every Michigan fan heading into the draft was whether or not beloved quarterback and future doctor Jake Rudock would get drafted. The Iowa transfer did wonderful things in his lone season with the Wolverines, tossing for 3,017 yards on 249 completions and 20 touchdowns while also rushing for 166 yards and 4 scores. He was never a flashy uber talent like Hackenberg or Josh Rosen, but Rudock was solid and Michigan fans came to love him for it.

Rudock was Iowa’s primary starter at quarterback in 2013 and 2014. He had low turnover rates and high completion percentages, but was often criticized for being too safe. Still, Rudock proudly wore the “game manager” label throughout his college career.

Then, following the 2014 season, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz promoted backup QB C.J Beathard to starter, prompting Rudock to seek opportunities to finish out his college career elsewhere.

“Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock was benched for C.J. Beathard in the middle of the Jan. 2nd TaxSlayer Bowl, a 45-28 loss to Tennessee,” said the Detroit Free Press’ Mark Snyder. “Six days later, coach Kirk Ferentz made the unusual move to release a new depth chart in January, with Beathard on top.”

That’s when Harbaugh came calling, and Rudock immediately became the overwhelming favourite to start under center for the Wolverines in 2015.

Rudock had a rocky start to the season, tossing three interceptions in the opener at Utah. But, he steadily improved over the course of the season. Michigan would not have gone 10-3 without him. Still, at no point did anyone really think Rudock would be an NFL quarterback. Not even as a backup. He was a 3-star prospect who was an average quarterback at Iowa. Not exactly a description indicative of a guy headed for the NFL.

Rudock was impressive towards the end of the 2015 season, particularly in the Citrus Bowl where he threw for 278 yards and three scores. After that game, the possibility of Rudock playing in the NFL seemed to be a bit more realistic.

“Jake Rudock getting hit and passes against corners that were going to be playing in the NFL, he’s going to be drafted,” said Jim Harbaugh via The Detroit News’ Angelique Chengelis

He was right. The Detroit Lions selected Rudock in the 6th round with the 191st pick. Once again, this made most Michigan fans very happy.

And, while most see Rudock as a backup for the Lions, let’s not write him off just yet. Looking at MGoFish Show co-host David Arnold’s tweet, you just never know what can happen, can you? 

As for the undrafted free agents; FB Joe Kerridge (WSH), FB Sione Houma (NO), S Jarrod Wilson (JAX) and LB Mario Ojemudia (BAL) have all signed deals. LB James Ross has been invited to tryout for the Ravens as a free agent. Hopefully, those guys will get the chance to play on sundays as well.

For Michigan, the 2016 draft was a good one. They turned some lower level prospects into draft picks and had their record streak of 77 consecutive drafts with a player selected extended to 78.

As Bleacher Report Ben Axelrod wrote, this should be Michigan’s last small draft class under Harbaugh. In 2017, Michigan will send CB Jourdan Lewis, TE Jake Butt, DL Chris Wormley, DE Taco Charlton, RB De’Veon Smith, and, more than likely, DB/LB Jabrill Peppers (better to acknowledge it now than live in denial, folks), amongst others to the NFL Draft. Michigan will have more than one first round pick next spring. Most importantly for Michigan, unlike in years past, those draft picks will be more than adequately replaced. What a time to be alive.

“This draft is just a start, and while a modest one, it still serves as a testament of Harbaugh’s ability as a player developer,” said Axelrod. “Soon enough, he’ll be putting his own recruits in the pros, which could be reminiscent of what’s occurring at his Big Ten counterparts.”

What did you think of Michigan’s 2016 NFL Draft? What do you think about Michigan’s 2017 NFL Draft projections? Let me know in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison Rahajason
@ me, bro