Mailbag: Why so little love for Funchess?

Mailbag: Why so little love for Funchess?


May 25, 2011

I was kind of surprised Rivals didn’t give Devin Funchess a fourth star. Which isn’t to say I think they SHOULD have, since I know very little about recruiting and try not to be an “OMG They Didn’t Give Ricardo Miller Nine Stars” guy. But he looked to demonstrate some acrobatic receiving ability in his video, while also being a good prototypical size. What do you think held him back?                – Ben 

Tight end/wide receiver/H-back Devin Funchess committed to Michigan a little over a month ago.  So far Rivals hasn’t given Funchess a star rating.  For comparison’s sake, Scout gave him 4 stars and ranked him as the #6 tight end in the country.  247 Sports gives him 4 stars and rates him a 90 overall.

I’ve been a member of Rivals for a few years, and they often downgrade players without clearly defined positions.  At 6’4″ and 215 lbs. (or lighter), Funchess’ future position is a little murky.  Some think he’ll develop into a full-fledged tight end, some think he might have the speed to play wideout, and some think he’ll be an Aaron Shea-like fullback/tight end.  Without knowing what position a certain player might occupy at the next level, it’s difficult to say that he’ll be a high-impact guy.

Also, keep in mind that the recruiting services figure in NFL potential with their ratings.  Especially at Rivals, 5-star players are considered to be potential first rounders, 4-stars are thought to have good potential to be drafted, etc.  Tight end isn’t a premium position for the NFL, and H-back is even less so.  Since 2004 the only two tight ends to receive 5 stars from Rivals were Martellus Bennett (2005) and Kyle Rudolph (2008).  Consider that there were five 5-star running backs and nineteen 4-star running backs in the class of 2011.  Meanwhile, there were zero 5-star tight ends and only sixteen 4-star tight ends in the same class.  If the NFL doesn’t value tight ends as highly as other positions, high school recruits are going to be slightly downgraded as a result.

So this is probably what Rivals is thinking:

a) What’s his position at the next level?
b) Does he have a lot of potential to get to the NFL?

Personally, I think Scout and 247 Sports have it right.  Putting on weight should never be a problem for a player who desires to do it, and I have heard no questions about Funchess’ work ethic or coachability.  I would rather take a good athlete and bulk him up than a take a big guy and try to make him more athletic.  In my experience, the latter tactic will rarely pan out.  Funchess can run, jump, catch, and adjust to the ball in the air.  Michigan just saw a 2007 recruit who had similar size coming out of high school leave as a 6’4″, 268 lb. tight end who excelled at blocking.  But Martell Webb was a 4-star and the #29 wide receiver in his class, so you can see that the ratings aren’t consistent.  (I will admit, though, that Webb was probably a slightly better athlete coming out of high school than Funchess is today.)

Don’t be too surprised if Funchess works his way up to 4-star status with a solid senior season.  He has plenty of athleticism to move up to that next step, and if he remains on the 3-star level at Rivals, I think he’ll outplay that rating by the time all is said and done.

12 comments

  1. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    May 25, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    Good article Magnus. I would take issue with one thing however.

    While I don't doubt that Rivals considers RB's to be more valuable (or thinks they are considered more valuable by NFL teams) at the NFL level than TE's, I'm not really sure the draft actually bares that out.

    I would argue that with the recent (re)emergence of the tandem type backfield (ie. two guys sharing the load) and the ability of NFL teams to find good/great RB's in the second round or later, the good TE has become even more valuable and thus more appealing to teams in the first round.

    Basically I'm saying that TE has become a "premium position" while RB is no longer in that "premium" category with QB's, LT's etc.

    Take recent drafts as an example. I'd argue this was a weak draft for both TE's and WR's, but in the first 50 picks you had 2 TE's and 2 RB's. The only RB in the first round was Mark Ingram.

    In 2010, 3 RB's and 2 TE's in the first 50 picks (although 3 RB's were taken in the first round with only 1 TE).

    I'm not sure if TE could be considered a "5 star" position, as it seems like 1 TE is about the max you'll see in the first round. But it does seem like TE should be more represnted among the 4 star group, as TE's seem to get taken in the second round quite often.

    All that said, I've kind of convinced myself of the opposite of what I've just written, as I certainly feel that NFL teams place more value on QB, LT, CB, DE, and DT at the very least. Now that I'm really thinking about it, TE is probably in a group with positions like guard and strong safety.

  2. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    May 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    I don't know where people keep getting this notion that rivals cares about pro potential. I think that this is a myth invented in the RichRod era by Michigan fans to justify all of RichRod's crappy recruiting. If this were true, dual threat QBs like Tyrod Taylor, Tim Tebow, and Terrelle Pryor would have been ranked way, way lower. QB is the only position where there is an obvious difference between an elite player at the college level and a guy who can go pro. For everyone else, like running backs, WRs, LBs, etc, college potential is pretty much the same as pro potential. i.e. a guy who's awesome in college most likely will go pro.

  3. Comments: 21395
    May 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:40 a.m.

    In Rivals' explanation of how they rate players, "pro potential" is mentioned repeatedly.

    So the notion that Rivals cares about pro potential comes from…Rivals.

  4. Comments: 21395
    May 25, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:23 a.m.

    I think the NFL draft historically bears that out. I think the past couple drafts have been iffy when it comes to running back talent. Nobody that stellar has come out of college since probably Chris Johnson. However, my guess is that tight ends picked in the top 10 are very rare. I'm sure there are others, but Vernon Davis is the only top-10 TE I can think of at the moment. Meanwhile, I could list a bunch of top 10 running backs. The RB position has lost importance to the NFL in the past few years, but I don't know if that has trickled down to high school recruiting just yet.

    Additionally, I think college running backs are just as important as ever. A kid like Noel Devine might be a 5-star running back based entirely on his college potential (and he was an awesome college running back when healthy), but the chances of a 5'7" running back making it in the NFL are pretty slim.

  5. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    May 25, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    "I would rather take a good athlete and bulk him up than a take a big guy and try to make him more athletic. In my experience, the latter tactic will rarely pan out."

    Does this include the safety/linebacker recruits from the RR era? I realize there's a position difference, but if you could only choose one, would you rather have Josh Furman or Jake Ryan?

  6. Comments: 21395
    May 25, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Anon @11:57pm

    The statement you quoted likely has a qualifier of similar intangibles…similar play recognition, technique, etc.

  7. Comments: 21395
    May 25, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Magnus,

    Greg Olsen was a first-rounder, though not in the top 10. In case that counts.

  8. Comments: 21395
    May 25, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Magnus,

    "but the chances of a 5'7" running back making it in the NFL are pretty slim. "

    Unless you're a little weiner-lookin' gritster named Danny Woodhead, amiright?

    /sarcasm

  9. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    May 25, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    My question is – should we care if Funchess gets a 4th star or not?

    He is a committed recruit therefore the decision (barring a change-of-heart) has already been made by both the coaches and player, so who really cares if an analyst changes their opinion on him afterwards.

    The way I see it the lower rank is at this point better for the school. While we'll be worse off in the (ultimately meaningless) team recruiting rankings, we'll look better in the long run if we 'develop' a 3-star into an NFL player than a 4-star (if such a thing was to occur with Funchess).

    Don't get me wrong, I realize the recruiting rankings matter in the sense that they strongly correlate with production, but correlation isn't causation. They're just predictions.

    It's nice to have the coaches opinion validated, but that will ultimately get decided in the Fall not in spring or signing day.

    -Lank

  10. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    May 26, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    "In Rivals' explanation of how they rate players, "pro potential" is mentioned repeatedly."

    It's barely mentioned, in passing. Regardless, rivals doesn't bias their ratings against guys who are purely cut out to succeed in college. It's a delusion that homerific fans frequently use to justify their opinion that player X is "underrated" by rivals. There are numerous examples of dual threat QBs with little or no pro potential being ranked highly. Tate Forcier is a perfect example. TEs tend to get ranked lower because they tend to not have much impact in college, and not just pros. Even the best tight end in the program's history (Tuman) only had 1279 yards receiving in four years.

  11. Comments: 21395
    May 26, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    @ Anonymous 10:04 a.m.

    Actually, it IS mentioned repeatedly. When I have more time, I will find the exact quotes.

    Yes, Tate Forcier was a 4-star dual-threat recruit. He doesn't project well to the pros because he's about 6'1" or 6'0". Since Rivals started ranking players, there have been 14 pro-style quarterbacks given 5-star ratings, and only 11 dual-threat quarterbacks given 5-star ratings. Forcier was the #5 dual-threat in 2009, and the shortest of the top five. In fact, the next 6'0" dual-threat recruit to be ranked that year was #22 on the list…and he signed with Wyoming. The #1 guy (5-star Russell Shepard) that year is currently playing wideout for LSU, and I'm sure Rivals isn't very proud of ranking Shepard the #1 dual-threat quarterback right now.

  12. Comments: 21395
    Jun 14, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    @ Anonymous 10:04 a.m.

    Here's the information I was looking for. I will accept your apology whenever you get around to it.

    The ranking system ranks prospects on a numerical scale from 6.1-4.9.

    6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation's top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect

    6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation's top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team

    5.7-5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region's top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team

    5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player

    4.9 Sleeper; no Rivals.com expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about

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