Ranking Michigan’s Wide Receivers

Ranking Michigan’s Wide Receivers

August 24, 2020
David Terrell (image via Michigan Football History)

Previously, I ranked the Michigan quarterbacks (LINK) and running backs (LINK) from the beginning of the Lloyd Carr era onward. That corresponds with the time that I have paid close attention to Michigan football.

Now we will take a look at the receivers. Because I don’t have an endless amount of time, I have to trim this down to guys who started at least twelve games in a Michigan uniform, which represents roughly one full season as a starter. The lone exception here is Devin Gardner, who started a bunch of games, but mostly at quarterback.

Hit the jump for the list.

1. David Terrell
Career starts: 21 from 1999-2001
Career statistics: 152 catches for 2,317 yards (15.2 yards/catch) and 23 touchdowns
Best game: In the famous comeback win over Alabama in the Orange Bowl, Terrell was Tom Brady’s favorite target, making 10 catches for 150 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? I might take some flak for this, but for my money, Terrell is the guy I would want on the field the most for Michigan. Things didn’t go his way in the NFL, but he had size, speed, instincts, and ball skills, and he showed up when the pressure was on. It’s neck-and-neck between him and Edwards, but I give the edge to Terrell, whose numbers would have been on par with Edwards’s if Terrell didn’t leave one year early for the NFL draft (#8 overall to the Bears in 2001).

2. Braylon Edwards
Career starts: 33 from 2001-2004
Career statistics: 252 catches for 3,541 yards (14.1 yards/catch) and 39 touchdowns
Best game: Edwards had probably the most famous day in history for a Michigan receiver when he made 11 catches for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns in an overtime win against Michigan State in 2004.
Why the ranking? If there’s a receiving category at Michigan, Edwards is probably at or near the top of it. Both he and Terrell are almost tied here at the top, because they could each take over a game. I’m dinging Edwards slightly for the frustrating drops early in his career, but those were mostly gone by the time he was a senior. He became the #3 overall pick in 2005 and made 40 touchdown catches during his pro career.

3. Amani Toomer
Career starts: 15 from 1992-1995
Career statistics: 143 catches for 2,657 yards (18.6 yards/catch) and 18 touchdowns
Best game: In 1995 against Minnesota, Toomer caught 5 passes for 177 yards (35.4 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns, including a 75-yarder. Even when he wasn’t catching 75-yard touchdowns, he was averaging over 25 yards/catch.
Why the ranking? Perhaps is Toomer is underrated by Michigan fans despite a long and successful NFL career, and maybe it has something to do with his icy relationship with Lloyd Carr. Whatever the reason, Toomer averaged an excellent 18.6 yards per catch for his career and was actually the all-time leader at Michigan for receiving yards in a single season at one point (1,096 as a junior in 1994). He was a 2nd round pick in 1996 and would go on to make 668 catches and score 54 receiving touchdowns in the league.

4. Jeremy Gallon
Career starts: 24 from 2009-2013
Career statistics: 173 catches for 2,704 yards (15.6 yards/catch) and 17 touchdowns
Best game: Against Indiana in 2013, scored 2 touchdowns and set school records for receptions (14) and receiving yards (369).
Why the ranking? Boosted largely by a great senior year, Gallon finds himself here on this list. He led the team in receiving during both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but he caught 89 balls as a senior and now stands #3 on the career receiving yardage list.

5. Mario Manningham
Career starts: 23 from 2005-2007
Career statistics: 137 catches for 2,310 yards (16.9 yards/catch) and 27 touchdowns
Best game: Manningham made Notre Dame looks silly in 2006 when he made 4 catches for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 69-yard double-move gem.
Why the ranking? Manningham was one of the smoothest competitors at receiver and made some people look uncoordinated with his acceleration and change of direction. He played at a time when Michigan was more pro-style oriented, but he’s one guy who would have excelled in the spread offense that became more of Michigan’s style in the Rich Rodriguez era onward.

6. Tai Streets
Career starts: 37 from 1995-1998
Career statistics: 131 catches for 2,016 yards (15.4 yards/catch) and 17 touchdowns
Best game: Michigan fans probably remember him most for his 4-catch, 127-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Washington State in the Rose Bowl, but he caught 6 passes for a career-high 192 yards and 1 touchdown in 1998 against Minnesota.
Why the ranking? I personally forget about Streets at times, and that’s probably partly due to the players around him. In retrospect, quarterback Brian Griese and the running backs did not give Streets a ton of room to create, and his overall numbers were nothing special. I think Streets would have been more of a standout in a different era. He went on to become a 6th round pick in 1999.

7. Donovan Peoples-Jones
Career starts: 26 from 2017-2019
Career statistics: 103 catches for 1,327 yards (12.9 yards/catch) and 14 touchdowns
Best game: Amazingly, the 5-star recruit never topped the 90 yards he put up against SMU in 2018. He did score 3 touchdowns out of 4 catches in that game, though, which is pretty good.
Why the ranking? Part of the blame for Peoples-Jones’s lack of production has to fall on Jim Harbaugh and Co., who generally do not help receivers achieve greatness, but some of that blame falls on Peoples-Jones, too. He was not a great route runner and suffered from some lapses in concentration. He was more talented than what his stats show.

8. Marquise Walker
Career starts: 19 from 1998-2001
Career statistics: 176 catches for 2,269 yards (12.9 yards/catch) and 17 touchdowns
Best game: Walker gave his best effort to attempt to beat Ohio State in 2001, though it ended in a 26-20 loss. But he set career highs with 15 catches for 160 yards and tied his best mark with 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Walker played at the same time as David Terrell, and he inherited the expectations but without the overall athleticism. Walker was a tremendous jump ball guy who did not have a lot of explosiveness at 6’3″ and 213 lbs. He made one of the greatest catches in Michigan history:

9. Jason Avant
Career starts: 27 from 2002-2005
Career statistics: 169 catches for 2,247 yards (13.3 yards/catch) and 13 touchdowns
Best game: Avant made 7 catches for 175 yards (25.0 yards/catch) against Iowa in 2003 and somehow avoided scoring a touchdown.
Why the ranking? Avant was an excellent complementary receiver who didn’t quite have the talent to be a team’s number one. He was a possession guy with probably the best, most consistent hands of any Michigan receiver during this time span. He became a 4th round pick of the Eagles in 2006 and went on to make 346 catches in the NFL.

10. Mercury Hayes
Career starts: 25 from 1992-1995
Career statistics: 124 catches for 2,2144 yards (17.3 yards/catch) and 12 touchdowns
Best game: Statistically, Hayes’s best game was also the game he helped win at the last minute, 18-17 over Virginia in 1995. Hayes caught 7 passes for 179 yards (25.6 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Hayes was a fun receiver to watch, but he played at a time when the ball wasn’t thrown all over the place. He wasn’t quite the dominant physical performer as some of the other guys near the top of this list, but he was good after the catch. If he were playing the modern game, he might be a running back instead of a receiver.

11. Junior Hemingway
Career starts: 30 from 2007-2011
Career statistics: 88 catches for 1,638 yards (18.6 yards/catch) and 11 touchdowns
Best game: People remember the late heroics from other players in the 2011 “Under the Lights” game against Notre Dame, but Hemingway made 3 catches for 165 yards and 1 touchdown in that one.
Why the ranking? Hemingway was not the fastest player, but he did some great things with his ability to run after the catch and outjump people by being physical.

12. Jehu Chesson
Career starts: 24 from 2013-2016
Career statistics: 114 catches for 1,639 yards (14.4 yards/catch) and 12 touchdowns
Best game: Against Indiana in 2015, Chesson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and 4 touchdowns, the last of which is a school record.
Why the ranking? Chesson had excellent long speed and excelled at running jet sweeps, but he really only had one half of a good season at receiving. He was similar to Steve Breaston in some ways, though probably with a little better ball skills.

13. Marcus Knight
Career starts: 22 from 1996-1999
Career statistics: 88 catches for 1,508 yards (17.1 yards/catch) and 8 touchdowns
Best game: Knight caught 5 passes for 136 yards and 1 touchdown against Illinois in 1999.
Why the ranking? Knight gets lost in the shuffle of Michigan receivers a little bit since he played around the same time as David Terrell, Marquise Walker, and others. At 6’1″ and 180 pounds, he wasn’t the biggest guy and wasn’t a ridiculous athlete, but he was a key target for Tom Brady and Drew Henson, posting three straight games of 125+ yards as a senior. He went undrafted but stayed on the fringes of the NFL for four years.

14. Steve Breaston
Career starts: 24 from 2003-2006
Career statistics: 156 catches for 1,696 yards (10.9 yards/catch) and 10 touchdowns
Best game: As a senior in 2006, Breaston not only caught 3 passes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he also returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown.
Why the ranking? Breaston was part of a dynamic trio of receivers during the Edwards-Avant-Breaston years, and because of his big-play ability, he probably gets more recognition than his numbers deserve. Michigan threw him a lot of short passes at a time when they really didn’t understand how to turn those into big plays, and he also did not track the deep ball well.

15. Devin Gardner
Career starts: 31 from 2010-2014 (4 at WR, 27 at QB
Career statistics: 18 catches for 286 yards (15.9 yards/catch) and 4 touchdowns
Best game: Gardner made 5 catches for 63 yards and 1 touchdown against Air Force in 2012.
Why the ranking? I did the same thing for Denard Robinson at running back since he was mostly a quarterback but started a little at running back. So here’s Devin Gardner at receiver, even though he only started four games there while the older Robinson was behind center. Gardner had a great build for a receiver at 6’4″ and about 215 pounds, and he ran a 4.62 at the NFL Combine. If he concentrated on the receiver position, he probably would have been pretty dang good. His route running was naturally a little sloppy since he was a quarterback throughout high school, but the natural ball skills and athleticism were there.

16. Roy Roundtree
Career starts: 42 from 2008-2012
Career statistics: 154 catches for 2,304 yards (15.0 yards/catch) and 15 touchdowns
Best game: In a back-and-forth shootout against Illinois in 2010, Roundtree caught 9 passes for what was then a school-record 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Roundtree was skinny and not particularly athletic, so it’s probably not a coincidence that the crafty route-runner who performed well in the clutch has moved on to a coaching career. He benefited from the running threat of Denard Robinson, but he also made some key catches all on his own, such as a late leaping effort against Northwestern.

17. Adrian Arrington
Career starts: 17 from 2004-2007
Career statistics: 109 catches for 1,438 yards (13.2 yards/catch) and 16 touchdowns
Best game: Arrington saved his best for last when he went off in the Gator Bowl against Florida. He caught 9 passes for 153 yards (17 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Arrington was never the #1 on his own team, which was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, he had other good receivers drawing attention, which opened things up for him at times. On the other hand, he never got the targets to really see if he could be a true #1 guy. He was a good player, not a great one.

18. Devin Funchess
Career starts: 13 from 2012-2014
Career statistics: 126 catches for 1,715 yards (13.6 yards/catch) and 15 touchdowns
Best game: Funchess caught 7 passes for 151 yards (21.6 yards/catch) and 1 touchdowns against Minnesota in 2013.
Why the ranking? Funchess began his career as a tight end and transitioned full-time to receiver part-way through his sophomore year, when it became pretty obvious that blocking wouldn’t be his thing. Blocking also wasn’t his thing when he had a chance to just push around 5’11”, 190 lb. guys, despite being 6’5″ and 230 pounds. He made some good plays in his career, but during his lone year at wideout, he averaged a pretty meager 11.8 yards per catch on 62 receptions. Funchess should be ranked higher based on talent, but I’m invoking the “no block, no rock” rule.

19. Amara Darboh
Career starts: 28 from 2013-2016
Career statistics: 151 catches for 2,062 yards (13.7 yards/catch) and 14 touchdowns
Best game: Against the evil Michigan State Spartans in 2016, Darboh made 8 catches for 165 yards.
Why the ranking? If we’re talking about starting receivers at Michigan, Darboh was pretty pedestrian. He had a catch for the ages against BYU, but other than that, his performances were pretty ho-hum. He did manage to get drafted on the heels of a surprisingly fast 40 time at the Combine, but he has done very little in the NFL to convince me that I was just missing something.

20. Martavious Odoms
Career starts: 30 from 2008-2011
Career statistics: 94 catches for 1,087 yards (11.6 yards/catch) and 5 touchdowns
Best game: Odoms topped the 100-yard mark just once in his career, and that came during his freshman year against Illinois. He caught 7 passes for 129 yards.
Why the ranking? I don’t know that this has happened to anyone else in Michigan history, but Odoms’s decline in production is somewhat staggering. He led the team with 49 catches as a freshman and then went to 22, 16, and then 7 receptions in the next three years. It was odd, too, because Odoms was willing to do the dirty work. Brady Hoke took over in 2011 and preferred bigger receivers, so it’s not surprising there was a dip there; the more surprising change is that he became less and less emphasized under Rich Rodriguez, the guy who recruited him to Ann Arbor when he took over in 2008.

21. Ronald Bellamy
Career starts: 24 from 1999-2002
Career statistics: 67 catches for 888 yards (13.3 yards/catch) and 9 touchdowns
Best game: Bellamy pulled out his best performance against Michigan State, when he caught 5 passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2002.
Why the ranking? Bellamy played second fiddle to some good receivers. He was an adequate complementary player, but he never did much that stood out. His production was the second lowest on this list, though he was probably better than his numbers suggested. He spent some time in the NFL with the Dolphins, Ravens, and Lions.

22. Darryl Stonum
Career starts: 25 from 2008-2010
Career statistics: 76 catches for 1,008 yards (13.3 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns
Best game: Stonum made 3 catches for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 2010 blowout over UMass.
Why the ranking? Stonum is the only guy on this list not to finish his career at Michigan, as some legal troubles led to his removal from the team and an eventual transfer to Baylor. He had some tantalizing long speed, including a kickoff return for a TD against Notre Dame, but he was a speed guy with questionable tracking and catching skills.

23. Greg Mathews
Career starts: 27 from 2006-2009
Career statistics: 110 catches for 1,195 yards (10.9 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns
Best game: Mathews caught 5 passes for 68 yards and 1 game-winning touchdown in the 2009 Notre Dame game.
Why the ranking? Mathews came into college with a good amount of hype as a top-100 prospect, but he was one of the slower receivers in this bunch. Known for good hands and not much else, he was purely a possession guy.

24. Russell Shaw
Career starts: 21 from 1996-1997
Career statistics: 58 catches for 668 yards (11.6 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns
Best game: Shaw made 6 catches for 84 yards and 1 touchdown in 1996 against Alabama.
Why the ranking? A rare JUCO transfer for Michigan, Shaw played at El Camino Community College before spending his final two college seasons at Michigan. Shaw was pretty unremarkable, though he started on the 1997 national championship team opposite Tai Streets.

Other players to start at least one game:

Zion Babb (1)
Calvin Bell (4)
Tarik Black (9)
Tyrece Butler (5)
Freddy Canteen (3)
Toney Clemons (2)
Kekoa Crawford (4)
Bo Dever (1)
Drew Dileo (6)
Doug Dutch (1)
Jermaine Gonzalez (1)
Kelvin Grady (3)
Drake Harris (2)
Jeremy Jackson (4)
DiAllo Johnson (2)
Oliver Martin (1)
Eddie McDoom (2)
Dennis Norfleet (4)
Grant Perry (5)
Joe Reynolds (2)
Terrence Robinson (1)
James Rogers (2)
LaTerryal Savoy (1)
Nate Schoenle (1)
Carl Tabb (6)
Maurice Ways (2)


  1. Comments: 35
    Joined: 10/6/2019
    Aug 24, 2020 at 9:53 AM

    Great list. Shouldn’t Nico be on here somewhere?

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 24, 2020 at 11:56 AM

      I only included players who have completed their careers at Michigan. That’s why Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones are on the list, but not Nico Collins or Ronnie Bell.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 24, 2020 at 1:18 PM

        I understand the logic but breaking the rules for Gardner and not Collins seems weird. Especially since Collins may very well be done. He can be evaluated on what he has done so far with the tentative hypothesis that he won’t be back. It’s far less of stretch than “Devin Gardner would have been good if he wasn’t a QB 95% of the time”. Derek Jeter might have been a great slot WR for all we know.

  2. Comments: 313
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    Aug 24, 2020 at 11:57 AM

    Love these lists. Only issue initially when reading: I think DPJ is a little high. Based on potential give him top 5, sure, but based on what he did I can’t put him top 10.

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Aug 24, 2020 at 12:00 PM

      Agree. DPJ is way high. He may do better in the NFL

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 24, 2020 at 7:37 PM

      IMO, Peoples-Jones is the lowest rated guy who had all the tools to be successful. That top 7 includes guys who could run, make tough catches, etc. I think Michigan fans underrate him a little bit because of an overall lack of production, but he made some great catches over the past few years.

      Once you get to #8 and below on the list, you start to hit guys who can’t run very well (Walker, Avant), have questionable hands (Chesson, Breaston), etc.

      • Comments: 359
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 8:21 AM

        The receivers that I personally think are undervalued are the hands guys the tough possession receivers.

        The home run guys like Terrell and Edwards make you leave your seat and make he highlight reals, easy to remember.

        I think DPJ is graded for potential here. Where as Gallon is rated for actual production and superior effort.

        These list keep the dialog and interest going in these weird times. Good work.

        • Comments: 3844
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 8:40 AM

          I think those possession guys are easier to find. Not all of them are as good as Avant, for example, but when you’re picking receivers, you want to find a guy who can make the big plays because that opens things up for other people. And sometimes those guys you think can make big plays just end up being possession guys. But you almost never see a slow possession guy become someone who can make big plays.

          Someone who’s on the line is a guy like Ronnie Bell. He’s not a guy who can take the top off of a defense, but he’s so good at breaking tackles and making people miss after the catch that he’s a possession guy with big-play ability.

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 25, 2020 at 2:34 PM

            “you almost never see a slow possession guy become someone who can make big plays.” Yet – Gardner makes the list…

            • Comments: 3844
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 2:39 PM

              This isn’t a list of Big Play Receivers. You could run a 5.9 forty and make the list as long as you started enough games.

              For comparison’s sake, Gardner’s longest reception was 44 yards. Marquise Walker had just 4 career receptions that were longer than 44 yards. Jason Avant had 2. And those guys each had 150+ more receptions on which to achieve such a feat.

              Gardner caught touchdowns 22% of the time, and there’s evidence to suggest he could have made big plays just as often as some of these other guys.

              I get it. You don’t think Gardner was a good receiver. And that’s okay. You can bash him all you want for not performing well against the big boys after spending half a season at WR, but Walker, Avant, etc. had MORE chances than Gardner to beat up patsies and make them look silly…and they didn’t. Walker played against Rice, Miami-OH, BGSU, and WMU as an upperclassman. Avant played against Miami-OH, SDSU, NIU, and EMU as an upperclassman. It’s not like they only trotted out there against Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, etc. and had a nose-to-nose brawl every week, while Gardner was running free and happy against Delaware State.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Aug 25, 2020 at 9:32 PM

                I think that’s where you and I disagree most. It’s not about what you do against the cupcakes and the backups in a blowout it’s about helping your team win when it counts.

                Avant had 4 games over 100 yards and 3 of them came against Iowa and Wisconsin.

                Walker had 4 games over 100 yards in his senior year and 2 of them were @Washington, @MSU.

                Gardner proved himself time and time again as well – at QB. This position he played all his life, because it was the best position for his skills.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 9:36 PM

                  I agree with you. You win. You twisted my arm, and finally got it out of me: Jason Avant and Marquise Walker were better receivers at Michigan than Devin Gardner.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 9:53 PM

                  Now do Arrington, Funchess, and the other ones you ranked below him.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:04 PM

                  Arrington’s longest career catch was 39 yards.

                  And I don’t like Funchess because he loafed and wouldn’t block. Yes, he had bigger plays, but I’m not going to pick you if you’re going to play with a me-first attitude.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:20 PM

                  I will agree with you on Funchess loafing. It seemed like he sulked his way out of TE.

                  Then again – he’s a successful NFL WR so he was probably right to think Hoke and company didn’t put him in the right spot to begin with.

                  One lesson might be — don’t put a guy at a position just because he looks like what you think the position should look like and don’t put him off a position just because he doesn’t fit a certain profile.

                  I think Hoke wanted a certain kind of QB, Denard as a 3rd down RB/slot WR, Gardner at outside WR, Funchess at TE and his offense looking like a 90s throwback. He just didn’t have the horses to pull it off.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 26, 2020 at 8:03 AM

                  He also loafed at wide receiver. It’s one thing to want to change positions, but then when you get to that new position and you still don’t work hard, then oh well.

              • Comments: 3844
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Aug 25, 2020 at 9:42 PM

                Amara Darboh had 4 career catches of 44+ yards: 46, 46, 45, and 45. He caught 151 balls, and Gardner caught 18.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 9:54 PM

                  I don’t find this remotely compelling as an argument.

                  How many more long passes did Ryan Mallet complete in college than Tom Brady?

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:01 PM

                  I don’t know, but we’re not talking about quarterbacks. Creating big plays is a factor for RB and WR. Accuracy is more important for QB. So it’s apples and oranges.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:07 PM

                  Another fundamental difference in perspective. The offense creates the big play. The coach calls it. The QB decides where the ball goes. The OL has to block it. Oh and the defense plays a factor too.

                  This is why RB YPC are so much higher against cupcakes and backups – those are the guys that miss assignments and botch tackles. Mike Shaw and Mike Cox aren’t making big plays when they’re in competitive situations, they get a 70 yard run against Northern Idaho State – they are just fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:15 PM

                  The flaw in your rationale is that it implies that Walker, Avant, etc. didn’t also have opportunities against cupcakes and backups.

                  Yes, there are lots of factors involved in big plays, but if that’s your perspective, then nobody’s good or bad, and they’re all just dependent on the universe working out well for them. Every player is just a result of Chaos Theory.

                  I like guys who can create big plays. If you don’t, that’s fine.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:22 PM

                  No – I’m saying consistent production is more meaningful then outliers. It’s not all about highlights.

      • Comments: 313
        Joined: 8/17/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 10:25 AM

        I think DPJ has top 5 potential for usre. And for big plays I’ll always remember the MSU catch, I don’t remember a lot of other huge plays. I do remember him dropping a lot of big catches in the OSU games.

        I don’t remember Breaston’s hands poor, and maybe I remember him more fondly because of him returning kicks. I remember Avant being almost a guarantee when throwing to him on 3rd down, and I loved stories that covered his home life. He seems like a real good dude.

        • Comments: 3844
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 10:37 AM

          Peoples-Jones didn’t have a lot of LONG big plays other than the MSU catch (and a couple punt returns), but he made some very acrobatic catches and some very nice catch-and-run plays. He probably has the shortest highlight reel of the top 8 or so guys…but it gives you the most bang for your buck.

          Breaston was good at a lot of things that didn’t involve being a receiver. He took snaps from under center, ran some option, got some handoffs, etc. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a rusher. He also had some nice punt returns. He was the like the offensive version of Jabrill Peppers, in that the most exciting part of his game was when he wasn’t playing his so-called “position.” Breaston was a WR, but it was amazing that he could be a QB/RB/PR. Peppers was a CB/S, but his most amazing plays came at PR/RB/QB.

          Nico Collins is a good WR, but that’s all he does. Marquise Walker was a good WR, but that’s all he did. It definitely adds to the mystique of a player when he can do multiple things.

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 25, 2020 at 2:16 PM

            Man do I disagree with this take on Peppers. Loved watching him play defense and fly around.

            • Comments: 3844
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 2:20 PM

              I liked watching him play defense, too, but how many interceptions did he make? Any scoop and scores? He was good at taking out bubble screens, dodging blockers, etc. I would take him on defense any day. But he was a national sensation because he ALSO touched the ball on offense and special teams. Very few safety/outside linebacker types get all that hype if they don’t do something else. There’s no way Peppers would have been a Heisman finalist if not for his punt returns and offensive capabilities.

            • Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 2:30 PM

              You’re talking about hype. I agree.

              Above you were talking about amazing plays. Peppers blowing up everything and anything in the flats was more amazing to me than ANYTHING he did on offense. Similarly, Devin Bush was amazing without touching the ball on offense.

              I’ll remember them both for what they did on defense and the speed and decisiveness they had in blowing up play call after play call.

              No coincidence that these defenses were elite.

  3. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 24, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Devin Gardner was not a good WR. His catch rate was abysmal and his speed was mediocre. The only WR that got drafted before the 7th round with a 40 time above Gardner’s 4.62 was Q. Cephus. Plenty of guys are bigger and faster. Plenty of guys are better at catching and running routes.

    Yes – Al Borges and Brady Hoke decided to put him at WR for a few games because they felt it necessary to have a big body. That part is true – but he did not do anything to shine there – and Borges and Hoke’s subsequent career arcs tell you all you need to know about their offensive judgement.

    Putting Gardner over Darboh who got drafted in the 3rd round was all conference and was active in the NFL last season while Devin Gardner does whatever Devin Gardner does around Ann Arbor is some Grade A trolling. Look it worked!

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 24, 2020 at 7:33 PM

      Yes, including Gardner is a projection, obviously. That being said, if I were drafting a receiver to play at Michigan, I would take Gardner over a handful of guys. As for your statement that “plenty of guys are bigger and faster,” I would guess that’s not accurate. I can think of several big guys who were slower or of similar speed (Funchess ran a 4.7 forty, Kelvin Benjamin ran a 4.61, etc.), and those guys were considered high-level prospects, taken in the first couple rounds of the draft. I’m not suggesting Gardner would have been a better NFL prospect than them. What I am saying is that I would rather have Gardner play WR at Michigan than Darboh, Funchess, etc.

      I’m not trolling at all. I like Gardner more as an athlete than those guys. If you think that’s trolling, that’s fine. But if you give Gardner and Darboh five years working at the WR position, I think Gardner comes out to be a better player.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 12:06 PM

        I don’t remember Gardner at receiver having any impressive highlights where he’s catching the ball in traffic or displaying impressive ball skills. I recall his 11 receptions were all pretty easy and his catch rate was very low. But I also remember somebody posting a summer workout clip of a one-handed catch so maybe he can join Terrance Robinson in the highlight tape hall of fame.

        By Big Ten season people had locked down Gardner- 5 catches in 4 games. He looked the part of a big 90s wide receiver but didn’t have the skills. So did Drake Harris.

        So yeah, if just pure opinion and speculation anything goes. Maybe Drake Harris might have been great if hadn’t played basketball. Justin Feagin could have won a Heisman if he had his head on straight.

        FWIW. Jason Avant also ran 4.62 back in 2006 which is supposedly 38th out 41 receivers that year and was considered the big knock against him. Avant had Gardner’s speed(adequate but slow for an NFL WR) plus elite hands, and a strong package of all the other WR skills that Gardner didn’t have.

        Just my opinions. Michigan has had a lot of great college receivers and a lot go on to solid NFL careers. Gardner was undrafted but did get a camp invite. There he was so impressive that the Steelers moved him back to QB.

        • Comments: 3844
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 1:29 PM

          I don’t know what Gardner’s catch rate was. Here’s an MGoBlog UFR with a chart through the Nebraska game: https://mgoblog.com/content/upon-further-review-2012-offense-vs-nebraska

          According to that, he was 0/5 on targets that were impossible to catch, 2/5 on moderate difficulty catches, and 14/15 on routine catches. Other guys in those same categories, respectively:

          Roundtree: 0/3, 4/4, 9/10
          Gallon: 0/1, 3/5, 16/18
          Funchess: 2/4, 1/3, 8/8

          I don’t look at those numbers and think “Wow, Gardner really sucked compared to REAL receivers.” He caught routine balls better than Gallon/Roundtree, caught moderately difficult balls at roughly the same pace as Gallon/Funchess, and nobody made any “impossible” catches other than Funchess.

          If that’s your smoking gun that Gardner’s catch rate was horrendous, then Gallon, Roundtree, and Funchess were either horrendous or slightly better than horrendous.

          Yeah, Avant also wasn’t fast. He’s also ranked significantly ahead of Gardner on this list. You don’t have to talk me into thinking that Avant is a better player.

        • Comments: 6285
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 1:59 PM

          Walker had great hands, great route running, reliable and tough. He was like Avant but bigger. If you need to get a first down on 3rd down you’re throwing it to guys like Darboh, Walker, and Avant. Kolesar too though he didn’t make the list due to era and I’d put Butt on the list even though he’s a TE. A QB needs guys like that and they seem to be undervalued based on perceived speed relative to their teammates. Towit, the same speed that was a knock against Avant is used as an argument for including Gardner.

          Here is the catch rate data. Gardner is down there with Jeremy Jackson.


          • Comments: 3844
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Aug 25, 2020 at 2:08 PM

            If catch rate is based on total targets, I’m not sure how useful it is. As mentioned above, he was 0/5 making catches that Brian Cook deemed “impossible.” I don’t have those plays in front of me to evaluate, but making “impossible” catches is…difficult. If I throw 5 balls to Devin Gardner in a live game setting, I can tell you right now that he’s probably not going to come close to catching any of them. Does that mean he sucks, or does that mean I suck? I would guess that a lack of chemistry with the QBs had something to do with it, since he only played WR for half a season.

            On non-impossible catches (a.k.a. possible catches), Gardner was just as good as anyone else.

            Jake Butt will be on the TE list…

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 25, 2020 at 2:22 PM

            You’ve cautioned against using Mgoblog stats many times. I’m giving you the more neutral and objective stat. You cite Gardner’s YPC but not YPA or Catch Rate.

            Maybe it’s Denard’s fault? Denard was such a threat that guys like Roundtree, Odoms, Dileo could put up stats. Not to mention Gallon and Hemingway who arguably would have with anyone. I’d say it’s more likely the other way around – weak receivers in 2012 held denard back.

            Let’s go in a different direction – are there any highlights of Gardner making a touch catch in traffic? I don’t remember him making a play that really stands out. The playcalls and threat of Denard got him open and he caught the ball a few times early in the year and against air force. Against real competition in the Big Ten he was a non-factor.

            Devin was a really good QB and a bad WR.

            • Comments: 3844
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 2:37 PM

              I don’t love MGoBlog stats, but something’s better than nothing, which is why I brought them up. I don’t remember every ball thrown toward Gardner, so when we’re looking at 8 years ago, I have to kind of take someone’s word for such obscure events (Incomplete Passes Thrown Toward Devin Gardner).

              I’m not disputing that Gardner doesn’t have a wealth of highlights. It’s true that he had few catches. But you can go back and watch highlights from Alabama, Air Force, UMass, etc. in 2012 and see what kind of catches and runs he made.

            • Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 9:51 PM

              I’ll just use my memory which has never failed me yet.

              Gardner was not good at the things that make WRs good – his ball skills were awful and he did not play through contact despite being big. The 44 yard TD you want to give him a ton of credit was when a CB was falling down. That’s the danger of seeking out outliers as the basis of analysis.

              Here is the Mgoblog UFR for the Alabama game. And below is every mention of Gardner’s play that game.


              Gardner, who runs a deep slant after being given inside leverage. I think this is a crappy route that does not get the requisite separation because he just kind of drifts inside instead of cuts. Throw is accurate

              Gardner gets a step but takes a weird gallop as he does so and drifts a step or so inside. Denard’s throw is pretty good but Gardner’s not getting there fast enough

              watch Gardner’s route. He holds up. If he runs through the route this is a potential DO.

              Roundtree(+1) puts a safety on the ground. Gardner does likewise,

              Denard tries it deep to Gardner, who’s covered again, but he has no other options. Pass is a tiny bit short but 40 yards downfield. Gardner has it in his hands; Milliner punches it out.

              Once he’s out there he uses a dodgy block from Gardner to get outside and jets for near first-down yardage.

              Denard chucks it deep at Gardner, who has a shot at it before being tripped by the safety. They throw a flag, and then pick it up. [fumes] This was a fifty yard throw that beat bracketed coverage and was a yard inside the edge of the field.

              No pressure; Milliner looks back, gets his legs tangled up with Gardner, and goes down. Denard hits Gardner in stride for the TD. (DO, 2, protection 2/2.)

              if Gardner does not first slow up and then misjudge the ball once it’s in the air this is probably a fantastic completion:

              And Gardner? Obviously looked very, very raw. The corner route above is evidence enough of that, and on the touchdown I don’t think the 360-degree spin-around is a standard move. His routes suck, but he’s a 6’4″ guy who can leap out of the gym. We’ll see how good that speed is against mortal teams.

              • Comments: 3844
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Aug 26, 2020 at 11:26 AM

                I have so many rebuttals to this…

                1. How did Amara Darboh do during his first game at WR? Oh yeah, he caught 0 balls against that same Alabama team. While sitting behind Devin Gardner.
                2. It’s Alabama.
                3. The guy who Gardner beat in his first game was a 1st rounder and #9 overall pick, whether he fell down or not.
                4. Yes, Gardner was raw. I’m not arguing.
                5. Saying “Take away this 44-yard catch because the guy fell down” is fine only if you remove every other guy’s longest catch or go through and parse when their defenders looked like idiots. Hey, you know, if Bill Gates didn’t invent Microsoft, I bet he wouldn’t be as rich and famous as he is.
                6. But fine, let’s take away his 44-yarder…I give up…let’s just give him credit for the 42-yarder he caught two weeks later, which is still longer than Adrian Arrington’s longest career reception.

                You’re arguing like I’m saying Gardner was Braylon Edwards but faster. I’m not. I’m saying if I had to pick a receiver over the past 25 years, Devin Gardner would be my 15th pick.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 26, 2020 at 1:07 PM

                  1. Darboh was a Freshman. Gardner was Junior. One guy had the playbook downloaded as a QB and another was coming off half a season of high school football due to injury and probably thinking mostly about welcome week.

                  2. Gardner didn’t do any better when it was playing Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, or MSU.

                  3. If Deon Sanders falls down he’s not covering any better than I am.

                  4. Not just raw. He was bad. And he didn’t show that he got better.

                  5. Bill Gates can’t live hundreds of other lives, but Gardner played 100s of other plays. Gates didn’t just poof-make Microsoft after someother company had a bad day. He proved it over years and years. Like Gardner did — at QB.

                  What you’re doing here is putting Bill Gates on your all time list of great explorers because he bought a nice boat and hey he probably would be successful in other things because he’s smart and driven. But a bunch of other people actually explored and discovered.

                  6. Analysis by outlier is bunk. Arrington had a long highly productive career and got drafted to the NFL, but you want to talk about 1 play against UMass.
                  Arrington closed his M career with 153 yards and 2 TDs in a single game. Gardner closed his with 71 yards and 1 TD over 4 games in the Big Ten.

                  7. Given Michigan’s rich history at WR 15 is way too high. It’s based on a fantasy when we have plenty of reality. You’re trying to buttress the opinion with stats but they don’t back it up. And they’re getting increasingly fringe.

                  Gardner was slower than most WRs listed below him and he was far less productive, even over a limited sample. These were really good players.

                  Tha Disrepkt!

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 26, 2020 at 2:11 PM

                  I understand that you don’t agree. I’m going to move on now.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Aug 26, 2020 at 3:17 PM

                I appreciate the debate.

            • Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 9:59 PM

              My post is hung up but I went back to the Alabama UFR and let’s just say Gardner didn’t grade out well at all.

              1 catch where a CB falls down. a bunch of negative reviews of routes. A bunch of accurate throws that weren’t converted. a good block! and a bad one.

              This was arguably Gardner’s best game, if considering competition and he mostly stunk.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 12:07 PM

        Funchess ran a 4.5 a few weeks later. He blamed the 4.7 on a bad start.

        • Comments: 3844
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 1:09 PM

          I take pro day times with a large grain of salt. They’re ALWAYS about .2 seconds faster than the Combine times.

        • Comments: 6285
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 2:00 PM

          I think Funchess has proven himself enough at the NFL level to think he might be faster than listed.

          • Comments: 3844
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Aug 25, 2020 at 2:14 PM

            Funchess’s longest receptions have actually become shorter and shorter each year, going from 52 to 48 to 44 to 27 to 16. It doesn’t take a great player to make a catch/catch-and-run longer than 52 yards in the NFL over five seasons. Coincidentally, Kelvin Benjamin’s longest reception is eerily similar to Funchess’s: 51, 50, 43, 40. Maybe Funchess is indeed just big.

            • Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 10:02 PM

              I don’t get the point here. The year to year trends in extreme outliers say these guys are getting slower? Or teams are figuring out they big and not fast over time?

              • Comments: 3844
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Aug 25, 2020 at 10:07 PM

                I think the trend is probably coincidental, but maybe they’re getting slower. I don’t know. My main point is that they weren’t big-play guys in the NFL. If you’re maxing out at 40- to 50-yard plays, don’t get me wrong – that’s better than I can do. Good for them! But you’re just not guys who can take it to the house on any given play.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Aug 25, 2020 at 10:11 PM

                I don’t dispute that. Just saying that Funchess probably has the minimum speed necessary to be an NFL WR. Being big is useful but never enough alone other wise there’d be a bunch of failed basketball players out there at 6’8 waving their arms for jump balls. That’s not how it works. Purdue tried it.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:16 PM

                  If Funchess is in the NFL, he has at least the minimum speed necessary. We can agree on that.

                • Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 10:32 PM

                  I think you gotta be faster than 4.7. The guys that time there in the combine probably underperformed on that day.

                  If you are running a 4.6 you gotta bring a lot of other things to the table.

  4. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 24, 2020 at 1:15 PM

    My 2 cents beyond the Gardner thing:

    Respect to the relative rankings of Gallon and Funchess. Clearly Funchess has more talent and a bright NFL career but Gallon was the better college player by a longshot.

    Walker was a DPJ-level recruit and All American who should go higher on the list. Certainly about DPJ who never passed 3rd team all conference. Walker went higher in the draft too despite not being an elite athlete. The competition is simply too stiff to put a good-not-great player with a good-not-great career in blue into the top 10.

    As much as I am fond of Roy Roundtree and the nice memories he had in blue he wasn’t a great player. Arrington was overshadowed by his teammates but still ended up getting drafted and having a respectable NFL career.

  5. Comments: 134
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Aug 24, 2020 at 9:02 PM

    I guess I am a little confused on your criteria. Is it impact at Michigan? Potential? Talent? Who you’d pick to start a team? Your favorites?

    Obviously we are sitting hairs here (except for Gardner, who has no place on this list). My gripes….
    – Darboh feels a little low to me given his consistency and overall numbers.
    – I am biased toward Walker but I still think you want him on your team before DPJ. You said it yourself, DPJ never broke 90 yards and dropped his fair share.
    – Knight and Hemingway are a bit high for my taste. They are the only WR in the top 20 with fewer than 100 catches. Hemingway can point to a crappy offense I guess. Either way, I would drop them down a bit.
    – Gotta admit that Streets surprised me. He was my era and I never thought of him as a great WR….just good. Maybe could drop him a bit, but the numbers are better than my memory.

    As for Gardner, he wasn’t a WR and has no body of work to defend him being here at all. Denard has piles of rushing stats to defend him being on your RB list. DG doesn’t have that and there’s little evidence he was even a good WR. I feel bad that he had the worst luck in the timing of his career being after RichRods spread, during Hoke and the bad OL and OC days, and before Harbaugh….but without a time machine you can’t know what he might have been.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 25, 2020 at 9:06 AM

      These are the guys I would pick if I’m putting together a football team. If we’re just going by impact at Michigan, then I could just go straight down the line in regard to yards or catches or touchdowns or something. And talent-wise, we could go straight down the line as far as recruiting rankings or NFL Draft position or NFL receiving production.

      To your specific points (and I’m not criticizing, because this is all subjective and just for fun):

      -Can you remember any signature Amara Darboh play aside from that one catch against BYU? He was kind of just a guy who benefited from playing quite a bit on a couple different offenses.
      -Walker was not fast. He was kind of a one-trick pony, and that one trick was catching jump balls.
      -I think you could probably make an argument that Hemingway was on par with someone like Marquise Walker, because Hemingway could go up and get the ball, but he could also run after the catch, something Walker never really did.
      -I think Streets was better than we might give him credit for, because he played on such a “run and play defense” team. But he made some big plays and was one of Michigan’s more successful NFL wide receivers (196 catches, 2268 yards, 14 TD). I didn’t factor that in (in fact, I just now looked up those stats for the first time), but I think it points to the fact that he was pretty dang good.

      The evidence I have that Gardner was and/or could have been a good WR:

      He averaged 15.9 yards per catch (which is good for 6th best on this list) and caught a touchdown on 22.2% of his receptions. The next highest touchdown percentage on this list is Mario Manningham at 19.7%. And remember, he rarely even practiced at receiver.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 1:42 PM

        Hard to go off pure stats with WRs given how much the game has evolved towards passing. Roundtree being an example of a guy who put up more numbers than some WRs who went on to play in the NFL. Can’t take away what he did but at the same time just because some 8th man on the Brooklyn Nets has more career 3s it doesn’t mean he’s a better shooter than Chris Mullin or Dell Curry.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 1:49 PM

        I think you make a good case for Streets. Not so much Gardner. Same sample size issues we get into with the backup RBs who put up big stats against cupcakes and then their YPC plummets when they are playing in conference.

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Aug 25, 2020 at 1:47 PM

      No offense but I think your memory has some blind spots on Walker. You don’t catch 176 jump balls. He was big and he was fast enough to be an elite recruit, all american college player, and successful NFL player. The 40 time I could find was 4.63 – so same as Avant and Gardner.

      • Comments: 3844
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 1:52 PM

        Maybe I’m mistaken, but I believe Walker had 0 catches in the NFL.

        • Comments: 6285
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 2:26 PM

          Looks like I’m the one with memory hole! My mistake.

  6. Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 25, 2020 at 6:53 AM

    Agree about DPJ being too high. He doesn’t belong in the top 10. And he was not more talented as a receiver than his stats show. He didn’t have the stats you would have expected from a guy with his athleticism, but that’s not the same thing. He was like Gary and Peppers. Freakish athlete, but just not super productive on the field.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 25, 2020 at 8:36 AM

      I disagree wholeheartedly with the talent thing. It’s not just the athleticism. It’s the hands, strength, and vision, too. (Yes, I know he had a couple drops against Ohio State, which pissed me off, too.) He also made some ridiculous catches.


      • Comments: 1364
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 25, 2020 at 11:55 AM

        Lots of guys have a few eye-popping catches in their careers. That’s something that great receivers do, but it doesn’t make you a great receiver. Great receivers get open, catch the ball, and do things with it after they catch it. A lot. Doesn’t matter how. DPJ just didn’t do it enough. If you look at his stat lines, he had no great games at all. Not one game over 100 yards, and quite a few below 50. Only 4 games in his career with more than 5 catches. That’s just not top 10 productivity in this list.

        • Comments: 3844
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 25, 2020 at 1:31 PM

          I didn’t say Donovan Peoples-Jones is a great receiver. He’s (IMO) the 7th-best receiver at Michigan over the past 25 years.

          Also, I’m not ranking productivity. Productivity is easily measured in my “All-Time Leaders” series.

          Who’s a better running back, Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith? Most people would probably say Barry Sanders. But Smith was more productive, and his stats (rushing yards, touchdowns, etc.) prove it. I’m not arguing productivity.

          • Comments: 1364
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Aug 25, 2020 at 3:36 PM

            Sanders was better at his peak, Smith played more years. DPJ doesn’t qualify for #7 based on peak OR career performance. So what does qualify him? And if you’re not taking productivity into account, why do you include career productivity stats for everyone?

            • Comments: 3844
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Aug 25, 2020 at 4:48 PM

              Q: What does qualify him?
              A: Watching him play.

              Q: Why include productivity stats?
              A: Because stats are helpful.

              • Comments: 1364
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Aug 25, 2020 at 8:59 PM

                Silly answer. You said you’re not ranking on the base of productivity, but that productivity stats are helpful in deciding the ranking. wtf?

                And “watching him play” is really a lame criterion. Particularly when you didn’t see him do much compared to guys below him on this list. You’re basically saying, I watched him make a few good plays, and I think he would have been a much better player if only he’d actually played better, so let’s rank him above guys who actually performed better, both at their peak AND over their whole careers.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Aug 25, 2020 at 9:31 PM


    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Aug 25, 2020 at 1:49 PM

      Peppers was not productive?

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