Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?


December 11, 2018

Devin Bush, Jr. (image via Wolverines Wire)

With an outstanding defense and a competent offense, a lot of Michigan players will need to decide whether to stay at Michigan for 2019 or to head for greener pastures in the NFL (or elsewhere). Here’s a look at the players that I have the biggest questions about going forward.

Ben Bredeson – OG – Junior

Bredeson, a 6’5″ and 320 lb. offensive guard, has said that he is leaning toward returning to Michigan in 2019. Bredeson was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school who made eight starts as a true freshman and has been a full-season starter for the past two years. He has been a Second Team All-Big Ten selection for the past two seasons, both by the coaches and the media. While he has been a good player at Michigan and anchors the left side of the line for a left-hand-dominant team, he has not yet proven to be the road-grader that many expected. Bredeson would most likely get drafted in 2019, but I think he would be a third-day selection. If he returns to develop for one more year, I think he could potentially work his way up into the second day with an outside shot at the first round.
Verdict: Stay in school

Devin Bush, Jr. – LB – Junior

Bush is listed at 5’11”, 232 lbs., and the biggest knock on him is that he lacks size. Well, he’s probably not going to get any bigger at this point. His father, who played at Florida State and in the NFL, was listed at 6’0″, 210 lbs. The younger Bush was 1st Team All-Big Ten and an All-American in 2017, and he is quite possibly headed for the same accolades here in 2018. He finished the 2018 regular season with 80 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, and 6 pass breakups. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player who hits like a ton of bricks and can cover. At worst he’s a backup linebacker and special teams player in the NFL; at best he’s a tackling machine who fits in well with the new age of small, quick linebackers. I don’t see much of a reason for him to stay at Michigan in 2019, but I would be happy if he did.
Verdict: Go pro

Rashan Gary – DE – Junior

Gary, of course, has already decided to go pro. As the #1 overall recruit in the 2016 class, it was expected by many that he would be headed to the NFL as soon as possible. Not only has he hit three years, but he also suffered from some shoulder problems during his college career. In an attempt to preserve himself for the NFL, it makes sense that he would want to jump into the draft now. It would be very unfortunate if he came back next year, suffered further shoulder injuries, and still wasn’t getting paid for his efforts and pain. I think Gary made the right choice.
Verdict: Go pro

Hit the jump for a look at some other players who might be considering leaving.

Lavert Hill – CB – Junior

Hill is 5’11” and 168 lbs. He was named a First Team All-Big Ten player after making 13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 5 pass breakups, and 1 interception (which he returned for a 21-yard TD) during the 2018 season. Hill is a sticky cover guy who has had some nagging injuries over the past couple years. On the negative side, Hill lacks size, isn’t a great tackler, was beaten more often than the statistics show, and was penalized several times for pass interference. I think he could improve his draft stock by returning to school, attempting to put on some weight, and improving his tackling. If he goes to the NFL too soon, I’m afraid he could get relegated to nickel duties, and that prognosis could hurt his draft stock.
Verdict: Stay in school

David Long – CB – Junior

Long is 5’11”, 187 lbs. He was a First Team All-Big Ten cornerback in 2018 after being Honorable Mention in 2017. He made 15 tackles, 8 pass breakups, and 1 interception during the 2018 season. I have Long pegged as a better pro prospect than Hill because Long has continued to develop his body over the past couple seasons, and he has shown more improvement. Long is the more physical player and a better tackler, though he’s not quite as smooth of an athlete as Hill. I think Hill has a higher ceiling, but Long has a higher floor.
Verdict: Go pro

Josh Metellus – S – Junior

Metellus is listed at 6’0″, 204 lbs. Coaches and media in the Big Ten named him Second Team All-Big Ten. He made 36 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, and 8 pass breakups this season. While he was somewhat of a weak point of the defense in 2017, he might have been Michigan’s most improved player in 2018. He improved his angles, got better at tackling, and learned to diagnose passing route combinations. All that being said, I don’t think Metellus would be a high draft pick in 2019. He’s probably a third-day pick at best, so he would be best off spending another year in college and trying to improve his draft stock.
Verdict: Stay in school

Shea Patterson – QB – Junior

Patterson is listed at 6’2″, 205 lbs. Coaches in the Big Ten named him Third Team All-Big Ten, while the media made him Honorable Mention. This past season, after transferring from Ole Miss, he stepped in to become Michigan’s starter and went 188/289 (65.1%) for 2,364 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He also ran 66 times for 268 yards (4.1 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns. His experience at Michigan may have helped him with some pro passing schemes, and the (relatively) recent success of sub-6’4″ quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Baker Mayfield may help Patterson’s draft stock. Patterson is athletic enough to escape and he’s accurate on short to medium throws. The biggest things Patterson lacks are deep-ball arm strength and accuracy. He rarely looked good on deep throws this season, throwing wobbly passes and often misjudging the speed of his receivers. Patterson is not projected as a top pick if he leaves, and he could afford to come back to school and continue to hone his craft.
Verdict: Stay in school

And now a look at a couple players who might be best suited playing out their final year of eligibility at another school:

Reuben Jones – DE – Redshirt junior

Jones has played spot duty at Michigan over the past couple seasons, and the biggest accomplishment we have seen from him so far is being named Scout Team Player of the Week. Through four years at Michigan, he has made 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. With talent and depth streaming in on the defensive line, Jones would probably be best served by transferring if he wants to get on the field. At his current position, he was immediately passed by Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson, and several high-level recruits are waiting in the wings. Jones isn’t big enough to bulk up in order to play defensive tackle, and moving him to a position like fullback makes little sense with Ben Mason and Ben Van Sumeren on the roster.

Nolan Ulizio – OT – Redshirt junior

Ulizio redshirted as a freshman and played as a backup in 2016 and 2018, with a short-term stint as the starting right tackle in 2017 under Greg Frey’s reign as offensive line coach. He was replaced by Juwann Bushell-Beatty partway through the season and hasn’t sniffed the field much since that time. Late in the 2018 season, when Bushell-Beatty missed time due to injury, the coaching staff inserted Andrew Stueber in his place. With one year remaining and Ulizio almost certainly looking at another year backing up younger players, it would probably be in his best interest to transfer elsewhere if he wants to see significant playing time.

9 comments

  1. Ezeh-E
    Comments: 10
    Joined: 8/15/2015
    Ezeh-E
    Dec 11, 2018 at 7:20 AM

    Agree on the recommendations. I have nothing to base this on, but I feel it is more likely Hill will leave and Long will stay, despite Long being more ready for the NFL right now.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1445
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Dec 11, 2018 at 8:13 AM

    Why does Hill get all the accolades? Not saying he’s bad, but anyone who’s watched the games can see that Long was the better of the two

    Gonna disagree on ulizio. Sure it may mean more PT if he were to go elsewhere, but we lack numbers on the OL, and he is a veteran. Might be best for him to stick around and earn his Master’s

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 239
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Extrajuice
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:28 AM

    Been waiting for this topic but where is Shea Patterson’s name? It’s known he’s contemplating. To me his is, BY FAR, the most important player to return but I’m not sure he will unless the offense changes. If you can guarantee he puts the ball in the air more it may benefit him to stay another year. Otherwise, staying in the boring offense with isn’t going to showcase him enough and may lead to another injury.

    If Patterson returns, and the core of the OLine stays healthy, this is a playoff-type team in 2019. The schedule alone makes this possible.

    Also, where was Khaleke Hudson this year? I’m not even sure he made any plays in the 2nd half of the year. He was another guy that I thought may have gone pro if he was productive, which he wasn’t.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 5146
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:59 AM

    I didn’t see “sacrificing a year of salary” mentioned anywhere above. That’s what coming back to Michigan means for these guys. For somebody like Gary they are sacrificing many millions. So what does Michigan offer them beyond tuition, room & board, and a lot of side perks? You have to love the college experience.

    Draft stock is mentioned a lot but in the end it doesn’t matter — does Tom Brady care? Are all pros talking still talking about what round they went in? They’re more likely to be talking about who won their rivalry game in 200_.

    What stock is really trying to get at is earnings. Career earnings. For anybody headed for a long career (by NFL standards) the bigger issue is how soon you hit free agency. The marginal difference in rookie scale is peanuts in comparison. Gary’s first FA contract is likely to be yuuuge.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that guys like Bush, and Hill have a lot more to lose than gain by coming back financially, but there’s always more to it. The marginal guys (who are not slam dunks to get drafted) have a tougher decision of course.

    The real question a player like that needs to ask themselves is — will I be good enough next September to not get cut or put on the practice squad on an average NFL roster. I think that’s how a guy like Metellus needs to look at it because it makes very little difference if he goes in the 4th round or 6th round.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5146
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 11, 2018 at 10:02 AM

      Honestly I think they should all go pro if that’s what they want.

      Need to have a 10-year outlook and comapare the 2 tracks. A degree really doesn’t factor in that much here because you’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars of value/cost to come back and get your degree later vs hundreds of thousands (if not millions) on the line in salary.

      You don’t want to end up cut and degree-less, but you also don’t want to donate hundreds of thousands in free labor to a university when the IRS would consider you to be somewhere around poverty-level.

    • UM_1973
      Comments: 88
      Joined: 10/14/2015
      UM_1973
      Dec 11, 2018 at 10:32 AM

      I think it is not just the money difference between a first round pick and a fourth round pick. NFL teams tend to give a first round pick a longer benefit of the doubt over a fourth round pick. Whether it is because NFL teams do not want to look stupid for cutting a first round pick after 1-2 yrs or whether a first round pick tend to be better athletes. The fact remains that your chance of staying in the NFL increases when you are a first round pick.

      • Thunder
        Comments: 3213
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Dec 11, 2018 at 10:56 AM

        Right. If a 4th or 6th round pick sucks, they get cut. If a 1st or 2nd round pick sucks, they get some time to develop.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5146
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Dec 11, 2018 at 11:46 AM

          Agree. That’s why I said a later round guy needs to look at his readiness (i.e., probability of not getting cut).

          Some guys need to come back to be better prepared for NFL life, even if their draft stock is unchanged or moves down. That can happen too, due to age/perceived ceiling, team play issues, off field stuff, health, etc.

          My point is that changing your stock shouldn’t be a big factor in this conversation. Most guys aren’t going to move the needle that far in year 4, especially with increasing focus on combine measurables and potential over production.

          Obviously it’s a risk/reward calculation but the perceived reward of moving up a couple rounds is generally small when factored against sacrificed wages, injury risk, etc.

          Would I get cut? — That’s the biggest question, regardless of round. A higher draft slot does help but that’s correlated to talent/ability and readiness too.

          IMO none of these guys are cut candidates other than Metellus, but I don’t know that another year is going to change that.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 5146
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Dec 11, 2018 at 11:27 AM

        Anything can happen, sure, but nobody on the list is a real candidate for a 4 round swing in stock.

        e.g., Metellus doesn’t have the talent to go in round 1 no matter how productive he is.

        That potential benefit has to weighed against a career injury and the financial considerations. It’s essentially a bet against yourself and in Gary’s case a massive donation (non-tax deductible).

        You better realllllly love college or just know deep down that you aren’t an NFL player – certainly true for many/most in NCAA but that’s not who we are talking about here.

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