Sunday, April 29, 2012
Michigan draft, free agency in rewind
By Michael Rothstein
The three-day NFL Draft came and went over the weekend with few surprises for Michigan players. Three players -- Mike Martin, David Molk and Junior Hemingway -- were drafted.
Many more were not.
The three players drafted equaled the 2010 NFL Draft, which had Brandon Graham go in the first round, Zoltan Mesko in the fifth round and Stevie Brown in the seventh.
In this year’s draft, Martin went to Tennessee in the third round, while Molk and Hemingway were selected in the seventh round by San Diego and Kansas City, respectively.
Hemingway, the last Michigan player taken, joins Steve Breaston as a wide receiver in Kansas City.
“An interesting guy. When he went to Michigan, a lot of his production was limited because of the offense they ran up there,” Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli told reporters on KCChiefs.com after the draft Saturday. “A guy who has really good physical tools, has good hands and his production, I asked him when I was talking to him on the phone, I don’t know how a guy catches two passes in the Sugar Bowl and wins the MVP by only catching two passes.
“I guess he does the best with his opportunities. I want to know if there’s any other player who has won MVP with only two receptions at the receiver position.”
Of course, both of those catches were touchdowns for Hemingway, who helped Michigan beat Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
With the selections of Martin, Molk and Hemingway, Michigan has now had 340 players drafted in the NFL.
The free agent world
Ryan Van Bergen lost a couple of games of cards and started to play Angry Birds instead. This is how the former Michigan defensive end chose to pass the time Saturday as he waited to see whether or not he’d be selected.
Midway through the final day of the NFL Draft, though, he knew he would eventually have a home. The Carolina Panthers contacted him during the draft Saturday and said if he was left undrafted, they wanted to sign him. He hadn't heard from other teams so when the draft ended, he decided to head to Carolina.
“I was talking to my agent, you don’t know how much smoke can be blown up your butt,” Van Bergen said. “They can say anything to you and all of a sudden if they say that to you, you like them for free agency. Carolina never said they were drafting me and then they called me and said they wanted me as a free agent.
“That they called me and were honest throughout the whole process really made me like them.”
There was interest from other teams. Indianapolis reached out after the draft ended, but Van Bergen had already made up his mind. The Panthers told him they’d like to use him at depth at both defensive end and defensive tackle -- similar to the situation he was in for the majority of his Michigan career.
Carolina offered a layer of familiarity, too. Mike Szabo, who contacted Van Bergen, is the son of former Michigan linebackers coach Steve Szabo.
“It would have been cool to get drafted and be more comfortable through the process but at the end of the day everybody wants a spot on the team and no one has a spot on the team, really,” Van Bergen said. “If you’re outside of the third round, you have a chance of getting cut. I’m just happy to have a chance and happy to report to OTAs and they were honest the whole time and that was big for me.”
Van Bergen wasn’t the only undrafted Michigan player to join a team Saturday. Troy Woolfolk tweeted he would be joining the Dallas Cowboys and Michael Shaw signed a free agent deal with the Washington Redskins.
Linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Will Heininger previously told WolverineNation they would not be seeking careers playing professional football.
Transfer gets picked
Former Michigan wide receiver Toney Clemons, who transferred to Colorado, also ended up getting selected in the seventh round, going to Pittsburgh.
He was actually selected just ahead of Hemingway, who will play with Clemons' cousin, Breaston.
"He was a young man who was hungry for an opportunity who had the film, as of late, to back it up," Pittsburgh receivers coach Scottie Montgomery said on Steelers.com. "Over the last three to four ball games at Colorado, really showed to be a productive receiver, could catch the ball, nice range.
"He has a unique combination of size and speed, especially where we are right now and speaking about taking this guy and being very, very lucky to get a guy of this caliber at this time."
He had 86 catches for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns during his Colorado career.