Buccaneers: Michigan Wolverines 2018 draft prospects to watch
By Brian DeFeo
Michigan has been a huge media team since the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. Since the hire, the Wolverines have traveled to Italy, signed with Jordan, but have not lived up to the preseason expectations. While they have not made the playoffs yet they still have top-tier players entering the league each year.
While the Buccaneers haven’t drafted many Michigan players in the past, only two, there are plenty of Michigan alum in the league currently. The Wolverines had eleven players drafted last season including two players in the first round. Michigan definitely has produced some Hall of Fame caliber players, Tom Brady, Charles Woodson, Steve Hutchinson, and Ty Law, there are some quality players to come from this institution. Let’s take a look at this year’s crop of prospects that could be targeted by the Buccaneers.
Defensive Tackle- Maurice Hurst
Inside Linebacker- Mike McCray II
Center- Patrick Kugler
Offensive Lineman- Mason Cole
Fullback- Khalid Hill
Running Back- Ty Isaac
Quarterback- John O’Korn
SENIOR TO WATCH: Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst
While defensive tackle isn’t the biggest need for the Buccaneers, Michigan’s Maurice Hurst is the best tackle in this years class. As a fifth-year senior there is plenty of tape out there proving he’s got some of the best abilities in this years class. Hurst racked up 130 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks in his career at Michigan. Defensive tackles don’t put up gaudy numbers but he’s proven he can put up above average statistics against some of the tougher competition in the Big Ten.
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The Buccaneers currently have the seventh pick and Hurst should definitely be on the board at that time. If the Bucs really want him they could move down and grab an extra pick in the process. Multiple mock drafts at this time have him in the late teens and early twenties so maybe trade with the Bills and pick up two first rounders and get a top player at his position could definitely help this defense.
Maurice Hurst isn’t the biggest tackle but he has a first step comparable to Gerald McCoy and is great against the run. I’d compare him to Geno Atkins from the Cincinnati Bengals. Imagine pairing those two linemen next to each other, opposing teams would average zero yards rushing up the middle. While the Buccaneers could definitely fill a bigger hole with their top ten pick if they feel the right guy doesn’t fall moving down to grab a top player at a position could help the team in the long run.
UNDERCLASSMAN TO WATCH: NONE
Seriously, the Wolverines are returning every draft eligible player.
ANOTHER SENIOR TO WATCH: Offensive Lineman Mason Cole
Mason Cole could be a target for the Buccaneers because of his versatility. In his career at Ann Arbor, he has played every position along the offensive line for the Wolverines. He’s played his best on the inside but performed admirably when he was forced to play outside due to injury. The Buccaneers are going to need to replace Demar Dotson, JR Sweezy, and Kevin Pamphile sooner than later and drafting offensive linemen late in the draft is a cheaper way to improve.
The Buccaneers are likely to go into next season with the same starting offensive line. Over the past few seasons, they’ve tried to sign big-time free agent offensive linemen, Anthony Collins, JR Sweezy, Evan Smith and Carl Nicks, but none have lived up to expectations. Their best move has been taking and developing players through the draft. Recently they have found success in Kevin Pamphile and Caleb Benenoch along with undrafted players in Leonard Wester and Michael Liedtke.
Right now Cole isn’t very fast but is aggressive and has the athleticism to become a starter someday in the NFL. He’s a better run than pass blocker but has the developmental traits you want in a lineman prospect. His experience playing is also a plus because the two things you want is availability, he started 51 consecutive games, and leadership, he was a captain this season. He wouldn’t be a starter from day one if drafted by Tampa but he could be a plug and play anywhere if needed.
Next: Evaluating Dirk Koetter's Offensive Line
It’s really surprising to see no underclassmen come out this year from Michigan but all returning players can only help Jim Harbaugh build. While there won’t be a record number of players picked this season the Wolverines will still have players selected.
Keep coming back to The Pewter Plank as we continue our look at 40 schools in 40 days, kicking off our 2018 NFL Draft coverage!