One of the NCAA's most explosive playmakers since enrolling at the University of Michigan in 2005, wide receiver Mario Manningham really took his game to another level during his junior year. He played in 12 games - his most as a collegian - registering more receptions (72) and yards (1,174) during the 2007 season than in his first two years combined.
During his career with the Wolverines, Manningham terrorized opposing Big Ten schools. Never was that more evident than last season when he strung together six consecutive 100-yard games, all of which came against conference opponents. For his efforts, Manningham was named to the Associated Press All-American second team while being a finalist for both the Biletnikoff Award (given to the Nation's top receiver) and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. After such a dominant campaign, Manningham decided to forego his senior season and enter the 2008 NFL Draft.
Speed has long been one of Manningham's biggest weapons, but it isn't flat-out sprinter speed that he possesses. Rather it is a deceptive stride that seems to lull defensive backs before he kicks it into another gear to distance himself and make the catch. He was one of the truly dangerous receivers in college football the past three years, showing the ability to beat defensive backs both on vertical routes over the top and with elusive moves in the open field after the catch. He has shown the ability to step up in the clutch.
He is an accomplished route runner - another way he makes up for not having great speed - that does a great job of not only executing subtle double moves but also the fundamentals of getting in and out of breaks quickly, without losing momentum.
Manningham is adept at adjusting to the ball once it's in the air and plucking it away from would-be interceptors. Despite not being particularly tall (5-foot-11 1/2), he does a nice job of fighting for the ball thanks to a solid vertical leap.
Manningham was never thought to have incredible top-end speed, but his 40-yard dash times raised a lot of eyebrows at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine after he ran in the high 4.5s to high 4.6s, which has made some question Manningham's overall athleticism. However, he was able to redeem himself during Michigan's Pro Day in Ann Arbor, Mich. where he posted 40-yard dash times in the high 4.3s to high 4.4s; his best time coming in at 4.38.
Attitude and character issues - both on and off the field - have come up surrounding Manningham, who was suspended for a game this past season for violation of team rules. He has been known to float in and out of games; his work ethic and on-field effort have been brought into question as a byproduct of a very high opinion of himself. One area where his poor effort is readily apparent is in his run blocking, which currently ranks among the worst parts of his game.
He missed time during his sophomore season with a knee injury, and his smallish build lends itself to durability concerns at the next level. It could also get him in trouble against more physical press corners. It might additionally play a role in his hesitancy to go over the middle.
Expected Draft Placement
While there doesn't appear to be a top-10 draft pick among the receivers this year, it certainly appears as though six or more wideouts could hear their names called during the first round, and Manningham is one of them. Perhaps the most common team linked to Manningham is the Dallas Cowboys, who own two first-round picks in the final 10 and could nab him at No. 28. Other teams that could spend a first-rounder on the former Wolverine include the Washington Redskins (21st), Tennessee Titans (24th) and the San Francisco 49ers (26th). The Jacksonville Jaguars were a popular landing spot for Manningham in early mocks, but they have since added receivers Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson so they will likely go in another direction. Manningham could also slip out of the first round, but it's unlikely he'd make it very far into the second.
About Herija C. Green
A graduate of the prestigious Top Gun school, Green's ego writes checks his body can't cash. When he's not overdrawing his ego's bank account, Green enjoys games of beach volleyball, riding his Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle, and buzzing the tower (whether the pattern is full or not). He resides in the Danger Zone and yes, Ice... Man, he is dangerous. He also writes.
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