Wolverines in the NFL: Where Wide Receiver Jeremy Gallon Might Land in the 2014 NFL Draft

Jeremy Gallon broke records and was Michigan's best receiver in 2013. He's looking for a home in the NFL. With the draft approaching, here's a run-down of where he might end up.

Back in early April, Josh Henschke wrote a great piece on Jeremy Gallon's aspirations for the NFL. What I'm going to try to do here is lay out specifically what Gallon brings to the table, which NFL teams are looking for a wide receiver (or depth at wide receiver), and where Jeremy Gallon is most likely to go. I did a similar post for Taylor Lewan.

Unlike Taylor Lewan, however, there's not nearly the amount of drama surrounding Gallon as there was facing Michigan's notorious offensive tackle, so I won't be able to spend 500-plus words on my personal opinion of the guy's character, just to appease the skeptics and put it out there. No, instead, we'll have to go solely based on Gallon's accolades and abilities, just as we should for every NFL prospect.

Jeremy Gallon, if you'll remember, led Michigan in receiving for both 2013 and 2012, despite his size at 5'7", 185 pounds. He broke a number of Michigan offensive records, and he set the All-Time Big Ten Receiving Record for a Single Game when he accumulated 369 receiving yards against Indiana, in what was one of Michigan's most explosive offensive performances during the tumultuous year that was 2013.

Because Gallon is an offensive skill position player, we have a much easier time gauging his production than we would for, say, an offensive lineman, thanks in part to recorded evidence like statistics and video. Here is a game-log breakdown of Gallon's receiving stats from 2013, courtesy of cfbstats.com:

2013 Opponent Receptions Receiving Yards Average Yards Per Catch Touchdowns
Central Michigan 4 47 11.75 1
Notre Dame 8 184 23.00 3
Akron 6 66 11.00 0
Connecticut 4 31 7.75 0
Minnesota 2 39 19.50 0
Penn State 7 95 13.57 1
Indiana 14 369 26.36 2
Michigan State 5 67 13.40 0
Nebraska 5 49 9.8 0
Northwestern 10 115 11.5 0
Iowa 6 47 7.83 1
Ohio State 9 175 19.44 1
Kansas State (Bowl Game) 9 89 9.89 0
Total 89 1373 15.43 9

Purely as a point of comparison, here are the stats for the same year from Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who is believed to be the best receiver in the draft. Again, courtesy of cfbstats.com:

2013 Opponent Receptions Receiving Yards Average Yards Per Catch Touchdowns
Georgia 6 127 21.17 1
South Carolina State 3 19 6.33 0
NC State 10 96 9.6 0
Wake Forest 6 113 18.83 1
Syracuse 4 126 31.50 1
Boston College 7 101 14.43 1
Florida State 8 68 8.5 1
Maryland 14 163 11.64 0
Virginia 8 169 21.13 2
Georgia Tech 5 104 20.80 2
Citadel 7 58 8.29 1
South Carolina 7 93 13.29 0
Ohio State (Bowl Game) 16 227 14.19 2
Total 101 1464 14.5 12

My first thought when I saw that was, "Whoa, Jeremy Gallon's stats aren't all that different from Watkins'." But how true is that statement? Overall, Gallon and Watkins had very similar numbers regarding yards and touchdowns, but Watkins was a bit more prolific. He had just 12 more catches than Gallon, a mere 91 more total receiving yards, as well as 3 additional touchdowns. Yet Gallon averaged more per catch than Watkins, thanks to a healthy boost from tearing apart the Indiana Hoosier defense, which also helped close the gap between the two players in regards to total yardage. The point: there were games where Gallon shined; there were also games where the defense limited him. The same goes for Watkins. Just look at the Florida State game.

So why is Watkins seen as the vastly better receiver? Well, there are a few key differences. First, Watkins is at least six inches taller than Gallon, standing at 6'1", and any NFL scout will tell you that everyone prefers tall, rangy players the way they prefer tall, accurate quarterbacks. Second, his draft stock soared when he played the best game of his career against Big Ten title runner-up Ohio State in the Orange Bowl on national television. He had more of everything in that game: more receptions, more yards, more impactful plays, etc. (Oddly enough, he made little impact in his two games against FCS teams.) Furthermore, Watkins increased his visibility by making several gif-friendly breakaway plays on big stages. Even if their stats are at least somewhat similar overall, Watkins had eight games in 2013 where he broke 100 yards, whereas Gallon only had four.

The team that selects Gallon will likely be just as satisfied as the team that selects Watkins, as Gallon brings plenty of style and substance, but with a significantly less amount of hype.

If anything, Gallon's stats are yet another indicator for how up and down Michigan's offense was, but it should also show that he's not that far off--at least statistically--from Watkins, a three time All-American and projected top ten NFL draft pick. The team that selects Gallon will likely be just as satisfied as the team that selects Watkins, as Gallon brings plenty of style and substance, but with a significantly less amount of hype. Despite playing on a team with a markedly worse total offense (87th) than Clemson's (9th), Gallon still finished with over 1,300 receiving yards, an impressive feat for any receiver. Additionally, at the NFL combine, he had a very respectable 40-yard dash time of 4.49 seconds. Those two aspects alone should be enough to get him drafted.

Unfortunately, the biggest thing that appears to be holding Gallon back, at least in terms of perception, is his size. However, as any Michigan fan will tell you, once you see Gallon play, your concerns about his size quickly evaporate. He plays remarkably bigger than his measureables, much like former Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate, and he had the ability to make big, jaw-dropping plays, which I would argue can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the best highlights from Watkins, Mike Evans of Texas A&M, or Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU.

That hasn't stopped NFL draft scouts from disregarding Gallon because he's only 5'7" (probably a little closer to 5'8", but that hardly makes a difference.) Gallon himself has addressed this recently in an interview with the Miami Herald:

"It gets tiring, but I can't change what people think or what they say about me," Gallon said when discussing his size or lack thereof. "I've been dealing with it my whole life.

"It's an obstacle that I've been dealing with since I've been playing football, but I haven't considered it as an issue to me. It's something that other people look at, and I just have to deal with it and play ball with it."

They also summed up the debate surrounding Gallon as a prospect:

In most scouts' eyes, though, Gallon didn't prove enough, and he will enter May with a late-round or priority-free-agent grade.

More than a few of his detractors believe he lacks the pure home run speed and freaky athleticism to make up for his diminutive size, while he doesn't have the requisite footwork or experience in the slot to be a difference maker there, his likely home in the NFL.

The glass-is-half-full crowd counters by saying Gallon is a tough player and reliable route runner who runs hard after the catch and has more than enough wiggle to make the first defender miss.

Despite Gallon's obvious impact on and value to Michigan's offense last season, it's interesting to see where he is perceived on evaluation lists. SB Nation has Gallon all the way down at No. 146 on their most recent list of Top 200 NFL Draft Prospects. They also have Gallon listed as the No. 21 wide receiver in the draft. (Watkins is obviously No. 1.) As a point of reference, Gallon ranked No. 10 in the nation in receiving yards per game, as well as No. 8 in the nation in total receiving yards. Again, given that Michigan's offense was so inconsistent at times and the team stumbled to 7-6, that's quite an accomplishment for Gallon to achieve such high stats.

Is Jeremy Gallon Worthy of a First Round Draft Pick?

In a draft with less depth (especially at wide receiver), probably. Golden Tate, the player who Gallon most likely compares to at the next level, went in the second round with the 60th overall pick to Seattle. Unlike Gallon, Tate was an All-American and a star at Notre Dame. Like Gallon, he broke all of his team's receiving records, was a consistently reliable catcher who made big plays, and graduated at a time when the program was struggling -- in his senior season the Irish went 6-6 and fired Charlie Weis. If Gallon was an All-American and Biletnikoff Award-winner like Tate was, he'd probably have fewer skeptics and would be seen as a late first-rounder.

However, since all he has to his name is that he broke Michigan's receiving records (no easy feat) and was an All-Big Ten receiver, the best case scenario for Gallon seems to be that he'll be picked a little later than Tate was, towards the end of the second round or the beginning of the third round.

It's tough to see Gallon going sooner than that. More than 40 players besides Gallon broke 1,000 yards receiving, and almost all of those are upperclassmen eligible for the draft. So believe people when they say this draft is really deep at wide receiver. In that respect, Gallon seems like a solid third-rounder. If NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is correct and Gallon drops all the way to the fifth, sixth, or seventh rounds, he's going to be a steal -- I'm talking the "Tom Brady of Wide Receivers" type of steal. I can easily see Gallon matching Golden Tate's production in the NFL.

Personally I think the question is less about what round in which Jeremy Gallon will go and more about what team to which Jeremy Gallon will go. So here's a list of the NFL teams that need a wide receiver, or at least have a wide receiver listed in their top 3 needs, according to nfl.com.

With so many teams needing help at wide receiver and the draft being so deep at that position, there seems to be plenty of options for Gallon to find a home in the NFL. That leaves us with two questions: Who is likely to select him, and where would he be a good fit?

I think we can go ahead and rule out the Rams and the Raiders right away since they are most likely going to use their first pick (if not their first two picks) on a wide receiver, and if I were a betting man I would say they are probably not calling Gallon's name for either the No. 2 or the No. 5 overall picks. (Of course, feel free to debate me on this in the comments, if you're so inclined.) Most of the teams that consider Gallon will do so primarily for depth purposes or because, if wide receiver is a particular weakness on their team, they'll want to turn it into a strength with multiple selections.

Here are the teams that I think have the best shot at selecting Gallon:

New York Jets

I'm leading with the Jets first and foremost because Jets' blog Gang Green Nation was nice enough to do a post scouting Jeremy Gallon, and so far they've been the only NFL blog on SB Nation that I have seen which has done so. (They also made a critical oversight in the first paragraph by saying Gallon attended "Michigan University," but I suppose nothing is perfect.)

The Jets need help at wide receiver in a bad way, but that's nothing new -- they've actually needed help there for years. (Head coach Rex Ryan is often criticized for focusing too much of his efforts, and draft picks, on defense -- his specialty.) You could even go so far as to say that the Jets need help everywhere on offense, but they did make some pre-draft off-season moves that should provide them with some hope for the future. They signed noted playmaker Michael Vick at quarterback and, more importantly, nabbed star wide receiver Eric Decker away from Denver in one of the most surprising free-agency moves of the past few years. Decker obviously becomes the best option for the No. 1 receiver spot on the roster, but that doesn't entirely fix the problem of the Jets' need, and they'll look to add some more talent and depth with the upcoming draft.

That's where Gallon comes in. Though the Jets might decide to take a wide receiver not named Jeremy Gallon in the first round, he is still on many Jets fans' wishlists for a later selection and which the Big Lead said would be the Jets' best choice for their fifth round pick. Don't be surprised if the Jets take as many as three wide receivers in this year's draft, and if Gallon is one of them.

Furthermore, in terms of the Jets' roster, I'd say Gallon fits very well with what the Jets have going on at quarterback. The play-style and ability of both Michael Vick and Geno Smith is possibly the closest thing Gallon could find to what he had with Devin Gardner. It's an even better match for Smith, who while at West Virginia had Stedman Bailey, another Gallon comparable.

Seattle Seahawks

This makes a lot of sense. Seattle seems like precisely the team that would select someone like Gallon. Though the Seahawks have not traditionally drafted Michigan receivers, Braylon Edwards' recent history with the franchise at least showed Seattle what a Michigan receiver can bring. The Seahawks also lost mainstay receiver Golden Tate to free agency, and since they didn't manage to effectively replace him with an off-season signing, they'll have to use at least one draft pick on a wide receiver if they want to remain Super Bowl competitive.

Gallon fits with the Seahawks' offense much like he fits with the Jets. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has always seemed like a more successful version of Devin Gardner, and I've always personally thought of Wilson as the potential player that Gardner could someday mirror. Wilson possesses the dual-threat ability and short range accuracy which would make a connection with a reliable receiving option like Gallon both effective and deadly. Additionally, Seattle's offense matches a lot of what Michigan has done since its transition to a simplified pro-style, and even if they decide to spread it out, Wilson and Gallon have both played in either system.

Should the Seahawks choose to draft Gallon, he could likely be a good replacement for Golden Tate, who served as the team's No. 1 receiver last season much in the same way Gallon did for Michigan. Recently Seattle has been most impressive in finding gems in the draft's later rounds (similarly to New England), and so it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they called Gallon's name to fit in with a bunch of other guys who flew under the radar and were overlooked by everyone else.

Kansas City Chiefs

It seems at least somewhat unlikely that Kansas City is going to go back to the Michigan pool considering that they already have Junior Hemingway on the roster, but the Chiefs have a long history with selecting Michigan players. Steve Breaston, Elvis Grbac, and Derrick Alexander are just a few examples of connections Kansas City has had with the Wolverines over the past few decades. While the Chiefs' first pick in the draft might go to one of the more hyped receivers entering, they are one of the teams poised to take another wide receiver in the later rounds. Again, like the New York Jets, this is about bringing in talent and depth.

Gallon certainly would benefit from having Junior Hemingway as a teammate, and SB Nation Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride expects Hemingway to step up in a big way during the 2014 season. I don't think Kansas City fans would necessarily classify Hemingway as a legitimate option for the No. 1 receiver spot, but then again Kansas City just needs help anywhere and any way they can find it. Gallon could potentially find a role, and after getting so much out of Hemingway for a mere seventh round pick, the Chiefs picking Gallon wouldn't entirely surprise me here. More than anything else, the Chiefs need reliability at wide receiver, and that's what Gallon would bring.

Carolina Panthers

Would the Panthers take multiple wide receivers in the draft? If the answer is yes, Jeremy Gallon seems like a great option for them. Personally, I don't see Carolina drafting more than one, so I have a hard time seeing Gallon as a possible choice when it's been rumored that they're going to spend one of their first two picks on a receiver. However, I am forced to give the Panthers some love here because one Carolina fan took the time to put together a fanpost over at SB Nation Panthers' blog Cat Scratch Reader where he advocated for Gallon's selection. That alone is enough to get them mentioned at least as a possibility.

Still, indications out of the fan base (although that certainly doesn't make it fact) are that the Panthers have their hearts set on taking USC's Marqise Lee in the first round. If they were to take another wide receiver in the draft, it would probably be Indiana's Cody Latimer. I originally had disregarded Carolina as a realistic option to select Gallon, putting them in the same category as Oakland and St. Louis, because I was (and still somewhat am) certain that they'll try to fill their need for wide receiver sooner rather than later in the draft. Gallon to Carolina seems like a bit of a long shot unless all of the flashier candidates are taken.

By the Fifth Round, All Bets are Off

I'm personally expecting Gallon to be a mid to late pick in the third round, but that could be just my bias as a Michigan fan believing that the guy who broke Braylon Edwards' school record for single season receiving yards is just as good anyone projected to go in the first round.

If Gallon somehow makes it all the way down to the fifth round (or later!) as many expect him to, anyone could select him. By that point most of the teams will have filled their needs and will be looking to add the best player available. You should know by this point in the article that if your team selects Jeremy Gallon, that's precisely what they'll get.

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