One thing that seems to ruffle more feathers amongst the Michigan faithful is how "outsiders" perceive Mike Hart. "He's too slow." "He's too short." Yada yada yada. That thinking, especially among NFL scouts seems to be changing as Hart's value as an every down back becomes more and more apparent.
Maize n Brew is thrilled to welcome Sports Blog Nation's newest commentator Matt Miller to the site. Matt will be covering the NFL Draft for SBN and is already an accomplished pro scout for the AFL and NFL. His current site can be found at www.NewEraScouting.com. Matt is high school and semi-pro football coach whose team won the Central Football League Championship this past spring.
Matt was kind enough to put together a great piece on the draft prospects of our favorite running back. Please help me to welcome Matt to the SBN family and enjoy his handiwork below!
He's too short, definitely too slow and he doesn't have open field moves. These are likely the first few things you'll hear from scouts or fans when asking about Michigan's Heisman candidate running back, Mike Hart. What you should be hearing is that he has tremendous lower-body strength, that he has the best vision of any runner in the senior class and that his toughness and stamina are legendary. While scouts and fans bicker over what Hart does not do well, many people are starting to take notice of the things that he does extremely well. Well enough, in fact, that Hart is now likely to be the first senior running back chosen in the upcoming 2008 NFL Draft.
Hart's career at Michigan began the way it's most likely going to end; with a fantastic run. With 1,455 yards in his freshman season, Hart quickly became a fan favorite in Ann Arbor. His sophomore season was shortened due to injury, but in 2006 Hart came back strong with a 1,500 yard season and 14 touchdowns. Many felt at this time that he could leave early for the NFL Draft, but Hart stayed at Michigan hoping to win a National Championship in his senior season.
While this year will not bring the National Championship to Ann Arbor, Hart has been able to prove himself to pundits. One defining moment of the season was week two, in a loss to the Oregon Ducks. With quarterback Chad Henne injured and the team losing, Hart was rattled on a play and it looked like he might not remain in the game. But with the season and the game on the line, Hart remained in the game and began carrying the Michigan team. His drive and determination became contagious for a Michigan team that has not lost since week two. With already over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, Hart appears to be a top five candidate for the Heisman trophy award.
Despite all of the accomplishments, many still discount Hart's future as a runner in the NFL. Some will point to the lack of success of past Michigan runners named Perry, Thomas or Biakabutuka. Most will point out his size and lack of NFL-level burst and speed. When discussing Hart with football-minds, someone is sure to point out how poorly he will test at the NFL Combine and private work-outs. What most Michigan fans will remind you is that a quarterback named Tom Brady did not test well in work-outs, was considered undersized and underwhelming coming out of Ann Arbor, but he seems to be doing fine in the NFL.
When looking at the positives of Hart, one must acknowledge his superior strength, vision and ability to get positive yardage on every play. With more importance being placed on ball control and all-around talent, Hart is able to carry the ball 25-30 times per game and contribute as a blocker and runner. His experience in zone and man-blocking schemes will better prepare him to play in an NFL-style offense earlier that most runners. His patience is among the best seen this fall, and his vision is extraordinary. Hart is able to see cut back lanes before most backs, which helps make up for his lack of pure straight-line speed.
When assessing and grading Mike Hart, many scouts and general managers will fall in line with the rest of the critics and quickly point out to us all what Mike Hart does not do well enough to make it on their team. One lesson learned from the scouting of Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli is that you must look at what a player CAN do for your team, not what he CANNOT.
Thanks again to Matt for his great breakdown. More information on his new SBN site will go up as soon as it's available.