The first two seasons of the Rich Rodriguez administration have been tough for Big Blue fans. However, in no way does it overshadow or taint the programs prestige and the great NFL players it has produced. Tom Brady, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, and Dan Dierdorf are some of the best ever at their positions and Hall of Famers—or will be in Brady's case. Going into the 2009 NFL season, Michigan has produced the fourth most NFL players and boasts an impressive list of talent.
Quarterback : Tom Brady—This is no contest here. Brady is on the short list of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl wins. In 2007, he led the Patriots to an unbeaten regular season record and threw a record 50 touchdown passes.
Honorable Mentions : Benny Friedman, Brian Griese, Jim Harbaugh, Todd Collins, and Elvis Grbac
Bust : Drew Henson
?: Chad Henne
See you later : Ryan Mallet
Running Backs : Tyrone Wheatley and Ron A. Johnson—Wheatley was never a star running back during his 10 year career, but he put respectable numbers and rushed for over a thousand yards in 2000. Johnson made the Pro Bowl twice during the early 1970s for the New York Giants and recorded 55 offensive touchdowns in seven NFL seasons.
Honorable Mention : Leroy Hoard
Bust : Tim Biakabutuka—His career would have been much different without those injuries.
?: Mike Hart
Fullback : Jon Ritchie—Ritchie played in two Super Bowls, one with Oakland and one with Philadelphia. He helped pave the way for Charlie Garner and Brian Westbrook to have successful seasons.
Honorable Mention : B.J. Askew and Justin Fargas (transferred to USC)
Wide Receivers : Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch (transferred from Wisconsin) and Anthony Carter—Hirsch is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history and certainly the best player to ever transfer to Michigan. He won the receiving triple crown in 1951. At his peak during the late 1980s, Anthony Carter was one of the best at his position. He made three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1987-1989. This is an extremely deep position with lots of the stand out players. This offense could be very dangerous in five receiver sets with this kind of depth.
Honorable Mentions : Bill Hewitt, Terry Barr, Braylon Edwards, Bob Mann, Mario Manningham, Steve Breaston, Derrick Alexander, Amani Toomer, John Greene, Glenn Doughty, David Terrel, Jason Avant, Jack Clancy, Tai Streets, and Chris Calloway
Bust : Desmond Howard (as an NFL wide receiver)
Tight End : Ron Kramer—Ron Kramer was the Packer's tight end for the first part of the Lombardi Era. He caught a team-leading seven touchdowns for the 1962 championship team that went 13-1. That was outstanding at the time for any player, let alone a tight end.
Honorable Mentions : Jay Riemersma and Tony McGee
Offensive Tackles : Mike Kenn and Dan Dierdorf—Kenn played his entire 17 year and 251 game career with the Atlanta Falcons, a franchise record. He was the NFLPA President from 1989-1996. Before his days as an announcer, Dierdorf played his entire 13 year Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals (not the same team Albert Pujols plays for now). He didn't give up a sack for the entire 1976 and 1977 seasons.
Honorable Mentions : Al Wistert, Bubba Paris, Jon Runyan, Jeff Backus, Jumbo Elliot, Maurice Williams, Rich Strenger, Jon Giesler, Steve Smith, and Jon Jansen
Rising : Jake Long
Offensive Guards : Tom Mack and Steve Hutchinson—Mack is one of the greatest guards in NFL history. He started 184 consecutive games for the Los Angeles Rams and missed the Pro Bowl once between 1967 and 1978. Steve Hutchinson may be the best guard in today's NFL. Before he helped Adrian Peterson thrash NFL defenses, Hutchinson helped Shaun Alexander set the single season rushing touchdown record (that stood for a year) and the Seahawks reach the Big Game (both in the 2005 season). Alexander's career was never the same after Hutchinson left the Emerald City for Minnesota.
Honorable Mentions : Matt Elliot, Joe O'Donnel, Greg Skrepenak, and Chris Godfrey
Center : John Morrow—Morrow was the starting center for the Browns title team in 1964 and was a top center during his 11 year career in Los Angeles and Cleveland.
Honorable Mention : Steve Everitt
Defensive Ends : Len Ford and Curtis Greer—After his AAFC days with the Los Angeles Dons, Ford helped Cleveland Browns continue their success from the AAFC into the NFL. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. Greer recorded a combined 30 sacks for the 1983 and 1984 seasons, but only lasted in the NFL for eight seasons with the Cardinals.
Honorable Mentions : David Bowens and James Hall
Defensive Tackles : Trevor Pryce (transferred to Clemson) and Tom Keating—Trevor Pryce earned two Super Bowls in first two NFL seasons and quickly established himself as one of the league's best defensive lineman. He played in four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1999-2002. Keating played for the Oakland Raiders during their beginning of NFL prominence. He played in the first Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers and was twice All-Pro.
Honorable Mention : Kevin Brooks
Outside Linebakers : LaMarr Woodley and Roger Zatkoff—Woodley is only in his third NFL season, but he has quickly established himself as one of the league's best young linebackers and will be a feared player by offenses for years to come. Zatkoff only played in the NFL for six seasons, but made the Pro Bowl for three of them. He played on the last Lions team that won a championship in 1957.
Honorable Mentions : John Anderson, Mel Owens, Ian Gold, Cato June, and Bill Laskey
Middle Linebacker : Frank Nunley—Fudgehammer played his entire NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers. He played in 137 career games. David Harris will probably be the starter in a couple more seasons for this position, but right now I cant bench a veteran like Nunley.
Honorable Menton : Larry Foote, Dhani Jones, and David Harris
Cornerbacks : Ty Law and Charles Woodson—Law is currently in his 15th NFL season and has been one of the top defensive backs during his playing days. He has led the NFL in interceptions twice and helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls. Charles Woodson didn't miss beat when he left Ann Arbor for the NFL after winning the Heisman Trophy. He made the Pro Bowl during his first four seasons with the Raiders and is currently starting for the Green Bay Packers.
Honorable Mentions : Marlin Jackson, Dave Brown, Mike Bass, Mike Harden, Bennie McRae, Leon Hall and John Rowser
Free Safety : Dwight Hicks—Hicks worked at a health food store before signing with the 49ers at 25 and helped them launch a dynasty. He made four Pro Bowls and collected two Super Bowl rings in San Francisco.
Honorable Mentions : Rick Volk and Thom Darden
Strong Safety : Randy Logan—Logan was an 11 year starter for the Philadelphia Eagles and helped them reach the playoffs for four consecutive seasons from 1978-1981.
Honorable Mention : Keith Bostic
Kicker : Jay Feely—Feely is currently kicking for his fifth NFL team in his ninth NFL season.
Punter : Don Bracken—Bracken punted for nine NFL seasons for the Packers and Rams.
Returner : Desmond Howard—Howard did not live up to the expectations many had for him as a wide receiver in the NFL, but he should the true value of the return game with his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXX.