Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Devin Funchess, #1 (and #87 and #19)

Devin Funchess (image via MLive)
Funchess was a Rivals 3-star and the #14 tight end in the 2012 class. Here's my commitment post for him from April 2011 (LINK). I gave him a TTB Rating of 75. In addition to pulling in Funchess, Michigan reeled in high school teammate Mario Ojemudia, while wide receiver target Aaron Burbridge ended up going to Michigan State.

When Funchess arrived at Michigan in 2012, he earned immediate playing time despite being an undersized tight end. In his second career game, he caught 4 passes for 106 yards and 1 touchdown against Air Force. He would finish the year with 15 catches for 234 yards and 5 touchdowns, and he was named to some Freshman All-America teams and even made Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. He became a part-time starter in 2013, serving as Michigan's pass receiving tight end until the season's second half, when he played wide receiver almost exclusively. He caught 7 passes for a career-high 151 yards against Minnesota, and he was named the Big Ten's Tight End of the Year after finishing with 49 catches for 748 yards and 6 touchdowns. After playing second fiddle to Jeremy Gallon that year, he was given the #1 jersey. (He had worn #19 as a freshman and then was awarded the #87 Legends jersey as a sophomore.) The 2014 season started off with a bang when Funchess shredded Appalachian State for 7 catches, 95 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury the next week against Notre Dame, and never looked the same after that. Despite being quarterback Devin Gardner's favorite target, Funchess ended his junior season with 62 catches for 733 yards and 4 touchdowns; his 11.8 yards/catch were the lowest of his career. The coaches in the conference voted him Second Team All-Big Ten, which was very generous of them.

126 catches for 1,715 yards (13.6 yards/catch) and 15 touchdowns
8 carries for 23 yards (2.9 yards/carry)
2 tackles

2012: Freshman All-America, Big Ten All-Freshman Team
2013: First Team All-Big Ten, Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year, #87 Legends jersey
2014: Second Team All-Big Ten, #1 jersey

Funchess was a very promising tight end, and he was a huge matchup nightmare in the passing game. Michigan had some questionable quarterback play throughout his career, and Denard Robinson - who was only Funchess's quarterback for the first half of 2012 - seemed to have the best chemistry with him. Funchess looked the most impressive when he had Gallon taking pressure off of him in 2013, because Gardner and Gallon had unbelievable chemistry and defenses needed to account for Gallon on every play. When you have a 6'5", 230 lb. receiver who can run, jump, catch, and gain yards after the catch going up against an individual corner or safety, that's problematic for the defense. Unfortunately, the reason Michigan had to employ such a huge wide receiver was because Funchess basically refused to be an effective in-line blocker. What became clear throughout his career was that Funchess was okay bullying smaller players, but he shied away from trying to physically overmatch defensive ends and linebackers. Michigan suffered from poor tight end blocking for the past three years under Brady Hoke, but Funchess was quite possibly the worst of the bunch. After the ankle injury he suffered against Notre Dame, Funchess missed a game and then came back gimpy for a while. At some point the limping turned into a lack of effort, and Funchess appeared to be saving himself for an early departure to the NFL. Once the season was over, he announced that he would indeed forego his senior season for a chance to play professional football.

. . . being one of the most frustrating players within memory. I would love to remember Funchess for his acrobatic catches, leaping high in the air to avoid Hoosiers and Buckeyes, outmuscling a Penn State safety for a poorly thrown deep ball, etc. However, I can't erase from my memory the idea of him refusing to improve as a blocker and seeming to mail it in after a high ankle sprain. Nor can I forget him saying "wins are just a statistic." He is perhaps Michigan's most impressive "tight end" athlete in history, but some of that potential seems to have been wasted. I don't regret that I compared him to Carson Butler when he committed to Michigan.

Funchess recently went to the NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.7 forty, did 17 reps on the 225 lb. bench press, showed off a 38.5" vertical, and broad jumped 10'2". I have seen him projected anywhere from the middle of the first round to the early part of the second round. I'm not sure that he can play a traditional tight end role in the NFL because he lacks strength and effort in that department, but he can certainly be a pass receiving threat, even though his 4.7 time was a little disappointing. I think some questions about his effort and mentality will drop him to the early second round.


  1. a very frustrating player indeed. I don't think he'll last very long in the league with that attitude though. It would've been good for him to get some real coaching and contribute to the team in 2015, but he decided to forgo degree and another year for Michigan for the glory of NFL. Few years and the teams won't forgive him for all the dropped balls and lack of effort.

  2. If my team used their 1st round draft pick on a big receiver with questionable hands who gives no effort to block and he didn't at least have elite speed, I would be pissed.

    1. You must be upset about the Ebron pick with the Lions. Seems like Funchess to me. I wouldn't take either until mid to late rounds. Underwhelming would be least I could say about them.

  3. In his defense -- none of the other TEs on the roster got better at blocking either.

    1. Crappy TE coaching. Let's see how Harbaughs coach them this year.

    2. Ferrigno was easily the worst coach on Hoke's staff. Even worse than Funk.