2015 NFL Draft Preview: Red Flags in Bunches for Devin Funchess

Devin Funchess

Believe it or not Devin Funchess was listed as a tight end until his Junior year at Michigan. He won Big Ten tight end of the year award in 2013 as a sophomore with 47 receptions for 727 yards and 6 scores. Funchess put his hand on the ground for the majority of his snaps but also lined up as wide receiver depending on the play call.  Used primarily as a tight end he rarely faced DBs and typically matched up against LBs who were far less athletic and much slower than opposing DBs. LBs can rarely challenge a receiver at the catch point, or high point and are more often than not, going to lose that positioning battle. DBs are bred to stop the pass. LB’s are bred to put pressure on the quarterback, stop the run, and hopefully if you’re lucky they can pass cover. That’s why LBs like to ear hole the TEs coming over the middle. They’re MO is to disrupt the route and ring bells while leveling the playing field. In the process they leave a cloud of dust in their tracks and defenders on their backs. While I’m sympathetic to Funchess’s transition, I cannot convince myself too look past his blatant unwillingness to be competitive, which I will explain later. I believe he has the tools to be an NFL franchise player. But tools alone by themselves are not enough to build a foundation. More importantly you must also have the blueprint to go with the desire and strength to actually mix the mortar. You have to be willing to work very hard to succeed at the next level where all the players are faster, stronger, and more athletic than in college.

Funchess was moved to the outside in 2014 and officially listed as a wide receiver. That has to be considered when grading him as a wide receiver. At 6’5″ you would think he would be a huge red zone target but think again. Funchess amassed only 15 touchdowns over his three year collegiate career at Michigan. After making the position change to wide receiver he went on to disappoint everyone when he only scored 4 touchdowns in 2014. The icing on the cake was that 3 of his 4 scores came in their first regular season game of the year versus Appalachian State. That means Funchess played another eleven games and only managed 1 touchdown over that timespan! I’d like to play the role of Devil’s advocate for a second and compare Funchess to one of his draft counterparts, Dorial Green-Beckham. DGB is roughly his exact size along with possessing very similar draft stock on most experts’ draft boards. In comparison DGB had 17 touchdowns in just 2 years!  This includes his 12 touchdown season in 2013. Funchess’ highest single season touchdown total was a measly 6. A popular comparison to Funchess is Kelvin Benjamin who had 19 touchdowns in two seasons at FSU, including a 15 touchdown season in 2013. His numbers actually mirror Jonathon Baldwins at Pitt. Like Funchess, Baldwin only amassed 16 touchdowns and never eclipsed double digit touchdowns, registering his season best with 8 in 2009. The reason Baldwin’s comps are relevant is because they fit a very similar profile from a physical standpoint. Their comps become even more clear and visible when evaluating them on tape in the effort and pass catching categories.

So when Funchess didn’t have his hand on the ground his defenders mostly played off the line giving him a clean release. This will NOT happen at the next level, especially if a team is trying to use him as their number one wide receiver. Funchess lacks any explosiveness and proof of that was his underwhelming 40 yard dash time (4.70) at the NFL combine. Last year he seemed to jog off the line at times. He was horrible as a blocker due to his lack of effort and unwillingness to be a team player. He seemed to be content with letting a pass fall incomplete if it wasn’t thrown above the rim or in his bread basket. Funchess appeared at times to be lazy in and out of his breaks and played with little to no urgency. Some of these plays he checked out for resulted in turnovers which if not corrected at the next level, will bury him on the depth chart. Another knock on him is that he rarely works his way back to the quarterback when he’s under duress. Instead of doing whatever it takes to keep the play alive, he becomes more of a spectator instead of a blocker or target. The bottom line is that he has some major red flags which are warranted as cause for concern. Funchess needs to play to his size to succeed in the NFL but the real question is, “Will he put in time to work on getting stronger?” He also struggled at times versus press coverage and physical corners. It’s obvious he suffers from mental lapses, lack of concentration (leading to drops), and seems to shy away from contact. Funchess doesn’t play to his size, lacks the “my ball” mentality along with a very questionable work ethic. Add all these things up and you have a player who seems to pick and choose when he gives you max effort. This brings to mind another tight end a la Vernon Davis in 2008 when Head coach Mike Singletary called him out in his postgame press conference. We all remember Singletary’s tirade but this was exactly what helped Vernon Davis finally open his eyes up and self-reflect. It was a turning point in his career and helped him become a star and team player. This is why landing spot and coaching staff will become the key ingredient in determining whether or not Funchess is a failure or success at the next level.

There are some positives and things that jumped out to me from watching his tape. Funchess is far more dynamic with the ball in his hands. There is no doubt that Funchess is a ridiculous athlete who possesses a joust like stiff arm. He makes defenders look silly either by hurdling them or juking them out of their jock straps. Funchess has some monster mitts that he uses to pluck the ball out of the air. He also adjusts well to balls above the rim making him an ideal red zone target for whatever team takes a chance on him. Funchess moves like a smaller guy with his enormous frame and let’s not forget he’s a former basketball player who can climb the ladder and tower over DBs when he “wants” to. He is too big for corners and safeties and way too fast for LBs, but CBs on the other hand is a different story.  He is the ultimate match up nightmare and most athletic hybrid in this year’s draft class. He does a nice job on the post with keeping inside position and works well on the short to intermediate routes.  Funchess has a second gear when he decides to use it and mash on the gas. He also has a nice hitch and go route and is very good at creating plays off the screen game. Make no mistake he does most of his work between the 20’s but that can make you a good payday playing on Sunday’s.

Funchess falls into the “I don’t know category”  He’s not reliable enough to be a possession receiver like Anquan Boldin and doesn’t produce in the red zone like a Kelvin Benjamin! So where does that leave a guy who is such an athletic freak but reminds me of the kid who walks laps at practice while everyone else runs? Your guess is as good as mine! The jury is still deliberating and the verdict is nowhere in sight when it comes to the interesting case of Devin Funchess….

 

Dennis Dunbar @LionsDenNFL

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