ESPN analyst: Spartans figure higher in NFL draft

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

As the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry nears kickoff, one thing already has been decided — Michigan State clearly has the edge in terms of NFL-caliber talent.

ESPN’s Todd McShay, an NFL draft analyst, is working the Michigan-Michigan State game at Michigan Stadium along with Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman. He has studied talent across the country, and there’s no doubt which of the teams has more NFL draft-quality talent.

“It’s more top heavy to Michigan State with (quarterback) Connor Cook and (left tackle) Jack Conklin and some of their upper classmen,” McShay said in a phone interview this week. “Michigan is more Day-3 prospects, more on the defensive side with (linebackers) Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan maybe late. But Michigan has a lot of younger guys who in a year or two from now who will be draftable.”

McShay says he ranks Cook (29-3 as a starter, including victories in the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl and also the Cotton Bowl) No. 21 overall and as the No. 2 quarterback. He rates Conklin higher at No. 10 overall.

“He’s doing a lot right,” McShay said of Cook. “Every once in a while there’s a mental breakdown you’d like to see him advance beyond. Every once in a while there’s a throw his footwork isn’t right and he’s off target, but in the vast majority he’s very good. He anticipates throwing to guys, he’s learned to trust his arm and he fits throws into a tight window. He’s playing at a very high level for a college quarterback.”

McShay has given MSU center Jack Allen a fourth-round grade and also thinks defensive end Shilique Calhoun will be a late draft pick. He also offered praise for receiver Aaron Burbridge.

“He does a nice job with his body control and made some tough catches in traffic (at Rutgers last week),” McShay said. “He and Connor seem to have a good rapport. It seems to me that while Cook is going through his reads when the initial play break down, he’s looking for Burbridge and more often than not, he’s delivering.”

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock, a two-year starter at Iowa before transferring for his final year of eligibility, might get a look from NFL teams as an undrafted free agent.

“He’s intelligent, but he’s streaky, to be honest,” McShay said. “Some portions of games he’s in a rhythm and he likes what he sees and is effective and other times he misses open receivers. I watched the UNLV tape and there were four, five throws you wonder what he was thinking. As smart as he is, there’s a learning curve and there’s not that much experience with the offense.”

Center Graham Glasgow, who came to Michigan as a walk-on, could squeak into the late round.

“He’s improved and he’s one of those classic centers,” McShay said. “He’s not an elite athlete, and he’s a former walk-on. He’s a tough guy, smart, and hits all the angles right. He keeps getting better and better. I didn’t write him up in the preseason but have seen enough to think he could be a priority free agent or a late-round pick.”