Wide Receiver - Michigan
Combine Height: 6-0
Combine Weight: 181
Combine 40 Time: 4.59
Caught 72 balls for 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Manningham’s claim to fame at Michigan was as a play-making deep threat. At the Combine, however, Mario served up the unenviable combo platter of running slowly and measuring smaller than his already undersized program stats. Mix in a few face-to-face lies to NFL GMs regarding his positive drug tests and Manningham would have been better served being just about anywhere else other than Indy in late February.
In the intervening couple of months, Manningham has been engaged in spin control. For starters, he apologized via letter to pro teams for misleading them about his drug tests. And when scouts put the Combine behind them and returned to the film room, they remembered that Mario runs crisp routes, is able to gain separation, and catches the ball well. Teams aren’t expecting him to grow a couple inches, nor should they bank on him making a living shrugging off press coverage or running across the middle. He possesses all of the other prerequisites for an NFL receiver: hands, speed, playmaking ability, and an ego the size of The Big House.
There’s a chance Manningham sneaks into the bottom portion of the first round, landing with a team like the Cowboys that already has a bigger receiver and could use a speedy complement. If he slides into Round Two, Mario could be taking a call as early as 33rd overall from the Rams; sure, it’s no longer the greatest show on turf but with Torry Holt aging and Isaac Bruce gone Marc Bulger could use another target. Later in the round the 49ers at 39, Bengals at 46, Vikings at 47, Eagles at 49, and Bucs at 52 could also put his skills to good use.
As a rule fantasy folks don’t expect much from rookie receivers; in the last decade just four wideouts have put up 1,000 yards in their inaugural campaign. That said, Manningham reaches the NFL as polished as any receiver in the draft. His slight stature will likely limit him to slot work as he’ll struggle against press coverage, but his big-school experience and physical skills should get him on the field enough to contribute as potentially a third or fourth fantasy receiver.
Since even in this age of HGH it’s unlikely Manningham morphs into a 6-4, 220-pound pass-catcher, he’ll face durability concerns throughout his career. That shouldn’t be enough to scare off dynasty leaguers, but it’s certainly a red flag. What Mario needs is to find an NFL offense that can mask his deficiencies while he makes plays downfield; should that happen—for instance, should he land in a Mike Martz offense—his rise from fringe fantasy contributor to a potential every-week starter could be expedited.