Today we present the Mystery of Devin Funchess. The Michigan standout has a chance to be a big playmaking outside receiver. Or he could be a "move" tight end that lines up all over the field. Either way, he has the potential to be a matchup problem at the NFL level ... if he can take advantage of his physical gifts. I checked out some tape of Funchess to try and solve this mystery as best as possible.
» Outstanding athleticism
» Has the size to create mismatches
» Good at finding holes in zones
» Difficult to tackle one-on-one
Funchess spent much of his Michigan career as a tight end before switching to wide receiver, duplicating a similar change he experienced in high school. Because of his size, Funchess was a matchup problem for just about every opponent the Wolverines encountered. It left defenders with the unenviable decision of playing press coverage or giving Funchess space. In press coverage, his size and strength allowed him to get off the line of scrimmage. When given space, Funchess excelled at finding gaps in coverage underneath.
With the football in his hands, Funchess was a load to bring down. Generally it took multiple defenders to make a tackle. That allowed Michigan to use the big man on bubble screens and plenty of intermediate crossing routes. While he wasn't a regular downfield threat, the Wolverine offense took advantage of Funchess' size and ability to go over defenders and make tough catches.
» Inconsistent hands
» Allows football to get too deep
» Doesn't show top end speed
» Without a true position
The biggest question surrounding Funchess is whether he projects more as a receiver or a tight end. Running a 4.70 40-yard dash at the Combine led people to lean toward the latter. But his 4.48 time at Michigan's pro day has a lot of people reconsidering. On tape, however, Funchess looked more like a 4.70 player than a 4.48 speedster. That could slot him as tight end at the NFL level ... except for one thing.
Funchess wasn't the most reliable option catching the football. Michigan certainly had quarterback issues during the 2014 season, but the big pass-catcher had more than his share of issues with drops and allowing the football to get too far into his body. It also seems telling that for a player with the ability to cause such major matchup problems, Funchess posted just four receiving touchdowns in his final season. It makes you wonder about his skills as a goal-line option.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Peyton Manning might not be the quarterback he once was, but Denver is still a nice landing place for any offensive rookie. With Julius Thomas out of the mix, there's a chance for another athletic big man to slide into the tight end role. Dennis Pitta is still holding down the TE job in Baltimore, meaning Funchess could project as a hybrid TE/WR, but there might be too much pressure on the rookie in an offense that is lacking proven playmakers on the outside. The Niners offense is in such disarray that Funchess could have a chance to be on the field immediately, but major growing pains should be expected.
Early fantasy draft projection
Plenty of comparisons have described Funchess as a less explosive version of Kelvin Benjamin. That would forecast good things in the future, but it might take a season or two for Funchess to get there. In a dynasty league, the big man has some mid- to late-round value, but is an end-of-draft flier option at best in most standard leagues.