It is assumed that at some point this evening, most likely in the 10-11 p.m. range, one of 32 teams will announce it has selected Brandon Graham in the first round of the NFL draft.
From that point forward, the University of Michigan will once again be rendered an afterthought in the draft, with perhaps just one other college teammate of Graham's hearing his name called.
This week isn't always a fair barometer in judging the success of a college program, but over the past two years, including the expected results of this year, the NFL draft has accurately reflected the futility UM has displayed.
A year ago, only two Wolverines were chosen - fourth-rounder Terrance Taylor and sixth-rounder Morgan Trent - and that number will be trumped this year only if late-round projections Zoltan Mesko or Brandon Minor is chosen to go along with Graham and cornerback Donovan Warren. Such is the consequence of UM winning just eight games over the past two seasons.
"For three to four years there hasn't been the dynamic players they've produced in the past," said Chris Steuber, a draft analyst for Scout.com. "I don't know if it's kids going to different schools or if it's [UM] transitioning to the spread offense, but it's confusing to me. They haven't produced the talent you expect Michigan to produce. Right now, the prospects are not there."
That hasn't always been the case for the winningest program in college football history.
From 2000-2005, UM placed six players in both the first and second rounds and 16 others in rounds 3-7. Nine Wolverines were picked in the first round during the 1990s.
But in the five most recent drafts - including what is expected this week - only the classes of 2006 and 2008 can be considered successes.
Early indications are that UM's 2011 class, which has just 12 players, will also be thin on NFL talent. Per NFLDraftScout.com, incoming senior linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are ranked ninth and 14th at their respective positions. Stephen Schilling is the No. 6 guard, and cornerback Troy Woolfolk is the ninth-ranked free safety.
"Certainly the number of players they've produced is not as it's been in the past," said Kevin Weidl of ESPN's Scouts Inc.. Weidl added that from conversations he's had with NFL teams, he does not sense UM's cold streak in the draft has tarnished the program.
The rate at which a program produces NFL prospects, particularly selections in the first couple of rounds, becomes a major factor in the high school recruiting process, Steuber said. So far, though, UM appears to be recruiting well. Rich Rodriguez's most recent class was ranked in the top 20 by every meaningful scouting service, although during his signing day press conference, Rodriguez admitted that back-to-back poor seasons "doesn't help."
"It's always easier to go into a player's home with their parents and say, we produce this many first round picks," Steuber said. "If there's a consistent dry spell, it will hurt recruiting."
Graham is proof UM can still produce first-round talent. Weidl is a big fan of the NCAA leader in tackles for loss, an opinion shared by many. The biggest and perhaps only knock on Graham is that at 6-foot-1 and 268 pounds, he may be undersized to play end in a 4-3 scheme. For that reason, some scouts view Graham as an outside linebacker.
Weidl expects Graham will be picked anywhere from No. 12 (Atlanta) to No. 19 (Miami). San Francisco (13, 17), Seattle (14), Tennessee (16) and Pittsburgh (18) are other possible destinations for Graham, Weidl said.
"This guy is too good of a football player to last through the first round," Weidl said. "He doesn't have the measurables, but the talent, strength, and you just watch the guy's overall explosion, it's pretty impressive."
Weidl and others in his field are less certain about the outlook for UM's other prospects. Warren's 40 time of 4.73 seconds is the main reason his stock has dropped, and Mesko does not play a position of dire need. And then there's Minor, a hulking running back who never reached his potential at UM because of a string of injuries, notably involving his foot and shoulder.
"I wouldn't be surprised if somebody takes a late-round flyer on him," Weidl said.