Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
An early preview of the Michigan players who may be prominent in the 2020 NFL draft
As part of Hogs Haven’s pre-draft coverage, I have been previewing one team per week throughout the college football season. One of the biggest games this weekend when Michigan hosts undefeated Ohio State in Ann Arbor.
The stakes are high for both teams, as Ohio State are in a playoff hunt, while a Michigan win would undoubtedly save Jim Harbaugh’s job.
From their use of a LB/Safety hybrid, known as a “Viper” (Jabrill Peppers, Khaleke Hudson), “NASCAR” packages (4 Defensive Ends on the field together: Hutchinson, Uche, Paye, Danna), and bracket coverages in the secondary, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defense is certainly one of the most interesting and successful in the country.
While they had 11 players drafted in 2017, minus that anomaly, they have only averaged just three players drafted per year this decade.
This year, I have watched Michigan play Wisconsin and Iowa (via BTN’s Football in 60 replay), parts of both Notre Dame and Penn State, all of the Michigan State game when it was televised, and finally a condensed version of the Indiana game via Youtuber, WolverineDevotee.
POTENTIAL FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS
While they had a pair of players drafted in Rd1 in both 2017 and 2019, I don’t believe we will see a Michigan player drafted in the first round in 2020. Watch out for Aiden Hutchinson in 2021.
POSSIBLE DAY TWO (ROUNDS 2-3) PROSPECTS
#9 Donovan Peoples-Jones (Jr.) WR 6-2 208.
If there’s one Michigan player that could break into the top-32, it will likely be DPJ.
Widely considered a 5-star recruit, and the top high school player in the state of Michigan, Donovan Peoples-Jones came to Ann Arbor with a lot of fan fare. He was an immediate contributor, earning the team’s Rookie of the Year award in 2017. That season, DPJ started seven or thirteen games, producing a total of 654 all-purpose yards (277 receiving yards) and one touchdown (via punt return).
As a sophomore, he finished with 47 receptions for 612 yards with eight touchdowns. DPJ missed the first two games of the season with a high-ankle sprain, and did not play until the Wisconsin game. Going into what could be his final game (pending a bowl game appearance) he has 30 catches for 335 yards with five touchdowns this season.
A very good athlete, Jones will likely excel at the NFL Combine and Michigan’s Pro Day. In 2015, Jones won Nike’s SPARQ National Champion, with a winning score of 149.49.
People-Jones has always been better than his stats. A very explosive player with the ball in his hands, and a great return man. He remains my favorite of the Michigan receivers. Physically similar to Amari Cooper, Peoples-Jones also shares many of the same traits and skills that made Cooper a star at Alabama.
#51 Cesar Ruiz (Jr.) Center 6-4 319.
Coming out of the high school power house IMG academy, Ruiz came to Ann Arbor as a 4-star recruit, ranked by most of the nation’s top HS center.
Ruiz has always looked like a future NFL center, but draft analyst Tony Pauline says NFL scouts feel he has played as well as anyone else in the country in 2019 and could contend to be the top center prospect.
Per @PFF_College, here are the highest-graded pass-blocking Centers in the nation (min. 200+ pass block snaps):
1. Cesar Ruiz (Michigan)
2. Junior Diaz (FAU)
3. Matt Hennessy (Temple)
4. Keith Ismael (San Diego State)
5. Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)
— Jarad Evans (@Jarad_Evans) November 22, 2019
In the Michigan State game, Ruiz gave up a sack on 2nd play of day to (Raekwon Williams) and was injured in Q2 before returning.
#74 Ben Bredeson (Sr.) Guard 6-5 325.
Bredeson has played in 47 career games with 43 starts at left guard since arriving in Ann Arbor. Voted to the second-team All-Big Ten in 2018, Bredeson has been voted by Michigan as a team captain back-to-back seasons. In 2018, he joined Devin Bush as Michigan’s first junior captains. Bredeson also was voted Michigan’s Toughest Player in 2018.
Over the summer, Bredeson was named preseason first- team All American by some sources, and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked him as his pre-season 6th ranked interior offensive lineman.
Tony Pauline also praised his play in his Week 12 Risers. Pauline wrote ’’The better Michigan’s offensive line plays, the more dominant the Wolverines have been the past two months. And Bredeson, the senior leader of the group, is playing better each week. He offers size, football intelligence, and a nice degree of power. Graded as a day three pick coming into the season, some area scouts now feel Bredeson could move into the third round of the draft based on his play this year.”
— Reese’s Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) November 8, 2019
The third round seems about right to me, but last year, both Chris Lindstrom Garrett Bradbury each catapulted up the rankings after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl, and it’s possible Bredeson could see a similar rise.
#24 Lavert Hill (Sr.) CB 5-11 182.
A three-year starter, Hill has appeared in 45 games, with 35 starts at cornerback in his Michigan career. Michigan’s scheme calls for a bunch of tight man-to-man coverage on the outside, which Hill has excelled at since his sophomore season.
Lavert Hill is your returning, highest-graded Power-5 cornerback pic.twitter.com/d4dAJIbXEP
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 4, 2018
In 2018, Michigan’s cornerback duo of Lavert Hill and David Long combined to play at a near shut-down level for most of season, but along with the rest of the Michigan team, they struggled to contain Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, and the rest of the Ohio State offense.
Many expected Hill would follow Long in declaring for the NFL, but he decided to return for his senior season.
In the Michigan State game, Lavert had an interception and a couple of passes defended.
Hill has NFL bloodlines, as his bother Delano, played safety for the Wolverines and currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
In the end, Hill is a very similar prospect to Long (Rd3, 2019) and Jourdan Lewis (Rd3, 2017) making it easy to project him being drafted toward the end of the third round.
LIKELY DAY THREE (ROUNDS 4-7) PROSPECTS
#7 Khaleke Hudson (Sr.) LB/S (Viper) 6-0 220.
As Jabrill Peppers replacement, Hudson made 13 starts at Don Brown’s “Viper” position in 2017, totaling 83 tackles, a team-leading 18.5 TFLs, and 2 interceptions. As a pure defensive player, Hudson was arguably better than the departed Peppers.
After having a spectacular sophomore season, Hudson production dipped his junior year, as his blitzing was replaced by Devin Bush. Once again, this season, Hudson is being used more as a LB/S with minimal blitzing.
With two games (pending a bowl appearance) left to go in his Michigan career, Hudson has a total of 201 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 14 pass deflections, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.
Some NFL teams could see Hudson as a player without a true position, and he likely will fall well outside of the top-100 for their board, while others are looking for “hybrid” players who can fill multiple roles.
For NFL teams who miss out on Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons (a likely first round prospect), Hudson brings many of the same skills at a discount.
#4 Nico Collins (Sr.) WR 6-4 222.
One Wolverine who has broken out this season has been Collins, and the 6-foot-4, 222-pound wideout is starting to garner some NFL interest.
After his impressive performance against Indiana, Collins made it on Pro Football Focus’ team of the week. Explains PFF, “Michigan has a receiving corps chocked full of draftable talent, and for us here at PFF, Collins sits atop that group. This past week, he hauled in 6-7 targets—including 3-3 contested catches. In the end, Collins hauled in six catches for 165 yards and three scores, securing 78 of those yards after the catch. His combination of size, speed and ball skills is very intriguing at the next level.”
Thus far, he has 31 catches for 649 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games this season.
Nico Collins flashes shades of Miles Boykins (Rd3, 2019) but probably will not test like Boykins did at the NFL Combine. Collins ability to gain separation and win at the catch point will be tested against the Buckeyes’ secondary which lines up three potential Rd 1-2 cornerbacks.
#14 Josh Metellus (Sr.) Safety 6-0 218.
Michigan safety Josh Metellus consistency holds up in coverage. Here he is vs Indiana. pic.twitter.com/BaYdj15I9U
— Durst (@DurstNFLDraft) November 26, 2019
A three year starter, Metellus has the skills to play in the NFL but will probably be drafted in the later rounds.
#2 Shea Patterson (rSr.) QB 6-2 202.
The wild card could be Shea Patterson. A former 5-star recruit, Patterson was the #4 rated overall recruit in the 2016 class on the 247Sports Composite. He originally enrolled at Ole Miss, and looked like a future star as a sophomore, but transferred to Michigan before the 2018 season.
Seemingly a poor fit in coach Harbaugh’s old school system, Patterson’s draft stock had sunk to the point, that Harbaugh said over the summer that Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey could split time at quarterback during the season.
However, Patterson has shows improvement throughout the 2019 season.
Announcer Joel Kratt (who is also Fox Sports lead draft analyst) says “I don’t think there is any doubt about it, this is the best game Shea Patterson has played in a Michigan uniform.”
Kratt felt being more involved in the quarterback running game seemed to get him in a rhythm in the passing game.
Last weekend, Patterson might have been even better, earring a spot on PFF’s team of the week. Against Indiana, Patterson went 7-of-7 on Michigan’s opening drive, and finished with 371 yards and five touchdowns. Per PFF, “he hit on all five touchdowns on throws targeted at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. He has his Wolverines team rolling into their annual showdown with Ohio State, reaching highs that we haven’t seen from him this year at the very right time.”
Shea Patterson and the Wolverines offense are ROLLING right now! pic.twitter.com/GkUoFW9xzP
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 24, 2019
Heading into Michigan’s regular-season finale against Ohio State, Patterson is third in the Big Ten with 2,523 yards. He has 21 touchdowns and five interceptions and averages 229.4 passing yards per game. In his past four games, Patterson has completed 63 % of his attempts for 1,001 yards, 12 TDs vs just one pick.
The Ohio State game will be a huge game for Patterson. If he can somehow lead his team to an upset, a lot of the past two season could be forgiven, and his draft stock could rebound.
#7 Tarik Black (Jr.) WR 6-3 215.
This is a hard one. I remember watching Black’s first ever game, a Labor Day weekend match-up between Michigan and Florida, and Black was very impressive. However, he has been surpassed by not just Peoples-Jones and Collins, but also sophomore Ronnie Bell.
What clouds Black’s draft prospects even more is that he has been frequently injured throughout his collegiate career.
#6 Josh Uche (Sr.) LB/DE 6-2 250.
After being a LB/DE most of career, Josh Uche started at DT against Michigan State, and coaches coaches consider him one of their top pass rushers. Unfortunately, his skill-set and frame do not align, and Uche is unlikely to be drafted until late in the draft.
#75 Jon Runyan Jr. (rSr.) OT 6-5 321.
Just a 3-star HS recruit, Runyan started just one game over his first three seasons, before finally earring the starting job in 2018.
Runyan is the son of former Michigan and NFL offensive tackle, Jon Runyan Sr. In addition to playing 14 seasons in the NFL, the elder Jon Runyan once started 190 consecutive regular season games. He is currently a politician.
I’m not sure what to make of Runyan’s draft prospects. While he has made vast strides at left tackle, and was voted first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches in 2018, he has been exposed by the better pass rushers he has faced, and I expect Chase Young will easily have his way with him this weekend.
#82 Nick Eubanks (Jr.) TE 6-5 256.
Rated as one of the nation’s top-15 high school tight ends, Eubanks has played in a rotation for the past four seasons. He has some talent, and displays enough “want to as a blocker” to be a back-up in a Jeremy Sprinkle-like role.