Ann Arbor, MI. The University of Michigan football program had a successful draft weekend, with Graham Glasgow (Detroit), Willie Henry (Baltimore), and Jake Rudock (Detroit) all hearing their names called. In addition, Joe Kerridge (Washington), Sione Houma (New Orleans), Jarrod Wilson (Jacksonville), Mario Ojemudia (Baltimore) all signed with teams after going undrafted. James Ross received an invitation for a tryout with Baltimore.
Despite a successful weekend, the Wolverines hope this is the worst draft class of the Jim Harbaugh era. Harbaugh, a former NFL coach, is known for his ability to recruit and develop talent, leading to a widespread belief that more Wolverines’ names will be called in future drafts. What might those names be? Let’s look ahead to next year and try to predict which Wolverines will be drafted, and where in the draft they might land.
Jabrill Peppers, LB/S: Pick 9
There is no denying that Jabrill Peppers is one of college football’s most dynamic athletes, and last season Peppers’ lived up to the hype surrounding his recruitment. Playing mostly safety, Peppers showed his speed and strength all season, consistently blowing up screen plays in the backfield while also having a major impact in coverage. This season, new defensive coordinator Don Brown is bringing Peppers closer to the line of scrimmage to play the SAM linebacker position, where Peppers will be more involved in Blitz packages while also dropping back into coverage depending on the situation. Moreover, expect Peppers to play a role in Michigan’s offense and special teams again this season. Last year, Peppers had great success on offense and special teams, and many expect Michigan to be even more creative with Peppers this season. If Peppers can build on last season’s success and stay healthy there is little reason to believe he will not be a top-15 pick.
Jordan Lewis, CB: Pick 23
Lewis was one of the best cornerbacks in the nation this past season, and his decision to return for his senior season was a major boost for a Michigan defense that was top-ten in most major statistical categories a year ago. Lewis is a guy who is a little undersized at 5-10, 170 pounds, and that may hurt his draft stock. That being said, Lewis is one of the best technical cornerbacks in College Football. He has great agility and quick feet, which allowed him to excel last season in DJ Durkin’s press defense, where corners played close to the line. Lewis is not the dynamic athlete Peppers is, but given his exceptional instinct and great skill he figures to be a first-round pick. We have Lewis towards the end of the first round because of concerns over his size, but another season as one of the best cornerbacks in the country could easily bump Lewis to the mid-to-high first round range.
Jake Butt, TE: Pick 28
Butt, like Lewis, decided to return for his senior season after mulling the possibility of departing for the NFL. At tight end, Butt has the size, speed, and hands that make a great tight end at the next level. Last season Butt caught 51 passes for 654 yards, and given his solid production he was projected as a late second or third-round pick if he entered this season. However, given another season to develop in Michigan’s tight end heavy offense, expect Butt to build on his solid 2015 season. If he can avoid games where he is a non-factor and improves his blocking, especially on run plays, expect Butt to be a first round pick.
Chris Wormley, DE: Pick 38
At 6-5, 303 pounds, Chris Wormley has the size needed to be an NFL defensive lineman. However, what makes Wormley intriguing is his versatility. Last season Wormley showed the ability to play both defensive end and in the interior of the line with great effectiveness, which is a very intriguing concept for many NFL teams. Even at 303 pounds, Wormley has good speed and great strength, which showed in his ability to shed blocks and get to the quarterback. Wormley is also a player who is trying to build on his best season as a Wolverine in 2015, when he had a career-high 6.5 sacks and earned All-Big Ten third team honors. If Wormley can surpass expectatations for 2016 he is a player who could see himself move up into the first round, but for now we have him as an early second round selection.
Jehu Chesson, WR: Pick 47
Chesson is returning to Michigan after a breakout 2015 season, and it’s not hard to see why the fifth-year senior will get a lot of consideration in next years draft. At 6-3, 196 pounds, Chesson has solid size for an NFL wide receiver. However, it is his speed that will appeal to many NFL teams. Chesson was far and away Michigan’s fastest player, and according to reports from practice was much faster than even Jabrill Peppers. This dynamic speed finally translated to results in 2015, as Chesson caught 50 passes for 764 yards. On special teams Chesson was also a force, and his play on special teams was highlighted by a kick-return touchdown on the opening kickoff against Northwestern. Given his speed, size, and ability to return kicks, look for Chesson to be picked in the mid-second round.
Amara Darboh, WR; Pick 71
Like Chesson, Darboh also had his best season in 2015, when he caught 58 passes for 727 yards. At 6-2, 215 pounds, Darboh is about average size for a receiver in the NFL. However, Darboh has great hands is an excellent route-runner, assets that have the potential to separate him from other receivers. No play better showed Darboh’s hands than his amazing, one-handed catch against BYU. If Darboh can build on his 2015 season, expect him to slot into the mid to late third round of next years draft.