Name: Donovan Peoples-Jones
Weight: 199 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: #9
Last year: I ranked Peoples-Jones #34 and said he would be a backup wide receiver (LINK). He started four games and made 22 catches for 277 yards (12.6 yards/catch). He also ran 4 times for 57 yards (14.2 yards/carry) and returned 40 punts for 320 yards (8.0 yards/return) and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating: 92
Peoples-Jones was a superstar coming out of high school, but even so, I thought he would be a backup in 2017. Receiver is not an extremely position to adjust to when you jump up a level in competition. Fellow freshman Tarik Black seemed to make that adjustment quicker, but neither one was extremely productive for any stretch of time. In Peoples-Jones’s case, he ripped off a 79-yard punt return against Air Force for a touchdown. He had a 44-yard run against Cincinnati. He had a 48-yard catch against Wisconsin and a 37-yard catch against Air Force. And he had a 42-yard punt return against Ohio State. And that’s it for plays that went for 20+ yards: 2 catches, 1 run, and 2 punt returns. Of course, the quarterback and offensive line situations did not help, but a 5-star receiving notching five total explosive plays in a full season as a freshman is a tad bit disappointing.
On the plus side, there were good reasons for that lack of production, all of which have been mitigated. He was a freshman (he’s not anymore). He didn’t have a receivers coach (Jim McElwain was hired). He didn’t have a good quarterback (enter Shea Patterson) or a good offensive line (Ed Warinner was hired). The improvement of the offensive line has yet to be seen, but most people are expecting at least a slight uptick in performance. Black and Peoples-Jones should be the starters on the outside, and I expect bigger production from Peoples-Jones. It will be interesting to see which receiver really takes the reins as the go-to guy, because it’s not often that Michigan has had two such big, physical, and athletic receivers. I think Peoples-Jones is a little more valuable than Black because DPJ returns punts and could return kickoffs, while Black is less of a special teams-style contributor.
Prediction: Starting wide receiver; 40 catches for 600 yards and 6 touchdowns
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