With the 2020 NFL Draft in the rearview (LINK), we now turn our eyes toward the 2020 season and the 2021 draft. A lot can happen between now and then, but you often see pro potential a year or more in advance. There are others who could make the leap, but these are the top six players who would be eligible for next year’s draft.
Nico Collins – WR – Senior
Collins is a jumbo wideout at 6’4″ and 222 lbs. Despite that size there was a social media post in the off-season showing he ran a 4.46 forty. That’s an impressive speed for his size, even if he doesn’t necessarily play that fast on the field. He made 37 catches for 729 yards (19.7 yards/catch) and 7 touchdowns in 2019. While that volume isn’t great, it’s noteworthy that he has some of the best hands in the country; he just wasn’t targeted a ton. It’s slated to be another good wide receiver class in 2021, so I’m not sure how much Collins will be able to separate himself from the slightly smaller, more dynamic wideouts. But Collins could very well be Michigan’s top draft pick in the next class. He’s a bit like Texas’s Collin Johnson, who was taken in the 5th round this year.
Nick Eubanks – TE – Fifth Year Senior
Fifth year senior Eubanks (6’5″, 256) should find himself some more and varied targets in 2020. He and Sean McKeon were kind of a 1-2 punch at tight end in 2019, but McKeon signed with the Cowboys, and it’s unclear how ready the next guy will be, whether it’s Erick All or Luke Schoonmaker. Michigan has an influx of young, speedy slot receivers, so the Wolverines could play fewer snaps with multiple tight ends in 2020 than they did in 2019. McKeon has shown flashes of good play, and while his blocking isn’t up to snuff, he’s a reliable pass receiver. He could end up being a day 3 pick for someone.
Aidan Hutchinson – DE – Junior
Hutchinson (6’6″, 278) has outstanding size and very good technique to be a strongside end at the next level. He made 68 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 6 pass breakups, and 4 quarterback hurries. By the end of next season, he will be a two-year starter with everything on tape that he needs to show.
Jalen Mayfield – OT – Redshirt Sophomore
Mayfield (6’5″, 319) spent all of 2019 starting at right tackle. It sounds like the plan for him is to stay on the right side, even if he appears to be fully capable of playing left tackle. With Michigan putting four linemen in the draft during this last cycle, the message is clear: pro coaches like Ed Warinner-coached linemen. Physically, Mayfield is the most talented lineman of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Cameron McGrone – LB – Redshirt Sophomore
McGrone (6’1″, 232) had a breakout season in 2019. He found his way onto the field due to injury and did pretty well with it. Some mental mistakes found their way to the surface, but he also showed sideline-to-sideline speed, an ability to blitz, and the demeanor of a thumping tackler. He made 66 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 5 quarterback hurries. With the current NCAA climate, two years of starting with solid production is often the ticket to entering the draft.
Kwity Paye – DE – Senior
Paye played everywhere on the defensive line in 2019 at 6’4″ and 277 lbs. He does not have a ton of explosiveness to come off the edge, but he’s a steady pass rusher with the ability to move inside on passing downs. He made 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and 3 quarterback hurries in 2019. The best thing about Paye is his ability to get low and maintain leverage. To me he’s an upgrade over Mike Danna – who was Paye’s backup – and Danna was drafted in the 5th round. Once again we’re probably looking at a day 3 pick in Paye.
Ambry Thomas – CB – Senior
Thomas overcame an illness last off-season to make a surprise appearance in game one of the season, and he never looked back. At 6’0″ and 182 lbs., he’s a pretty slight corner, but he has some of the highest upside on the team. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame two years ago, and his stats in 2019 included 38 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and 7 pass breakups. Michigan corners have not done great in the draft in recent years, but Thomas is at least on par with 3rd rounder David Long, Jr.
Other draft-eligible prospects with significant playing time:
- Will Hart – P – Fifth Year Senior
- Carlo Kemp – DT – Fifth Year Senior
- Quinn Nordin – K – Fifth Year Senior
- Brad Hawkins – S – Senior
- Ben Mason – FB – Senior
- Dylan McCaffrey – QB – Redshirt Junior
- Josh Ross – LB – Redshirt Junior
- Ronnie Bell – WR – Junior
- Jake Moody – K – Junior
- Hassan Haskins – RB – Redshirt Sophomore
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