Indianapolis — Donovan Peoples-Jones is a man of few words, at least in interview sessions, but he seemed to know something as he addressed media at the NFL Combine earlier this week.
If you took the time to read the tea leaves from his question-and-answer period, he was very clearly saying he planned to make a splash during the measured drills.
Heading into this week’s NFL Combine, analysts’ reviews of Peoples-Jones were mixed, some suggesting his play was too inconsistent last season and not dynamic enough to distinguish himself in a deep receiver class. However, a strong showing in the combine, they said, could make him more appealing to the teams.
Peoples-Jones, the former Michigan receiver who finished third on the team in receiving last season with 438 yards and six touchdowns, had always been described by his teammates as a “freak” athlete.
That's what he was out to show NFL scouts, who might have been sleeping on him because his numbers weren't all that spectacular last season.
Peoples-Jones, who left Michigan with a year of eligibility remaining, told reporters this week he wasn’t concerned about what other receivers might do. He was specific when asked where he would shine at the combine and said he looked to do well in everything. He knew what he wanted to prove.
“That I'm fast, that I'm quick, that I have what it takes to be here,” Peoples-Jones said.
And so he delivered Thursday night during on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Peoples-Jones ran a 4.48 40-yard dash, but he had the highest vertical jump among the receivers at 44.5 inches, which ties for third best at the combine since 2006. He also had the longest broad jump at 11 feet, 7 inches, tied for sixth-best since 2006.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Peoples-Jones was a five-star recruit and top-rated receiver coming out of Cass Tech. He said it was difficult to make the decision to leave Michigan.
“I feel like I was ready,” he said.
He made the decision after the Wolverines’ loss to Alabama in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day. His teammate, receiver Nico Collins, also weighed his options after the game but chose to return to Michigan. Peoples-Jones moved on and trained in south Florida at Barwis.
“This has been my dream ever since I was six years old,” Peoples-Jones said. “To be here, to be on this national stage, even to be at the Combine is a blessing.
"I feel like I am ready for it.”
Peoples-Jones didn’t bite when asked whether he felt he was underutilized while at Michigan.
“I'm focused on the Combine,” he said. “I'm focused on being here and showcasing my best abilities here.”
While with the Wolverines, he was also used in the return game and said he relished that opportunity and looks forward to being instrumental in special teams at the NFL level.
“Special teams is a big topic,” Peoples-Jones said of his discussions with teams. “Special teams is something that I played in every game at Michigan along with receiver. So I'm definitely open to special teams. I love returning punts, I love being there for my team in any way that I can.”
He will continue to train for the April draft and the Pro Day at Michigan next month. Peoples-Jones said he wants to work on improving his play speed and making contested catches.
“I have lists and notes of everything I want to improve on,” he said.
“That will be going on.”