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Michigan's Donovan Peoples-Jones raw but 'will be able to make it in NFL'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Former Michigan receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones still has to polish his overall game, but ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said he has plenty of upside.

Peoples-Jones, who left Michigan with a year of eligibility remaining, had impressive numbers during the NFL Combine. As a player many analysts earlier projected as a later -round prospect, he seemed to improve his stock.

Donovan Peoples-Jones

He ran a 4.48 40 he ran at the combine, but he distinguished himself in the vertical and broad jumps. Peoples-Jones had the highest vertical jump among the receivers at 44.5 inches, which tied 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. Peoples-Jones said both were personal records.

Peoples-Jones missed the first few games with injury and finished third on the team in receiving with 438 yards and six touchdowns. He’s been projected recently a third- or fourth-round pick.

“I think he’s scratching the surface of where he could eventually go,” Herbstreit said Monday during a conference call. “I think he’s still a little raw. He really had a great combine. He ran a 4.48 and a 44-inch vertical. He’s big, 6-2, 212, kinda everything you’re looking for physically.

More: ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit: Contingency plans being evaluated for college football season

“I do think his route running is going to continue to grow. He's a little bit raw on that side of things. But I love his competitive spirit. He’s a guy who will be able to make it in the NFL. It seems like in the NFL there’s one receiver, two or a three, and there’s no reason to think he cannot become a really solid two or three in the NFL.”

There are a number of former Michigan players who will find out later this week where they will be drafted or picked up in free agency to continue their playing careers. There were 11 former Wolverines at the NFL Combine: center Cesar Ruiz, left guard Ben Bredeson, right guard Michael Onwenu, left tackle Jon Runyan, quarterback Shea Patterson, tight end Sean McKeon and Peoples-Jones. On defense, linebackers Josh Uche and Khaleke Hudson participated, as did safety Josh Metellus and cornerback Lavert Hill. Linebacker Jordan Glasgow and defensive end Mike Danna also have been preparing for the draft.

Uche has drawn considerable attention since his performance at the Senior Bowl in late January. Some draft analysts have said recently they wondered why Uche wasn’t used more in Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defense.

Josh Uche

“I liked Uche,” Herbstreit said. “With Don Brown’s system, he was kind of a specialist where he asked to be that guy off the edge and try to turn him loose and try to take advantage of his athletic ability. When you look at him at 6-1, 245, he’s a little bit of a tweener. I don’t necessarily think that guys with the lack of length there you just don’t set them on the edge and think they’re going to be OK when it comes to being able to be a first- and second-down kind of guy.

"I think he’s either going to have to play on two feet, drop in space and be an outside linebacker or he’s going to be a specialist, a guy that you get teams into an obvious passing situation and you bring him in to be able to apply pressure on a quarterback.

“It seems like the NFL becomes more and more about one-on-one matchups. One-on-one matchups on the outside, receivers and defensive backs, and one-on-one matchups in pass protection. Can the offensive linemen give the quarterback time, and can you find pass rushers? There’s always going to be a need for a guy like Uche. I just don’t know if he’s an every-down type of guy.

During the 2019 season at Michigan, Uche had 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had two pass breakups and two forced fumbles.