The somewhat lean NFL draft years for Michigan likely will be coming to an end next year.
While the Wolverines have several players who could be drafted April 28-30, they don’t have first- or second-round talent, and third round might be on the fringe.
Center Graham Glasgow, ranked fourth among centers by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, could go third or fourth round, and Kiper thinks Willie Henry, the defensive lineman who left Michigan with a year of eligibility remaining, is probably a Day 3 (rounds 4-7) selection. Quarterback Jake Rudock could be a late-round selection, Kiper said, and defensive lineman Mario Ojemudia, whose season ended with an Achilles injury in the Big Ten opener, could surprise in the third or fourth rounds.
But what about going forward?
Michigan has a large number of talented seniors who will make for busier draft watching next spring. That includes tight end Jake Butt, who opted to return this year for his final year of eligibility, and cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who did the same.
Kiper credits Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, entering his second season as head coach, for helping to develop the talent.
“If he had come out, he would have been one of the top corners,” Kiper said of Lewis during an ESPN draft conference call on Tuesday. “(Next year the) second best corner could be Lewis behind Adoree Jackson, who’s a special player at USC.
“There’s no question there’s going to be athletes produced (at Michigan). You’ve got the receivers who can run. You’re going to have talent coming in -- look at the recruiting class coming in. There’s no question what Jim’s doing there is going to put pressure on Ohio State, who just lost a gazillion players to the NFL.”
Kiper didn’t name names beyond Lewis in terms of looking ahead, but he referenced the receivers, who would be Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Butt, and defensive linemen Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton, will be on draft lists.
Harbaugh at the helm has made a difference in terms of draft potential for the Wolverines, Kiper said.
“Tremendous difference from what they were and what they are,” he said. “Now they have national credibility with what Jim has done already in terms of the winning that went on there. You’ve got some young players, some studs from this recruiting class.
“It’s no question going to be (OSU coach) Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh going up against each other every year, that great Michigan-Ohio State, that Bo-Woody battle we had. All those great years with Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes you’re going to have with UM and Jim Harbaugh. You knew that the day he took over he’s going to win. He’s well on his way. He’s got prospects for this draft.”
Rudock was a graduate transfer to Michigan after starting two seasons at Iowa. He led the Wolverines to a 10-3 season and was MVP of the Citrus Bowl. Rudock is expected to meet with the Lions on Wednesday.
“I thought Rudock should have been at the combine,” Kiper said. “I thought he had a solid year. I think he’s a backup type in the NFL. He’s kind of like (former MSU quarterback) Brian Hoyer, that type of player. Maybe a cross between (former MSU quarterback Kirk) Cousins and Hoyer but probably more of a late-round pick, priority free agent who will get a chance in an NFL camp to make a team.”
Kiper thinks Henry, who has called himself the best defensive lineman in the draft, has pass-rush ability and should be an early Day 3 pick.
Glasgow, a former walk-on, was Michigan’s top lineman last season. Opinions vary on Glasgow’s draft potential.
“I wasn’t as high on him as some who were raving about him were,” Kiper said. “In terms of center position, some think he’s two, I have him four. Ryan Kelly, Alabama, Nick Martin, Notre Dame, and Max Tuerk, USC, then Glasgow, who has graded out more as a fourth-round pick.”
Ojemudia is the player Kiper said could surprise people and said he has a chance to be “a really good player” at the next level.
“Mario Ojemudia is a defensive end who showed a lot of promise before he got hurt,” he said. “Before that I thought he looked like a third- or fourth-round pick. He’s a kid to watch, could get lost in the shuffle. (He) showed NFL ability. I think he could get (drafted) late if the medical is OK or be a priority free agent. I thought he was the kind of kid who flew way under the radar because he got hurt. I would say an underrated guy, he would be in that group as a kid who had his season cut short but definitely has NFL ability.”