INDIANAPOLIS — Donovan Peoples-Jones, a Detroit native, came to Michigan a 5-star recruit and the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation. His arrival in Ann Arbor was met with the optimism that he could have a career that rivaled Michigan’s all-time leading receiver Braylon Edwards.
Peoples-Jones finished 2,214 yards behind Edwards program-record 3,541 yards for his Michigan career.
Between the confusing ways that the Michigan offense opted to use Peoples-Jones or the erratic quarterback play that he had throughout the duration of his time as a Wolverine, he didn’t come anywhere near delivering the type of production expected for his recruiting status.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an exciting skill set present that isn’t capable of being productive in the NFL, and that’s where Peoples-Jones’ focus lies.
When asked if he was underutilized at Michigan or about his college production not matching his physical gifts, Peoples-Jones didn’t even take the opportunity to discuss it, deflect blame or make excuses for any of it.
“I'm focused on the combine,” Peoples-Jones said this past week at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. “I'm focused on being here and showcasing my best abilities here.”
While the consistency was missing, Peoples-Jones’ college career wasn’t without its share of highlights that offer glimpses of the ways he can be a dynamic playmaker at the next level.
Peoples-Jones’ performance at the combine certainly re-captured the promise that he is among the most exciting talents in a deep crop of wide receiver prospects available for the upcoming draft.
Measuring 6-foot-2-inches and 212 pounds with 33.5-inch arms and over 10-inch hands, Peoples-Jones has the size to match his alpha mentality on the field. He clocked a 4.48-second 40-yard dash and turned in a 44.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot-7 broad jump. Both of those jumps register in the 99th percentile for receivers at the combine.
As seen on the field and validated by his testing, Peoples-Jones is an explosive athlete that has the burst to challenge defenses down the field, win after the catch and find production in the return game.
While Peoples-Jones’ traits and flashes of playmaking ability at Michigan are tantalizing, not fulfilling his promise despite factors outside of his control has dampened the hype around his potential at the next level.
Dating back to 2015, NFL teams have enjoyed wonderful production from Day 2 receivers while the first-round prospects have been hit or miss.
Given the recent trends of teams finding playmakers on the second day, Peoples-Jones is one of those exciting “fallback” options a team should be elated to land in the second round. When considering where Peoples-Jones ranks among that group, his versatility distinguishes him from his contemporaries. Ten different times during his combine press conference, Peoples-Jones mentioned either his explosiveness and versatility.
He’s not wrong.
The good thing about Peoples-Jones’ time at Michigan is that he did have the opportunity to prove his two best qualities. Returning two punts for touchdowns across his 89 opportunities, Peoples-Jones received abundant reps both from the slot and on the outside. Peoples-Jones had chances to win vertically — while it wasn’t as frequent as he would have liked — in the intermediate areas of the field and on quick passes where his ability to create post-catch was given. His ability to impact all levels of the field from a variety of alignments is proven.
Peoples-Jones was a bit of a forgotten man at Michigan that was underutilized and restricted by circumstances outside of his control, but the combine was a great reminder of the explosive athletic profile that exists.
When you combine his now confirmed physical gifts and the plays he did make on tape in college, Peoples-Jones is primed to be the next example of how a prospect can turn into a better pro that player.