Michigan Wide Receivers Ready To Break Trends

Photo: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

By now you know that the potential 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver class could become a special group. To this point, nearly all draft analysts agree that this class could be rich in both talent and depth, depending on which prospects eventually declare.

Three intriguing wide receivers who are draft-eligible this year play in Ann Arbor, Michigan: Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black. All three prospects have been highly touted since their high school days, and that has mostly translated to this point in their college careers. 

Tarik Black has unfortunately suffered consecutive season-ending foot injuries in his first two seasons in college, only appearing in 6 games. Even in limited action, Black has shown that he’ll be a prospect to keep an eye on this season.

Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins were blessed with health in 2018, and the flashes they had as freshmen turned into more consistency as sophomores. “DPJ” led the team in receptions and touchdowns while Collins was tops in receiving yardage. With another year of development, as well as continuity with starting quarterback Shea Patterson, the ceiling is the roof for the entire trio of wide receivers this upcoming season.

Another plus for the Michigan offense? New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has a strong track record working with wide receivers. Gattis is a receivers coach by trade, having coached All-Americans Jordan White, Jordan Matthews and Jerry Jeudy during his career.

As prospects, each wide receiver differs from each other in their skill-set. Peoples-Jones is elusive in both his route running and after the catch, easily maneuvering through zone coverages and finding open space. When pushing vertically, he has more than enough straight-line speed to separate downfield.

Nico Collins is the more physical presence, and has ideal size (6’4 220 pounds) to play along the boundary at the next level. He doesn’t strictly rely on his size and strength, as his fluidity is remarkable.

Though Tarik Black has been limited by injury in consecutive seasons, he has excellent size at the next level as well (6’3 208 pounds). He’s already shown the ability to win downfield with impressive body control and natural athleticism. If he gets back to 100% healthy, he should finally be primed for a breakout junior season. 

While the University of Michigan is one of the blueblood programs in college football and have enjoyed recent success under head coach Jim Harbaugh, it’s been awhile since a dynamic wide receiver prospect has come through the school. Since Braylon Edwards was taken in the first round in 2005, the Wolverines have only had one wide receiver taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. That player would be Devin Funchess, who mostly played tight end in college, and was second-round pick in 2015. 

With the potential of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black, all of that could change in either 2020 or 2021. There could be multiple top 60 picks from that trio alone.