With so much uncertainty surrounding when Michigan will return to the field, some players are taking different approaches to the postponed season. Some guys like Jalen Mayfield and Ambry Thomas believe they have shown enough on tape to NFL scouts that they can successful enter the draft. Some players, such as Cameron McGrone, feel that an extra year in Ann Arbor would help them produce on the field in a way that would boost their draft stock.
Pro Football Focus took a look at 25 players across college football that need to play this season the most, and Michigan had two guys on the list. Kwity Paye checked in first at No. 1 position as the player who could most benefit from playing this season. Here is what PFF had to say about the Michigan pass rusher:
“In a class full of freaky pass-rushing specimens, Paye may be the freakiest. But in three seasons with the Wolverines, little he's done from an on-field perspective could be described as freaky. He earned only a 77.8 pass-rushing grade last year, with many of his wins coming from slants and stunts. Charging head down toward the quarterback is currently his most effective pass-rushing move. He could be a top-10 pick if he gets the chance to show anything more this fall.”
Last year, Paye logged 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and six and a half games, so he was productive throughout the 2019 season, but that performance showed that there was even another level he could reach. Paye has quickness and agility on the edge, he just needs to add a few more pass rush moves, which PFF noted.
With Josh Uche out of the equation, Paye would have been Michigan's top defender in terms of pressuring the quarterback this season, and he likely would be used in more favorable situations for that as well. With one more year to develop in college, Paye could have locked up his position as a first round draft pick if he improved on his numbers from a year ago. While postponing the 2020 season might not hurt Paye much in the long room, he certainly stood to gain a lot with a standout performance.
Aftter Paye, U-M running back Chris Evans appeared on the list 16 spots later. Here is PFF's take:
“Evans once looked like the next big thing when he averaged 7.0 yards per carry on 88 carries as a freshman back in 2016. He's been known as a versatile receiving weapon, with one drop on 41 career opportunities, but never quite took hold of the lead role before he found himself off the team in 2019 for reported academic reasons. The fifth-year back was due for a second chance this season, but now that may not come.”
Despite missing the 2019 season in its entirety, Evans is still one of the more dynamic offensive weapons on Michigan's squad. It would have been interesting to see how U-M offensive coordinator Josh Gattis used Evans in his offense given his speed in space principles, but Evans kept in shape during that time and was poised for a big return this year.
Michigan has quite a few guys that can be utilized out of the backfield and even more that could play the slot, but Evans was able to float between the two positions, so there would have been a healthy amount of reps for the shifty Wolverine. Evans picked up a good deal of praise from running backs coach Jay Harbaugh this offseason, so the team was and continues to be optimistic about his return.
It is unlikely that Evans would be a first or second draft pick if he entered the 2021 NFL Draft without playing this season. Many are curious about how Evans will look when he takes the field once again, so making a statement this year would have allowed the versatile athlete to catapult himself into the first half of the NFL Draft.
Who do you think had the most to gain from playing this season? Is it a player not named Paye or Evans? Let us know!