4 Michigan Draft Prospects to Watch Out For in NFL

Vito Chirco

The University of Michigan and the NFL will forever be linked to one another. 

And no, not just because of Michigan head man Jim Harbaugh's ties to the league.  

The football program in Ann Arbor has produced 388 drafted players since 1937.   

According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the first player drafted out of Ann Arbor was Matt Patanelli, who was taken in the ninth round by the then-Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Fun fact: The Pirates -- the name of Pittsburgh's MLB franchise today -- became the Steelers in 1940.  

You remember that and the fact that Patanelli was selected by the Pittsburgh-based franchise, right?

The NFL Draft has sure changed since then, including with the number of rounds having been decreased to seven in its modern format.

Heck, it's now even a televised event which is broadcast by more than one network: seemingly all of the ESPN family of networks, including ABC and ESPN Deportes, plus the league's own network in the NFL Network.              

One thing that has remained a constant since '37, though: U-M churning out NFL talent on a yearly basis.   

And the 2020 draft will be no different for the Wolverines. 

According to the latest mock drafts, the university could have as many as eight players drafted this April. The three-day draft takes place from April 23-25 in Las Vegas, Nev. 

While no former Wolverine is projected to be taken in the first round this year, six of Harbaugh's former players appear to be surefire bets to at least be drafted (in no particular order): linebacker Josh Uche, wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, center Cesar Ruiz, guard Ben Bredeson, cornerback Lavert Hill and safety Josh Metellus.

The first Michigan player that will be taken -- based on mock drafts and a myriad of different prospect rankings -- seems likely to be one of the following: Hill, Uche, Peoples-Jones or Ruiz.

All four U-M products could be drafted anywhere from the second-fifth round.

Here's a brief breakdown of what each of them will bring to the table for the NFL franchise that selects them:  

CB Lavert Hill 

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Hill returns an interception against Wisconsin in 2018; Photo credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Hill will provide an NFL secondary with a press-man cornerback that is pesky and able to shadow receivers in a highly effective manner. 

He finished his four-year career at Michigan with six interceptions, including three during his 2019 campaign.

LB Josh Uche 

Uche, who has impressed during the week of practices at the Senior Bowl, brings a good amount of versatility to the linebacker position. 

The two-time All-Big Ten honoree is productive in stopping the run and when deployed as a pass rusher. 

He's a capable tackler, and impressively can rush the quarterback from either the up or down position via solid power in both his hips and hands.

He was named to Pro Football Focus College's All-Big Ten defensive team for his efforts in '19 -- 8.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

C Cesar Ruiz  

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Ruiz looks to set a block for former Michigan RB Karan Higdon in 2018 against Western Michigan; Photo credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports 

The big man will provide an NFL squad with consistent physicality at the center position. 

He possesses superb strength, and is a solid performer in both pass protection and run blocking.

According to Pro Football Focus, he finished the regular season with a streak of 222 straight snaps in pass protection in which he didn't allow a single QB pressure. 

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones 

Of the four individuals that are most likely to be the first U-M player selected this spring, the one that excites me the most is Peoples-Jones. 

He came out of Detroit Cass Tech High School as a five-star prospect, according to 247Sports.

He hauled in offers from a variety of college football powers -- including Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson -- before deciding to suit up for the Wolverines.

While he didn't always "light the world on fire" during his three seasons in Ann Arbor -- he never put together a 10-touchdown or 1,000-yard season -- he still managed to show why he's good enough to play at the next level. 

He possesses terrific foot speed and a tremendous knack for tracking down deep balls.

The two-time All-Big Ten selection also has the ability to make big-time catches in the most critical moments of games via his stellar hand-eye coordination. 

He has all the makings of a big-play, game-breaking wideout at the next level.

Now, it's time for your voice to be heard. 

Who are you most excited to see play at the next level: Hill, Uche, Ruiz or Peoples-Jones? And which one ends up being the best pro?

Let your opinion be known in the comments section below.

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