Big Ten Michigan QB returns in 2023

Despite Losing 9 Players to the Draft Michigan Looks to Reload and Win it All

03 May, 2023

Only Georgia, Alabama, and LSU have selected more players than Michigan’s 32 over the previous four NFL drafts.

Nine of those Wolverines were chosen in last week’s draft, but if a few players had chosen to leave school early, the number may have been greater.

The 2024 event in Detroit may be a landmark one for the Wolverines since a number of Michigan draft hopefuls have decided to stay for their senior or fifth season, and because the outstanding 2022 sophomore class will be available for the draft following next year.

Following consecutive Big Ten championships and College Football Playoff appearances, Michigan is once again viewed as a top contender for the 2023 national championship. NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on the Wolverines this season since Jim Harbaugh’s school has a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball.

NFL clubs that have selected Michigan Wolverines the most during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure.

In any draft, Michigan has ever picked 11 players, but it may shatter that mark next year. Even though a lot may change before then, here is an early assessment of Michigan’s top professional prospects for the next season:

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy

Although it is not a given that McCarthy will declare for the draft following his junior year, he is already slated to go in some 2024 first-round mock drafts. He is projected by Dane Brugler of The Athletic to go to the Las Vegas Raiders with the 15th overall pick, while Bleacher Report has him going to Green Bay with the 25th overall pick.

These predictions are probably predicated on the assumption that the 6-foot-3, 196-pounder improves as a second-year starter in 2023. For the former five-star prospect, talent has never been an issue; even as a freshman in a reserve position, he displayed his powerful arm and agility. In 2022, his statistics were nothing to write home about, but it is difficult to contest the team’s performance—a 13-1 record. In the Big Ten, his 194.2 throwing yards per game ranked 10th, but he also threw 22 interceptions compared to just five, including two in the national semifinal defeat to TCU.

Under Harbaugh, Michigan has mostly depended on its ground game, and that is expected to continue now that its top two running backs are returning. However, with a more seasoned McCarthy in 2023, perhaps Michigan will loosen the reins a little bit next season and give him more to handle.

Defensive lineman Kris Jenkins

As a junior in 2022, Jenkins had a bigger responsibility, and he didn’t let anyone down. He most likely would have gone in the first three picks of this year’s draft, but as a senior, he might see his ranking rise. Jenkins has the potential to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle, who both had successful professional careers and have a history in the NFL. Jenkins received a ton of praise from teammates and coaches during Michigan’s spring workouts, and he also seemed the part. He was a three-star defensive end who arrived to Michigan listed at 239 pounds, but this spring he has added weight to reach 300 pounds.

Jenkins’ specialty has always been run-stopping and shedding blocks, but if he can sharpen his pass-rushing skills this year, it could not be long until he hears his name called in 2024. In his first-round mock for 2024, Brugler projects Jenkins to go 22nd overall.

Running back Blake Corum

Prior to suffering a knee injury late in the year that ended his season, the elusive Corum was expected to be a leading Heisman Trophy contender. The junior would probably have gone first overall in this year’s draft at running back if it weren’t for offseason knee surgery.

The 5-foot-8, 210-pound player decided to stay for his senior year instead, and he plans to continue where he left off in 2022. Corum doesn’t have much to prove at the collegiate level after running for 1,463 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, but NFL teams will be closely watching his health in 2019. He is small for a professional running back, but he has demonstrated that he can change the course of a game with the ball in his hands, and NFL teams are constantly on the lookout for guys who can do that, regardless of position.

Corum ranks No. 24 on Pro Football Focus’s large board of the best 2024 eligible players, which was published this week.

Running back Donovan Edwards

In the modern NFL, evaluators seek for running backs with speed, versatility, and pass-catching skills. Edwards possesses all of these qualities. Furthermore, at 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, he is big.

When Corum went down late in the season, Edwards took over and the Wolverines didn’t skip a beat. Before Edwards broke his right hand midway through the season and had to play the rest of the season with a cast on, he was a go-to target for McCarthy in the passing game and rushed for 520 yards in the team’s final three games.

Only 175 career carries in two seasons at Michigan for the former top-50 recruit out of West Bloomfield High, and durability has also been a problem as he missed time due to injury both years. But given his ability to create plays, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see Edwards declare for the draft if he has another strong campaign as a junior.

Linebacker Junior Colson

In each of his first two seasons, the former top-100 recruit in the 2021 class has started at inside linebacker, and he will be a key player on Michigan’s defense once more in 2023. Colson has been a reliable player and a competent tackler for the Wolverines despite the fact that he now lacks any aspect of his game that consistently shines.

In 2022, he averaged 7.2 tackles per game, which placed him 12th in the Big Ten. He also recorded his first two career sacks during that year. Colson is ranked No. 95 by PFF on their 2024 big board.

Safety Rod Moore

Speaking of sound tackling, Moore (6-foot, 185 pounds) is a master of the technique. The former Ohio three-star recruit isn’t very spectacular, but for the past two seasons, he has been a reliable safety and nickel option in Michigan’s secondary. After 2023, it wouldn’t be unexpected if Moore returned for a fourth season, but if he keeps improving, the NFL might take an interest.

Moore has a talent for the game; in 2022, he led all defensive backs with 71 tackles and had a team-high four interceptions.

Defensive back Mike Sainristil

In 2022, Sainristil would make a strong argument for becoming Michigan’s biggest surprise. He switched seamlessly from being a receiver to a defensive back. The former three-star recruit can improve his draft value going into the 2024 draft by returning for a fifth season, especially if he can demonstrate that he can also play outside cornerback in addition to nickel, where he mostly lined up in 2022. Although Sainristil’s size (5-foot-10, 182 pounds) will be a concern, his performance from the previous season—58 tackles, 6 12 for loss, two sacks, and eight pass breakups—must also be taken into consideration.

Offensive guard Zak Zinter

If Zinter had entered the draft early after being named to the first team of the Big Ten in 2022, no one would have been surprised. The “One More Year” fund Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) project was started by Valiant Management’s Champions Circle in January, and it has now raised more than $100,000 to attempt to persuade stars like Zinter to play another season. Zinter will return for his fourth season as a starter, making him one of the most seasoned lineman in the 2024 draft class, so it seems to have worked.

The right guard, who only allowed two sacks against, was rated by PFF as the second-best run-blocker on the team. He was also adequate in pass protection.

Offensive guard Trevor Keegan

Keegan, who was in a comparable predicament as Zinter, decided to continue for a fifth year. He probably would have been selected this year, but in 2022, he had some difficulties. Despite missing three games due to injury, his overall PFF grade of 59.6 was the lowest among the team’s starting linemen, and he also allowed a team-high 12 pressures. Even though Keegan lost roughly 35 pounds to reach 305 last season, he still possesses an NFL physique at 6 feet 6 inches.

Cornelius Johnson WR

Johnson, the top-150 talent in the 2019 class, has shown glimpses of his greatness throughout his career, but consistency hasn’t always been there. After the 2021 season, when he led the team with 40 catches and 627 receiving yards, his standing was probably higher. In 2022, his output decreased to 32 receptions for 499 yards, 160 of which came in the victory over Ohio State. Even so, the 6-foot-3, 208-pound player is large enough to play outside in the NFL. In his sixth season, he’ll probably play a significant part in the offense once more, and with Ronnie Bell gone, there could be more targets available.

Receiver Roman Wilson

Wilson is one of the team’s quickest players, but his quickness hasn’t always translated into reliable performance. Throughout his career, he has also struggled with injuries. The run-heavy strategy adopted by Michigan will hurt all of the team’s receivers’ stat lines, but 50 receptions for 796 yards and seven touchdowns across 25 games during the previous two seasons isn’t a lot of production for an NFL draft possibility. Wilson may always come back for his senior season in 2024 to finish out his eligibility, though, to continue to grow.



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