The Wolverine

February 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 9 T he Michigan Wolverines' football team is losing three talented players early to the NFL Draft. Junior wide receiver Donovan Peoples- Jones and junior center Ce- sar Ruiz each decided to skip their senior campaigns, while senior linebacker Josh Uche revealed Dec. 21 that he "probably" could have received a medical redshirt for his freshman campaign of 2016 and subsequently re- turned next season as a fifth- year senior (though he also stated that the redshirt wasn't "official"). Uche's 2019 statistics were the most impressive of the trio. He led the club in sacks for a second straight year with 8.5 (after compiling seven last season) and finished second in tackles for loss with 11.5 (junior defensive end Kwity Paye's 12.5 led the team). Peoples-Jones missed the first two outings of 2019 while dealing with injury, but returned to reel in 34 receptions for 438 yards and six touchdowns. "He's a talented guy, and I don't think there's any ques- tion about that," Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com said of Peoples-Jones. "He never quite lived up to the hype in college, and I think he'll be one of those players who gets drafted more on potential than production. "Someone will project more what he can be than what he has been thus far. The pre-draft process will be impor- tant for him, because he's expected to test well and he'll need to do that." Ruiz, meanwhile, started all 13 contests at center and played a key role in the offensive line only allowing 63 tackles for loss on the year (22nd in the nation). Pro Foot- ball Focus tabbed him as the country's best pass-blocking center, after he allowed just eight pressures all year (in 447 snaps in pass protection) and none over the team's final five games. "If you go in the top three rounds as a center, that's kind of saying something," Wright explained. "Ruiz has a really good shot at doing that, be- cause he's one of those play- ers who gets universal love from evaluators who watch him. I haven't heard from anyone who has watched him and said he's not that good; everyone comes away saying he's better than expected and one of the best interior block- ers in this class. "Ruiz is absolutely going to be in that early round mix, because he can even project to guard at the next level if a team wants to give him some action there. He has a really good mix of athleticism and power and is so effective. Ruiz has some good perfor- mances on tape from this past year, and has a lot of love in the scouting community." Mock drafts and big boards have already begun surfac- ing with the NFL Draft approaching (it will be held April 23-25 in Paradise, Nev.). According to experts, Peoples- Jones, Ruiz and Uche are unanimously viewed as the Wolverines' top three prospects. Dane Brugler of The Athletic had the most praise for Ruiz, rating him as the No. 2 center and No. 53 overall prospect in his Jan. 7 top-100 big board, while projecting him to go No. 60 overall to the Baltimore Ravens in his Jan. 14 mock draft (Ruiz was the only U-M player Brugler had coming off the board in the first two rounds). The an- alyst didn't have Uche far behind on his ranking, tabbing him as the 11th-best edge defender and 60th-best overall player in the draft, while listing Peoples-Jones as the No. 13 wide receiver and No. 78 overall prospect. CBS Sports also ranked their top 100 prospects in the draft, and had Uche as the top Wolverine at No. 66 overall and the seventh-best edge defender. They placed Peoples- Jones at No. 79 overall and 13th at his position, while Ruiz barely made their list at No. 98 overall and 18th among offensive linemen. — Austin Fox Inside Michigan ATHLETICS Early Departures Projected To Be U-M's Top NFL Draft Prospects Donovan Peoples-Jones is listed as the No. 78 overall prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft by The Athletic, while CBS Sports ranks him No. 79. Both view him as the No. 13 wide receiver. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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