An individual NFL player only has so much agency in the way his career plays out; whether it’s injuries, off the field problems, or—most commonly—poor coaching/environment, there are more ways to flounder at the next level than there are to thrive. Many have speculated in numerous mock drafts about where each of Michigan’s prospects will land, but what about where we want them to land?
Just to take some former Michigan players as examples, it seems that Tom Brady’s career would have been a hell of a lot different if he hadn’t landed into a situation perfectly suited to his talents. On the flipside, imagine if Denard Robinson had been drafted by the Seahawks or the Falcons or almost anyone other than the Jaguars (poor Denard). With that in mind, let’s think about some draft prospects.
Jabrill Peppers: Seattle Seahawks
A lot of people have been talking about how diabolically perfect Jabrill Peppers would be in New England, which is true about most players. No doubt he’d be awesome and give Bill Belichick even more options to get weird on defense and/or special teams, but I’d like to see him in Seattle.
He could fall down to the twenty-sixth pick, but this union doesn’t seem meant to be either way, considering the Hawks have holes to fill on the other side of the ball. Still, Peppers would fit right in on this defense full of big, rangy, hard hitting, fast players. There have also been concerns about Pep finding a true position on the next level, so having guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman holding down the fort behind him could allow Peppers to play a similar position to the one he ended up playing at Michigan.
The Seahawks have proven that they can take uber-athletic yet raw prospects and make them into All-Pro’s (Bruce Irvin, Richard Sherman, Cam Chancellor, among others). It’s a defensive system that is comparatively simple and thrives because of the discipline and athleticism of its players. Peppers would probably wind up with only a few things to do, and chief among them would be to hit tight ends and running backs really hard.
Taco Charlton: Atlanta Falcons
I didn’t watch a whole lot of Falcons games this year, and when I did they were playing against a pretty pitiful NFC South. Thus, their size and speed relative to the Patriots had my jaw on the floor for most of the first half of the Super Bowl. Dan Quinn is clearly in the late stages of assembling a Carroll-ian defense full of wind scorpions, and who better to add to that than this guy:
Taco could stick to the right side opposite 2016 NFL sack leader Vic Beasley and really only worry about attacking the quarterback. He would provide some more size along the Atlanta line, so while Beasley can drop back into an outside linebacker role, Taco could conceivably play some snaps inside, giving the Falcons even more flexibility than they have now.
Jourdan Lewis: Oakland Raiders
It’d be fitting if Michigan’s best cornerback since Charles Woodson also ended up in Oakland. There are questions about Lewis’ ability to play on the edge given his size, to which I say sometimes tape is a better indicator of a player’s capabilities than measurables.
Still, Oakland has David Amerson and Sean Smith holding down the outside at the moment, so Lewis would probably end up opposite slot receivers to start, which, as Curtis Samuel would tell you, he’s pretty good at as well. Amerson and Smith are fine corners, but being in their fifth and ninth years in the league, respectively, it seems like they’re both about at their ceilings. They could provide a nice buffer for Lewis as he gets acquainted with the size and speed of the NFL and makes his way outside.
Ultimately, it seems like that’s where he belongs. He may be a touch small, but Lewis proved, emphatically, that he is a sure tackler and unafraid of bigger receivers during his time at Michigan. Now, if another team thin on corners drafts him, like the Saints, he could have a rough go of it outside against guys like Julio Jones and Kelvin Benjamin right off the bat.
Knowing he can do this alleviates a lot of concerns, though:
Chris Wormley: Baltimore Ravens
It would probably benefit anyone to play opposite Terrell Suggs, but Wormley would be a great fit, not to mention the fact that he could continue playing under a Harbaugh regime. Scouts are a little wary of Wormley’s speed and quickness, but when you stand 6’5” and weigh a shade under three-hundred pounds and can do damage from the edge, you’re gonna be a valuable asset to anyone in the NFL.
Playing opposite Suggs would allow him to match up one-on-one almost exclusively, a situation in which he did a lot of damage in college with Taco drawing doubles on the other side of the line. It’ll probably take Wormley some time to adjust to the quickness of NFL tackles, but he’s coming in to the league bigger than the average edge rusher, and coming into a situation where he won’t be asked to do too much too quickly should help him immensely.