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2020 NFL Draft Profile: What Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones brings to the Browns

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DPJ’s best football hasn’t been played yet. The right organization can unlock that next gear.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Michigan vs Alabama Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Donovan Peoples-Jones never quite blossomed into the superstar that comes with the expectation of being a five-star recruit, but the Michigan Wolverines wide receiver still enters the 2020 NFL Draft as a prospect oozing with promise and potential. Here at Maize n Brew, we are going to be profiling Michigan’s draft prospects leading up the event on April 23-25.

Here’s a look at Peoples-Jones’ background and what he brings to the table as a prospect.

Info

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 212 pounds

School: Michigan

Position: Wide Receiver

Projected: 2nd-3rd round

Combine Results: 4.48 40-yard dash, 44.5 vertical jump, 139.0 broad jump

Player Comparison: Marvin Jones

What he brings to the Browns

I’m stunned that Peoples-Jones lasted into the sixth-round. For a league that falls in love as much as it does with measurables, it was surprising that his tumble went this long. Perhaps that has to do with the lack of in-person workouts with NFL teams, but he lit up the combine. The tape from this past year leaves a bit to be desired, but now he gets to go to a place that has a ton of weapons in the locker room. Expect him to compete to return punts and kicks and see what he can provide from there.

Strengths

  • One of the most impressive athletes at the position in this draft class, traits and tools galore. Really nice blend of size, athleticism and hands.
  • Track speed. He was the all-city 100-meter dash champion in Detroit coming out of Cass Tech high school.
  • Body control and sideline awareness improved greatly from freshman to junior seasons.
  • Catch radius is pretty impressive and he knows how to track the football.
  • Footwork is a plus aspect of his game, does a good job of getting in and out of breaks working out of the slot.
  • Has some RAC ability in the open field, though takes more strides than one would think given his athletic traits. Invites contact from smaller ballcarriers.
  • Competitive player who puts the work in, as evidenced by improvements made to his game from high school to NFL Draft process.
  • Brings extra value on special teams as a returner. Had a pair of punt return touchdowns at Michigan.
  • A willing blocker and participant in the run game.

Weaknesses

  • Never quite became a featured option at Michigan. Some of that on inconsistencies in own performances, injuries, and quarterback play that struggled at times. There was not one factor that outshined everything else in this regard.
  • As good as he is in and out of his breaks, there’s still not quite the twitch or juice to his game in the shorter areas of the field. He had a lot of free releases in college coming out of the slot.
  • Despite his big frame, did not show as much as you would have hoped to see from an outside receiver. NFL teams are questioning whether or not he has the ability to beat press coverages, but should be given more of a chance to do so at the next level.
  • He takes some long strides to get going. He’s more athletic than he is explosive.

Overview

One of the first things that gets brought up when Peoples-Jones is discussed is how he never quite fulfilled his potential at Michigan. A lot of people seem to take that as calling him a bust, but this is a skilled talent that still has his best football ahead of him. Coming out of high school, DPJ was a track star that played football. His freshman season at Michigan was filled with ups and downs, but he took off his second year with Jim McElwain as his position coach at wide receiver. Injuries and a new offense caused him to start slow this past season, but he still was able to fight through it.

This is a player that is going to stick in the league and it would not be a surprise to see him as a better pro than a college player. At the very least, this might be a guy that you can run some gadget plays for in addition to being a good returner, a la Cordarrelle Patterson. Until he proves he can beat press coverage, it might be a case where he is a big slot receiver at the next level. His ceiling depends on the system he winds up in and the player development program, but might be a player like Marvin Jones of the Detroit Lions as a high-end No. 2 wide receiver.