The 2021 NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday night from Cleveland, Ohio with a handful of Michigan Wolverines prospects set to be selected throughout the weekend. Defensive end Kwity Paye headlines the bunch as the program’s projected first-round lock, but others will have a chance to go to teams and make an impact early.
Below is the broadcast info and projected range for each of Michigan’s players to get selected. We will also be doing a live stream on Thursday night on our YouTube and Twitch channels reacting to picks and hanging out to benefit The ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the weekend.
Event: 2021 NFL Draft
Time: Thursday (First round, 8 p.m. ET), Friday (Second and third rounds, 7 p.m. ET), Saturday (Fourth through seventh rounds, 12 p.m. ET)
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Television: ESPN/ABC/NFL Network
Streaming: YouTube TV, Hulu, FuboTV (free trial link here)
Defensive end Kwity Paye (Projected: Round 1)
Paye will be an NFL starter if he is able to pair his traits with a cerebral, focused plan of attack. That should not be an issue for him, but teams will have to be sold on that. The traits do not always match what shows up on film, which might make it hard for some teams at the top half of the first round to roll the dice. Paye might not be a consistent double-digit sack player at the next level, but has the look of someone who can add seven or eight sacks and a heck of a lot more pressures than that. He also could be someone that teams kick inside on passing downs.
Offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield (Projected: Round 2-3)
Mayfield’s film, albeit limited from this season, shows the skill-set of a first rounder. The pro day performance has definitely hurt his stock and put into question his athleticism. This has caused him to slide into the middle of the second round in many several mock drafts.
He should be able to handle starting tackle duties at the next level, but he could potentially have a quicker road to playing time with a switch to guard. He is still figuring things out, but the athletic profile and testing numbers might play into the idea that a kick inside might not be the worst thing in the world.
Wide receiver Nico Collins (Projected: Round 2-3)
Collins had a productive career at Michigan and was a reliable option in the passing game along with being U-M’s best deep threat. However, he’s still raw, which will put him towards the tail end of the second round at the earliest. All it takes is Collin’s having one team who loves his potential and decides to draft him sooner than later. Mel Kiper noted that he likes Collins’ “power-forward mentality”, and that’s spot on. Collins is ready to use his muscle, his leverage, and willing to take a hit. Collins toughness and size should give him an extended look in the NFL.
Linebacker Cam McGrone (Projected: Round 3-4)
McGrone should best be viewed as a developmental prospect with a mid-round grade. Ideally McGrone will land in a situation where they’re willing to get creative with him in a blitz-friendly scheme. McGrone has a ways to go as a coverage linebacker, and it’s going to take time for him to consistently win one-on-one against stout linemen in the NFL. Where McGrone excels is when he’s able to be aggressive and get in a zone where he can fly. A landing spot such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, a zone-blitz centric D with former Michigan LB Devin Bush would be a great place for McGrone.
Cornerback Ambry Thomas (Projected: Round 4-5)
Thomas has the potential to become a starting cornerback, but his good speed, above-average film, and potential at just 20 years old should have him coming off the board in round two or three. Thomas slipping further than that would be a surprise.
Whether it’s late second, or in the third, Thomas in those spots still represent a value pick in my opinion as he has a lot of upside to his game. Thomas has already proven his love of football and his determination to get back on the field after suffering a serious infection. That same type of mindset still exists in Thomas, and will be ready and willing to put on more weight to alleviate concerns that he can’t play on the outside in press-coverage against physical NFL receivers.
Running back Chris Evans (Projected: Round 5-7)
The draft is all about projection instead of past production, so the traits alone have Evans as someone who has a shot to crack an NFL roster. He is a tough runner with the ability to change pace as a third-down receiver out of the backfield. A lot of scout-types have praised Evans for the way he moves in a phone booth — elusiveness in short areas, for the uninitiated — and the way he holds up when defenders make contact.
Evans’ NFL future is going to largely depend on opportunity. His best fit is going to be with a team that has an established starter, which could allow for him to battle for a No. 2 role in a rotation. Given his ability to catch the ball, he has plenty of value in a three-back stable, as well. It would not be a surprise to see him turn a few spot starts into a featured role down the road, but there are a lot of unknowns with his game.
Tight end Nick Eubanks (Projected: Round 6-7)
Eubanks has decent speed for the position, he’ll be best served to head to a team that can put him in motion as an h-back and match him up one-on-one with a linebacker in coverage. Eubanks will need to improve as a blocker and route runner if he’s going to stick in the pros. Despite some needed room for growth in various areas, a team could still take a chance on Eubanks in the fifth round, but there’s also a shot he goes undrafted. Speed sells, and although his speed on film doesn’t seem as fast as his pro day forty time, the time of 4.59 will be having teams give him an extra look that he wouldn’t receive if he was a tad slower.
Defensive tackle Carlo Kemp (Projected: Round 7-UDFA)
Kemp, the nephew of John and Chuck Pagano, was a solid starter for the Wolverines but there are not a ton of “wow” plays on film. That was not his role, especially the last few seasons as he played more of a role in taking on blocks. There are some nice traits to work with, but it is hard to find a position for him outside of a back-of roster/subpackage pass rusher role. He is a hard worker with a good attitude, which should help him find a training camp home. From there, it is all about the fit and opportunity. He probably needs to get a bit heavier, but the 2019 third-team All-Big Ten contributor has a chance to find a pass rush specialist role if the right fit comes his way.
Fullback Ben Mason (Projected: UDFA)
Some NFL players make a living for their prowess on special teams, Mason can add major value there alone. Add in the fact there aren’t a ton of good fullback options coming out of college this year, or any year for that matter, the Ben Mason breed of football player is harder to find than it’s not.
Mason can block, he has potential as an H-back, the pros far outweigh the cons. Ben Mason deserves to be drafted by a team that believes in him, not by a team who views him as some late round-flier. Mason’s more than that.
Long snapper Camaron Cheeseman (Projected: UDFA)
Scouting Report: Well, we don’t have one because he’s a long snapper. But it’s a job he’s done well!