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ESPN labels Jake Butt and Chris Wormley as “likely breakout prospects” in the NFL

The former captains of the 2016 team look to take major leaps in their second years as pros.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan seemed to have produced its best NFL Draft class ever in 2016, sending 11 players to the pros. After only 34 combined starts between the Wolverine rookies in 2017, the excitement dimmed.

According to ESPN, year two should yield better results, particularly for the two captains from that 2016 team.

Jake Butt and Chris Wormley appear on an ESPN insider article “The NFL’s Top 25 breakout prospects for 2018,” with the former ranking No. 17 and the latter slated at No. 19.

Butt tore his ACL in his final game in the Orange Bowl, but the Denver Broncos drafted him in the fifth round anyways. Their investment is of a long-term variety.

“A non-factor in Denver in his rookie year following the injury,” Rivers McCown writes “Butt was placed on IR prior to the season starting. Had he been healthy, the Broncos hadn’t planned much in the way of his playing early. Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman were the main Broncos tight ends last season.

“Heuerman is the only real obstacle in front of Butt this year, as the Broncos did little to address the position in free agency. Broncos coach Vance Joseph told reporters at OTAs that Butt will ‘do everything he has to do to be a great player. If I’m betting on Jake, I’m betting it’s going to happen.’ Butt doesn’t project as a high-ceiling, Rob Gronkowski-esque tight end, but could be a long-term fixture and is one of the safest players on this list assuming he fully recovers from the ACL tear.”

Wormley also went in the fifth-round as a defensive end to John Harbaugh’s — and formerly Greg Mattison’s — Baltimore Ravens. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder might fully put together his physical skills to emerge on one of the AFC’s perennially best defenses.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“Wormley was a run-stuffer extraordinaire early on at Michigan,” writes McCown. “Later in his career, he also developed some pass-rushing moves. Wormley finished with nine tackles for loss and six sacks, and he was a first-team All-Big Ten selection. He tacked on an impressive 7.08 three-cone drill time at 298 pounds at the combine. So, to no one’s surprise, he was a second-day NFL pick.

“Wormley had no sacks, but four hurries early in his NFL career. He has basically replaced Michael Pierce as “promising young defensive line prospect” on both the Baltimore roster and on our list. The Ravens have a pretty decent defensive line, so there’s not a lot of impetus for Wormley to get snaps early.

“However, his ceiling as an inside player with some pass-rush moves might be intriguing enough for him to see the field on pass-rushing downs. Outside of Pierce and Wormley, the Ravens have only oft-injured Carl Davis as an interior lineman with any kind of pass-rush promise.”

As previously mentioned, Butt did not play at all in 2017. Wormley, meanwhile, compiled just five total tackles his rookie season.

We certainly hope these former Wolverines, and other former Wolverines, breakout in the NFL in 2018.