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Few teams are better at sending prospects to the NFL than Michigan

The Athletic crunched the numbers and to no surprise, Wolverines continue to draw attention during the draft.

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Penn State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft has passed, and as is the case every year, some new Michigan Wolverines will be entering the NFL this coming fall. Nine Wolverines heard their names called last week, which was the most for any Big Ten school and third-highest total in the entire country.

Even before Jim Harbaugh returned to Ann Arbor, Michigan has been a program that consistently develops and churns out pros. Recruits come to Michigan with the intention of making it to the next level, and a recent study by The Athletic does a great job at quantifying the school’s success.

The premise for the article is simple: “Which Power 5 teams are best and worst at developing three-, four- and five-star prospects into draft picks?” Even though the study spans 11 years (which includes a few rough seasons for the maize and blue), Michigan still ranks fairly highly across the country:

  • 3-stars: 17/137, 12.4 percent (15th)
  • 4-stars: 31/128, 24.2 percent (16th)
  • 5-stars: 4/7, 57.1 percent (11th)
  • Overall draft rate: 52/272, 19.1 percent (13th)

The numbers speak for themselves, but a couple takeaways for what this could mean going forward.

No prospect is without a future

The fact that Michigan produces draft picks at an above-average rate in across all star ratings is not something to be overlooked; in fact, The Athletic notes that only 11 programs fall in the top 25 in every category. While it is great to secure top-end talent (more on that in a minute), developing three stars is just as important, and the Wolverines have found success here.

Think about where some of the recent Michigan draftees were ranked coming out of high school. Luke Schoonmaker, DJ Turner, Kwity Paye, and Josh Uche were all three-stars recruits who ended up being selected on Day 2 of their respective drafts, just over the past few years.

While four stars have a higher bar, Harbaugh has consistently prepared them for the next level as well. It is really impressive to think about over 19 percent of each incoming recruiting class eventually hearing their name called during the NFL draft. That alone is a high recruiting pitch and somewhat of a required feedback loop.

A new era is here

Seeing Michigan rank 13th-best nationally in overall draft rate makes sense given the past 11 seasons, but very few people would consider the entire program outside the top 10 at this point in time after 2021 and 2022. So while continually sending players up to the NFL even during the lesser seasons is a great testament to the Wolverines’ durability, the bar is being raised significantly.

Harbaugh is up to the task. The 2023 NFL Draft was littered with Michigan alumni, as mentioned above, and that high volume should only increase. That in part is due to the elevated recruiting success that are sure to be coming to Ann Arbor, starting with the 2024 class that is loaded already as the top group in the entire nation per the 247Composite.

As mentioned above, this is sort of a chicken-and-egg situation, where success on the field helps recruiting, and recruiting helps yield future successes. The X-factor that the Wolverines can offer, though, is that Harbaugh has out-performed his expected NFL draft production. Any recruit coming in can look at the numbers and see — regardless of their ranking — they have an above-average chance at making it to the next level by being at Michigan.

It is clear that this pitch is enticing more and more top prospects, as it absolutely should. With the coaching staff continuing to lock in and the quality of recruit elevating under Harbaugh, do not be surprised to see the Wolverines’ numbers even higher next time The Athletic updates these figures.