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Weekend wrap-up: Previewing future draft selections and celebrating some recent picks

Multiple Michigan running backs may hear their name called next April.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Michigan State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh has had no challenge sending players to the NFL since arriving in Ann Arbor, and Michigan Wolverines continue to hear their names called every draft, regardless of their recruiting ranking. This is nothing new for the blue-blood program, but Harbaugh has certainly sustained his reputation of developing pro-ready players.

Many of these draftees play on the defensive side of the ball or come from the offensive line, which is no surprise given Michigan’s style of play. That trend may be disrupted next year, however, with a few dynamic players from the Wolverines offense looking to make the leap to the next level.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler — one of the best draft analysts out there — has been taking a look at early 2024 NFL Draft boards, and to no surprise has already keyed in on a few Michigan players. J.J. McCarthy landed at No. 3 in his quarterback list, and while it is not a given that McCarthy will choose to leave after this season, he will surely have the opportunity to be drafted if that is the direction he elects to pursue.

What really stands out, though, is Brugler’s running back rankings, which feature Blake Corum at No. 1 and Donovan Edwards at No. 3. This is far from a hot take, with Pro Football Focus coming to a similar conclusion, but again emphases just how rare it is to have a backfield this talented.

Michigan’s challenge will be figuring out how to get the most out of both backs, who could easily each be the sole feature back on the vast majority of teams in America. It makes sense to distribute the carries to reduce the workload, and using the passing game to keep both players involved will be a nightmare for defenses. This is really the year to bring out some creativity, and all signs point to this being Harbaugh’s greatest offense yet.

There is a chance this split backfield does impact both players’ draftability, but it should be minimal. For Corum, a smaller workload should help with his return for injury, and for Edwards it means more opportunities to show off his ability as a receiver. There is also the chance that Edwards decides to come back for next season, and that would definitely give him the opportunity to show off his full range of talents.

From the ice to the diamond

Michigan baseball sits a ways behind the football, basketball, and hockey programs, but the Wolverines did get another player selected in the MLB Draft, with pitcher Connor O’Halloran going to the Blue Jays in the fifth round. Michigan alumni might not be as prevalent in MLB as the NHL as was discussed last week, but there are still some successes to celebrate.

O’Halloran was the 10th former Wolverine to be selected in the first five rounds over the past five years, which is not too shabby for this level of program. Last year saw Clark Elliott taken in the second round, which is where Steve Hajjar went the year prior, and Jeff Criswell landed there in 2020, all three of which continue to work their way up their organizations.

Two recent draftees have reached the majors, starting with pitcher Tommy Henry. Selected in 2019, Henry made his MLB debut last season with Arizona, making nine starts down the stretch with a pedestrian 5.36 ERA and some uninspiring underlying numbers as well, but that is nothing out of the ordinary for young starters.

This season has been quite different, however, with Henry sporting a 3.75 ERA over 14 outings thus far. His strikeout numbers are still fairly low (6.2 K/9) but he has dropped his walks and homers a tad and looked really good heading into the All-Star Break, allowing just four earned runs over his past four starts. The Diamondbacks seem to be giving him every chance to succeed, and hopefully Henry can carry this momentum into the second half.

It has been a little tougher for Karl Kauffman, who was also a member of the 2019 draft class, going three picks after Henry to the Rockies. Kauffman made his major league debut in May and has had a pretty terrible time, owning a 10.19 ERA through 17 23 innings as both a starter and a reliever.

Pitching in Colorado is never easy, but he did have a positive outing last time out, giving up a lone run in three innings of relief. MLB fans will remember the game, as the Angels put up 25 runs against the Rockies, but only one of those was against Kauffman; his other three teammates gave up nine, nine, and six, so we will chalk that up as a win! He did return to Triple-A Albuquerque, but he should make it back up to Colorado later this year.

It would be fun to see some more of these recent draftees make it to the big leagues, as the number of active players is pretty small. Jake Cronenworth continues to carry the torch, though, and he remains a fixture of the Padres’ infield. A quick shoutout to Rich Hill is due as well, as he manages to keep rolling at the age of 43, having made 18 starts already for the Pirates!