The deepest room of any position group for the Michigan Wolverines, the wide receivers are talented and experienced.
Six Michigan wide receivers caught passes in 2020 and five of them return in 2021, with Giles Jackson taking his talents to Washington. Moreover, the three projected starters all have a minimum of 18 game appearances each at wide receiver.
With the addition of true freshmen Andrel Anthony and Cristian Dixon, the wide receiver room is as deep as it has ever been at Michigan under head coach Jim Harbaugh.
While the talented freshman will factor in, Harbaugh spoke about a top-six at the wide receiver position in his most recent press conference. While the term “backup” is used below, all six will have a significant impact this season.
These are my current depth chart predictions for those six Wolverines.
WR-X— Ronnie Bell, SR.
Ronnie Bell has been Michigan’s leading receiver two years in a row and has averaged over 15 yards-per-catch since his freshman season in 2018.
In 2020, Bell finished with 26 catches for 401 yards and one touchdown. Despite inconsistent play from the quarterback position, Bell was on pace for his best season as a Wolverine.
Ronnie Bell is a yards-after-catch (YAC) monster and if he can avoid the turf monster in 2021, expect Bell to nearly double his career touchdown mark (4) in just one season.
Bell is 943 yards away from being in the top ten all-time of Michigan pass catchers.
WR-X Backup— Daylen Baldwin, SR.
Daylen Baldwin is a 6’2, 219-pound transfer senior who most recently played for Deion Sanders at Jackson State.
Baldwin exploded onto the scene this spring (FCS moved their games to the spring due to the pandemic) leading the Tigers with 27 catches, 540 yards, and seven scores, in just six games.
Now taking his shot at the highest level of college football, expect the reliable Baldwin to be featured prominently and is my pick for breakout offensive player of 2021.
WR-Z— Cornelius Johnson, JR.
Cornelius Johnson was Michigan’s second-leading receiver in 2020 in terms of yards (254) but led the team in yards-per-catch (15.9), and touchdowns (3).
Johnson is Michigan’s most complete wide receiver and the 6-foot-3 junior is expected to continue to surge this season based upon the chemistry shown in 2020 with quarterback Cade McNamara.
WR-Z Backup— Roman Wilson, SO.
BURNER! No word describes Roman Wilson more than “burner.” Wilson ran a verified 4.37 40-yard dash and a 3.96 shuttle time in high school and flashed some of that potential in 2020.
The Hawaii native is Michigan’s bonafide deep threat who can stretch the field and create space for everyone else underneath.
With this elite speed, expect offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to feature Wilson at Z and even Y-receiver to exploit potential safety/ nickel corner match-ups.
WR-Y— Mike Sainristil, JR.
Mike Sainristil finished last season with only seven catches for 82 yards. However, while far from prolific, two of Sainrsistil’s seven catches were for touchdowns.
With his physical style and ability to create space, Sainristil was a third-down favorite of Shea Patterson in 2019.
Sainristil edges out the competition here because of his experience (19 games) and ability/ willingness to block in the run game.
WR-Y Backup— A.J. Henning, SO
The second fastest wide receiver, A.J. Henning is beginning to carve out a larger role in Gattis’ offense.
While last season saw him predominantly featured as an end-around specialist (the Eddie McDoom role), his all-around playmaking will see him featured in a variety of roles this season.
With a knack for the spectacular, Henning could challenge Daylen Baldwin for the breakout offensive player in 2021.