The Michigan Wolverines finished the 2016 season with a 10-3 record while placing tenth in the final Associated Press Poll. The team started the season reeling off nine straight wins and were on the path to making an appearance in the College Football Playoff until their regular season ended in brutal fashion with a 30-27 defeat to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Even with two losses on the season, they still earned the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl against the Florida State Seminoles.
The Wolverines lost starting wide receivers, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson to the NFL. Together, both players accumulated 2,853 yards and 23 touchdowns in that last two seasons. The team is preparing to fill the void with two highly-touted freshman wide receivers in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black. Both players were big time recruits and have enough talent to elevate Michigan’s passing game. Peoples-Jones has been turning heads by showcasing his talent during the spring practices. He has the potential to develop into one of the top wide receivers in the nation and could eventually become one of the premier prospects when it’s his time to come out for the draft.
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As a Recruit
Peoples-Jones went to school at Cass Technical, located in Detroit, Michigan. There, he caught 39 passes for 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 and 60 passes for 1,071 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. He received the opportunity to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl where he caught two passes for 22-yards. He received scholarship offers from 30 different collegiate programs and a lot of those offers came from some of the best programs in that nation like Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Florida.
247Sports ranked him the top wide receiver in the country and the 12th-best overall player in the 2017 recruiting class. He was also regarded as the number one player out of the entire state of Michigan. He was universally rated a five-star prospect by all of the recruiting web sites.
He attended the 2015 Nike Sparq Combine as a junior where he was crowned the champion with a score of 149.49. There he posted a 4.42 laser timed 40-yard dash, 4.0 20-yard shuttle, 43.5-inch vertical jump, 42.4 power ball toss. Michigan recently clocked him with a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical jump. He measures in at 6’2’’ and 190-pounds and he has the frame to easily add some extra mass. Peoples-Jones is a freak athlete who has the size and speed to create a lot of issues for defensive backs in the Big Ten.
Peoples-Jones attended a Rivals Camp in Cleveland to compete against some of the top wide receiver prospects in the country. He dominated against tough competition and earned wide receiver MVP honors. His ability to play well against top tier competition at the high school level provides the notion that his game can easily transfer to the college ranks.
Despite not taking a snap yet at the collegiate level, Peoples-Jones is already a proficient route runner as he can run deep posts, quick outs, comebacks and make plays over the middle. When it comes to route running, he’s ahead of the game compared to most wide receiver prospects. He is also very sudden in his routes, meaning he’s very efficient at getting in and out of his breaks.
Here’s Donovan Peoples-Jones running a curl route and finding a spot in the defense. pic.twitter.com/guMZ4e7Us2
— Bruce Matson (@BMatz08) August 5, 2017
In the video clip posted above, Peoples-Jones showcases his ability to sink his hips to effortlessly finish out his curl route. He’s a very cerebral route runner and he has a knack for finding the open holes in the defense. When it comes to getting off the line of scrimmage, he’s very aggressive and will not allow the defensive back to push him around. He’s quick with his first step and he doesn’t hesitate while manufacturing his initial move off the line of scrimmage.
Peoples-Jones has a “my ball” mentality and will absolutely work to get in position to battle off the defender to make contested catches. There aren’t many receivers in the game that can track the ball downfield as well as he can. Hight pointing the ball while it’s in the air is a strength of his which allows him to make his signature acrobatic catches downfield. His strong hands grants him the ability to make tough catches away from his body with ease.
Donovan Peoples-Jones adjusting to the football to make a tough catch downfield. pic.twitter.com/gzJbH4OLxf
— Bruce Matson (@BMatz08) August 5, 2017
The video above show’s his natural ability to adjust to the football while it’s in the air, providing him the opportunity to come down with the catch. Plays like this are routine for him due to his constant effort to try and make a play on the football. He’s a very gritty player who will do whatever it takes to win at the catch point. Needless to say, he’s going to be very tough to cover on slants and short drag routes due to his tenacious mindset when the ball is in the air.
Off the Field
Academics are very important to him. He achieved a 3.9 GPA after his junior year, ranking in the upper-echelon of his class. Whether it’s on or off the field, Peoples-Jones is a very hard worker and he will always give his best effort at whatever he’s currently pursuing. One of his goals is to become an orthopedic surgeon just like his father. Obviously, with his father being an orthopedic surgeon, intellect runs in his bloodline and by judging how he presents himself in interviews, it’s easy to see that he’s very intelligent. Peoples-Jones is a high-character athlete who exemplifies integrity with everything he sets his mind too.
Forecasting His Collegiate Career
Expect him to produce right away for the Wolverines, because he’s a supreme talent and he has the intangibles to excel early in his career. Even with Michigan’s low volume passing attack, I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes his freshman season with over 1,000 yards receiving. If this happens, his stock in devy leagues will tremendously increase, because most owners love to covet young talented assets who are productive during the early stages of their career. He made improvements during every year of his high school career and he’s more than likely going to continue to progress his skill sets going forward. The odds are very good that he will develop into one of the top wide receivers in the country. There’s a small chance, as with every player, that his game won’t transition to the college level, but with his athletic profile and on field prowess, the likelihood of him becoming a complete bust is slim to none.
Peoples-Jones has the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the nation. Don’t be surprised if he’s successful early in his collegiate career. He’s a stellar athlete and has all the intangibles to be great. If he can reach his potential then he will definitely be suiting up on Sundays. In the next few months, look for his value to increase in devy leagues, especially if he is productive right out of the gate during his freshman season. He’s oozing with talent which means he could become the next “hot commodity” if he can find success early in his career.