Michigan had a player selected in each of the first two rounds of last April’s NFL Draft. The Wolverines appear poised to top that effort in the 2021 draft, at least according to Todd McShay.
The ESPN draft analyst unveiled his top 50 2021 draft prospects on Wednesday, including a trio of Wolverines in that mix.
The group is led by receiver Nico Collins at No. 26, and includes defensive end Kwity Paye (47) and running back Chris Evans (50).
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence leads McShay’s rankings.
The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Collins opted to return for his senior season, after registering 37 catches for 729 yards (19.7 average) and a team-leading seven touchdown receptions in 2019.
“The production … wasn’t eye-popping in 2019, but you have to acknowledge the poor quarterback play,” McShay writes. “Collins has good size and top-end speed to challenge vertically, and he will make contested grabs. But he is not yet a complete route runner.”
Paye tallied a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss last season, and was second on the team in sacks (6.5).
“Paye can slip blocks and make plays in the backfield,” McShay writes. “He is still developing as a pass-rusher … but the ceiling is high. Paye is probably a 3-4 OLB candidate in the NFL.”
Evans did not play last season, serving a one-year suspension from the university following an academic issue, but has averaged 5.7 yards over 304 carries during his career in Ann Arbor.
“He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2018, and he has shown consistent production in the pass game (15-plus catches in 2017 and 2018),” McShay writes. “He has experience flexing outside and lining up in the slot. Evans is instinctive between the tackles and shifty in the open field.”
Whether Collins, Paye and Evans play at Michigan again remains uncertain. The Big Ten this month postponed its season because of the coronavirus pandemic, and is mulling a January start to the season. Some players such as Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield and Ambry Thomas, have chosen to forgo that season to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Center Cesar Ruiz was the Wolverines’ top draft pick in April, selected No. 24 overall by the New Orleans Saints. Linebacker Josh Uche was selected in the second round by the New England Patriots. In all, 10 Wolverines were selected in the draft.