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SNS 2024 NFL Draft - Michigan at the Combine



Last month in Indianapolis, the National Champion Michigan Wolverines established a new record with 18 NFL Draft prospects invited to the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine. Setting aside the allegations of cheating against Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff last season, Michigan plays NFL-style football featuring tough, athletic, and physical lineman, has difference making playmakers at the critical skill positions of QB, RB, and WR, and have a fast, aggressive, and good tackling defense that flows quickly to, and attacks, the ball. Let’s take a look at the 18 Michigan football players who participated at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in March and assess their draft future.


Offense


JJ McCarthy / QB

The fastest rising player in the draft is likely to be Michigan’s signal caller, who is generating a ton of buzz as the draft nears. McCarthy looks locked into the Top 10 and could go as high as #2 to Washington later this month. McCarthy has less production than the other top QBs in this draft (Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, Bo Nix, Michael Penix) but he has an NFL body with very good arm strength, throws with anticipation and touch, and is the ultimate winner having lost only one college game while leading Michigan to back-to-back Big Ten titles and playoff appearances and the 2023 National Championship. Questions remain about his field vision, especially under pressure, and his lack of experience being required to lead the team down the stretch of a game, but McCarthy will be a Top 5 pick later this month.


Blake Corum / RB

Which RB is first off the board will depend on what the drafting team is looking for in the position since this draft features a vast variety of running styles to choose from. Corum could very well be the first RB selected later this month due to his solid, compact build, goal line running instincts, and elite cutting ability. Corum is a complete RB who will not need to be replaced on passing downs and has surprising power on short yardage situations. Corum should be selected NLT the third round in Detroit later this month.


Roman Wilson / WR

Wilson is in contention to be the first slot WR drafted, quite a statement when you look at the quality and depth of slot receivers in this year’s draft. Wilson is both quick and fast, uncovers easily against both zone and man coverage, has soft, reliable hands, and displays the desired toughness to make the catch, take a hit, and hold on to the ball. Wilson should be selected in the second or early third round later this month.


Cornelius Johnson / WR

Johnson has plenty of playing experience and played the best ball of his career during Michigan’s stretch drive towards the National Championship. Johnson has a great combination of size and speed and can torch a defense deep with his great speed. Johnson’s hands are inconsistent and he is prone to concentration drops. Additionally, he is tight in the hips and has trouble creating separation against man coverage. Expect Johnson to be a late round selection in April’s draft.


AJ Barner / TE

Barner, a transfer from Indiana, was Michigan’s #2 TE last season (behind top prospect Colston Loveland) and projects as a #2 TE in the NFL. Barner is solid, if not spectacular, well-rounded TE with good size and in-line blocking ability with enough athleticism and reliable hands to make him a reliable outlet receiver in the NFL. Barner should be a late round selection in Detroit this month.


LaDarius Henderson / OL

Henderson transferred from Arizona State where he was an All-PAC-12 OG after the 2022 season before going to Michigan where he started at OLT during the 2023 season. Henderson has terrific size with grapevines for arms (35” arms with a huge 84.6” wingspan). His size and athletic profile seem ideally suited for OLT but he is high cut and has trouble the farther he has to move. He also was exposed at the Senior Bowl by a strong bull rush and seems best suited inside at OG. His versatility and size make him a desirable mid to late round draft choice.


Karsen Barnhart / OL

Barnhart offers fantastic versatility with starting experience all along the offensive line (except center) and figures to offer NFL teams a versatile offensive lineman that they can be deployed wherever needed. NFL teams only carry seven or eight offensive linemen on game day and having an OL with size and experience like Barnhart is invaluable. Barnhart should be a great late round selection or a priority UDFA later this month in Detroit.


Drake Nugent / IOL

Michigan has had quite a run of quality centers over the last decade (e.g. Cesar Ruiz, Olu Oluwatimi) and Nugent is the latest NFL-caliber pivotman to come out of Ann Arbor. Nugent had multiple years of quality starting experience the last few years at Stanford before transferring to Michigan last season. Nugent is smart and aware and calls the line audibles. He handles both power and quickness well and is a technician who excels in a run first scheme. Nugent looks like a potential starter a year or two down the line. Nugent should be drafted in the fifth or sixth round later this month.


Zak Zinter / IOL

Zinter was trending towards possible first round draft consideration prior to the season-ending injury suffered last November. Zinter has years of starting experience and was durable until suffering his injury. He possesses ideal size (6057 / 309 / 33.4” Arms / 81.1” Wingspan) and the nasty disposition wanted for interior line work. He is tough, strong, and athletic. Zinter should be ready to go by the start of the 2024 season and should still be drafted amongst the first 100 players in Detroit this month. He could be a future Pro Bowler.


Trevor Keegan / IOL

Keegan, similar to Zinter, is a highly experienced OG with ideal size and reach with a ton of starting experience in Ann Arbor. He’s a waist bender who can be defeated by power when he plays too straight-legged but is a well-rounded player who looks like a future NFL starter. Expect Keegan to be drafted in the fourth to sixth round range this month in Detroit.


Trente Jones / OL

It is a rare occurrence when a career back up gets an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine but Jones has NFL size and reach (6037 / 305 / 33” Arms) and the versatility NFL teams covet along the OL. Jones can play anywhere along the line but center and filled in exceptionally well for Zinter after his injury. Jones is likely to get drafted late but if he falls out of the draft, he’ll be a heavily sought after UDFA.


Defense


Braiden McGregor / EDGE

Michigan’s defense is the primary reason that Michigan has won consecutive Big Ten titles, made the last two playoffs, and won the 2023 National Championship. Specifically, it is the defense’s ability to shut down running lanes and make the offense one dimensional. McGregor is a superb run defender with the desired size, length, and wingspan for a 4-3 DE. He is overly reliant on his bull rush and stays blocked too easily during his pass rush but his size and athleticism makes him a valuable mid-round pick.


Jaylen Harrell / EDGE

Harrell does not possess the physical dimensions that his teammate McGregor has but is a better athlete who offers more upside as a pass rusher. Harrell recorded a 37” vertical and 9’10” broad jump, indicating explosiveness that is displayed on tape. He possesses a terrific first step and an impressive closing burst. Harrell’s production has never equaled his athleticism but he has continuously improved throughout his time in Ann Arbor. Harrell, like McGregor, should be a mid-round selection later this month in Detroit.


Kris Jenkins / IDL

Jenkins, whose father was a multiple time Pro Bowl player, is the highest rated Michigan defensive prospect on SNS’ Top 300 Rankings list (#20) and is the second highest rated IDL available in this year’s draft. Jenkins has outstanding length (34” Arms and a 79.1” Wingspan) with good initial quickness and a very good closing burst on the QB. He possesses enough size, combined with outstanding leverage, to be sturdy inside against the run and looks like an ideal 4-3 DT. Jenkins could be drafted in the first round and should be selected in the first 50 picks later this month.


Junior Colson / LB

One of the best LBs in this draft, Colson possesses desired NFL size and athleticism for off the ball LB duties. Colson has the athletic profile and physicality to line up at either inside or outside LB with the tackling ability desired in space. He has been both extremely durable and productive throughout his career in Ann Arbor and looks like an extremely safe pick. Considering position worth into the equation, Colson is unlikely to be drafted prior to the third round and should be off the board no later than the end of the fifth round.


Michael Barrett / LB

Barrett is highly experienced with plenty of playing time over his six years in Ann Arbor. He possesses enough size and athleticism to match up with RBs, and some TEs, in space. He tends to avoid blocks as opposed to stacking and shedding blocks and needs to improve his hand use to discard blocks better. Barrett is a reliable tackler in the open field and projects as an outstanding special teams contributor. He should go off the board in the sixth or seventh round.


Mike Sainristil / CB

Potentially the top slot CB in this draft, the former WR is quickly rising up draft boards across the NFL. His performance at the NFL Scouting Combine has certainly aided his ascent. Sainristil ran a 4.47 40, skied for a 40” vertical and a 10’11” broad jump, ran a solid 6.99 3-cone drill, and even bench pressed 225 pounds an impressive 14 times. Sainristil has loose hips and light feet desired for slot duties and is physical and tough in run support. Sainristil could sneak into the last half of the first round and will be off the board by the end of round 2 this month.


Josh Wallace / CB

Wallace, a transfer from UMASS, went from draft after-thought at the beginning of the 2023 season to earning an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine after a solid senior season. Wallace had a good day at the combine recording a 34” vertical, a 10’ broad jump, and benched 225 pounds 13 times. Wallace did not run and was a limited participant in on-field drills so concerns about his deep speed remain but as he demonstrated last season, he can hold his own in both man and zone coverage. Wallace should either be a late round selection or a priority UDFA later this month in Detroit.


 

SNS will be posting new articles every day through the NFL Draft with SNS Final Top 300 Prospect Rankings, a complete set of Final 2024 Position Rankings, SNS’ Annual Deep Dive look at some deep sleepers in the 2024 class, an analysis of Michigan’s 18 invitees to the NFL Scouting Combine, a positional in-depth analysis of the QBs, WRs, and IDL available in the draft, and a complete 7 Round Mock Draft! 


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