I'm a NFL draftnik. It's my offseason sweet spot, combining my love for college and pro football to create the ideal event that essentially marks you're halfway through the long wait for The Victors to return. I listen to every Mel Kiper podcast, watch every NFL draft show with Mike Mayock on the NFL Network, and have been doing my own mock drafts since high school. Each year in my college football preview I do a mock draft for the following spring, too, and typically get at least 10 of the players who will eventually be picked correct.
So as a somewhat knowledgeable NFL draft layman, and Michigan fan, here are my thoughts on the Wolverines considering entering the 2019 draft early:
Ben Bredeson (OL)
While he's likely going to be All-Big Ten, he's projected right now as a third day pick. But if he comes back, will be a preseason All-American and could really raise his profile.
STAY or GO? Those who stay, in this case, will get richer.
Devin Bush (LB)
Would've been considered a tweener in past eras, but nowadays is the prototypical three-down linebacker for today's throw-first NFL. Equally adept at blitzing the quarterback as he is in coverage. And when he arrives at the point of attack, he does so with cruel intentions. I'd rate him a notch below Roquan Smith, who was a top 10 pick out of Georgia last year.
STAY or GO? Is expected to go and it's justified with how his stock is right now. But a part of me wonders if he could surprise us, given his dad is on staff?
Rashan Gary (DL)
I think he may divide the scouting community more than Michigan fans assume, because he's the classic potential vs. productivity prospect. Gary is going to blow up the Combine, but the on-field production doesn't match the measurables. A few years ago, there were scouts who lamented Jadeveon Clowney's collegiate production didn't merit his lofty draft status, and in three seasons he had 24 sacks and 47 tackles-for-loss. By comparison, Gary only had 9.5 sacks and 23 tackles-for-loss. Those are disappointing numbers for the first player to ever be the consensus top high school prospect in his class. Scouts will need to determine how much of that is what Gary was asked to do in Michigan's scheme, and how much of it was something else.
STAY or GO? Gary battled injuries much of this season, and would certainly be a target for opponents next season were he to return, with no guarantee he'd dramatically improve his production. Take the money and run.
Zach Gentry (TE)
A mediocre blocker who has yet to demonstrate the ball skills a player with his dominant size and above-average athleticism is expected to possess. Just when it looked as if he was coming on the season, he had a poor finish.
STAY or GO? He should definitely stay.
Lavert Hill (CB)
Walter Football, an outstanding evaluation site done by NFL scouts, ranks him the 26th-best cornerback in the 2019 draft and a third day pick. He's also on the smaller-side size-wise.
STAY or GO? He should stay like Jourdan Lewis did, but is probably going to go.
David Long (CB)
Though the analytics guys at Pro Football Focus love him even more than Hill, he's not ranked among the top 31 corners eligible for the 2019 draft according to Walter Football.
STAY or GO? Would be wise to stay.
Shea Patterson (QB)
Came into the season mocked in the first round of several drafts but is nowhere to be found in those mocks now, despite playing such a vital role in Michigan's bounce back season. That's because while Patterson was mostly masterful doing what was asked of him, he didn't flash enough of the skill-set that will be required of him at the next level. Since he's never going to have ideal NFL size, Patterson needs to show the ability to process through and connect with reads in the pocket quickly, and accuracy when out of the pocket. The latter he did but the former needs work. Too often Patterson missed second or third reads, and was notably short on numerous downfield throws from the pocket all season long. While he gets major points for doing what was asked of him, namely trading in his gunslinger instincts to play complementary football, he didn't do enough to restore his preseason draft stock. An erratic effort against Ohio State certainly didn't help in that regard.
STAY or GO? There's no question Patterson would be better off returning. However, this decision isn't made in a vacuum, and it's shaping up to be an underwhelming quarterback class in 2019. The top prospect(s) this year would only be the 4th or 5th prospects in 2018. With that in mind, Patterson may feel justified to take his chances he can raise his stock up against this year's crop.