Updated June 15, 2016
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
Last year, new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh engineered a huge improvement for the proud Wolverines program. While Harbaugh and his staff did an excellent job, the emergence of a lot of young talent was a leading catalyst for Michigan's rebirth. In speaking with sources from NFL teams, they say that Michigan is one of the top schools in the preseason scouting lists with a plethora of talent for the NFL. Here is a rundown of some of the Wolverine players scouts are excited to see.
Senior tight end Jake Butt could have been a second-day pick if he entered the 2016 NFL Draft. He probably would have graded out similar to the first tight end selected, San Diego's Hunter Henry, who was taken early in the second round. Butt had 51 receptions for 654 yards with three touchdowns in 2015. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Butt is a good receiver down the seam who uses his size to his advantage. Butt has looked very good as a receiver and blocker in Harbaugh's pro-style offense. Some team sources are already saying they would love to land Butt on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Michigan's defense was phenomenal in 2015, and defensive end Chris Wormley was their best defender up front. He recorded 43 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss on the year. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder has versatile size to be an end or tackle in a 4-3 defense. He also is a great fit as a five-technique in a 3-4. If Wormley builds on his 2015 season, he could be a high selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Defensive back Jabrill Peppers (6-1, 205) was excellent as a sophomore in 2015, recording 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up. He has some man-coverage skills to go along with athletic upside. Peppers could play safety or maybe be a press-man corner. He also has been a weapon on offense and special teams.
Wide receiver Jehu Chesson had a breakout junior season with 50 receptions for 764 yards with nine touchdowns. He also ran for two scores. Chesson (6-3, 207) has size to him, and so the speed to separate will be the key attribute that scouts will be looking for.
Similar to Cheeson, running back De'Veon Smith didn't do a lot as a freshman or sophomore, but was much more productive as a junior. Smith averaged 4.2 yards per carry for 753 yards with six touchdowns. He had 19 receptions for 159 yards. The 5-foot-11, 228-pound power back finished the year with an impressive performance against Florida and one of the best defenses in college football. Smith could be even better with more experience going into his senior year.
Sources say there are a number of other prospects on the defensive and offensive line that they are eager to see. In recent years, programs like Ohio State, Alabama and Florida State have been the most visited schools by NFL evaluators, but in 2016, Michigan could make that claim.