2017 Recruiting: Donovan Peoples-Jones Comment Count

Brian August 7th, 2017 at 12:03 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black.

Detroit, MI – 6'3", 195

[Bryan Fuller]

Scout 5*, #22 overall
#1 WR, #1 MI
Rivals 5*, #12 overall
#1 WR, #1 MI
ESPN 4*, #22 overall
#4 WR, #1 MI
24/7 5*, #26 overall
#2 WR, #1 MI
Other Suitors OSU, UF, FSU, MSU, ND
YMRMFSPA Braylon Edwards
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Featured in four different Future Blue posts.
Notes Twitter.



Single game video vs Ambry Thomas:

There are guys, and there are dudes. Donovan Peoples-Jones is a dude. He is a dude who posted the best SPARQ score in the nation… as a junior. He is a dude who casually flips over six-foot fences for a comedy vine. He is a dude who effortlessly executes 52" box jumps.

He is a dude who leaps over three persons to dunk a basketball and sends his high school into hysterics that are only now abating.

He is a dude who forces his coach to look up broad jump records

"…he jumped almost ten-something, eleven-something? And I was like, 'God, it's that far?' … Everyone else was doing like eight or seven. I was like, 'Y'all better jump farther! There's no way that he could outjump everybody!' … I Googled up what was the furthest jump, right? I said, 'Holy shit! He's got the furthest jump in the United States! He outjumped everybody in the combine! He has the record!' I was like, 'Oh my God!'

…as a freshman…

"That was his incoming freshman year."

…and also as an eighth grader:

As an eighth grader, Peoples-Jones had the best broad jump of any recruit in attendance at a junior camp at the University of Tennessee.

Also he has a 3.9 GPA and wants to be a doctor. Also sometime he catches footballs:

Donovan Peoples-Jones is a dude.

This shows up in his testing. Those SPARQ components are nuts, as you might imagine. DPJ ran a 4.42, 4.0 shuttle, and had a 42 inch vertical. Two things: he was the first non-senior to ever win, and he was the only prospect in his class to finish in the top 25. He wasn't able to defend his championship because of an injury, but he didn't get slower. When Michigan released the results from their spring combine, DPJ had the top 40 (4.41) and vertical leap on the team; Chris Evans and Benjamin St Juste narrowly pipped him in the broad jump and shuttle components.

It also shows up in the scouting reports, which don't stint on the superlatives. Camp takes:

  • Steve Wiltfong, 247: "…speedster with incredible leaping ability." Also: "…speed really showed up, just flat running by defensive backs. …no question one of the freakiest athletes in the United States."
  • Allen Trieu, Scout: "…elite athleticism and smoothness was on display in one on ones. Man, it's a hot one."
  • Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "one of the most well-rounded wide receiver prospects to come out of the Midwest in the last decade." Also: "easily [created] separation and [caught] everything that came his way. …excels in the categories of speed, athleticism and strength, but even with all his physical traits the five-star’s best asset may be his work ethic and desire to be the best.
  • Isaiah Hole, 247: "…prototypical college size … possesses speed, route-running ability, hands and an insane vertical leaping ability that put him heads and shoulders above many of his peers."
  • Ace Anbender, this here site: "smooth runner who covers a ton of ground without looking like he's moving that fast, but his acceleration and top-end speed are elite. … impressive mid-air adjustment[s]  …  five-star athlete. Something about the midday sun." Also: "stellar athleticism and soft hands … really explosive off the line… toughness after the catch."
  • Barton Simmons, 247: "He's so effortless and such a smooth glider that it's hard to really grasp how athletic this kid is. There isn't a receiver in this class with the physical tools and complete package of Peoples-Jones."
  • Woody Wommack, Rivals: "He’s so smooth running downfield that it looks effortless and his always-consistent hands were on full display. *Santana guitar solo.*"

Fuller evaluations focus on his… everything. Mostly his explosive explosiveness:

"…regularly showed the ability to stretch the field vertically, while also catching short-to-intermediate balls to prove he's dangerous at all levels. …plays such a fluid game and has built himself up enough physically that it's difficult for cornerbacks to know what he's going to do. If you play him tight, he can break free. If you play him too soft, he will run right by you. …did what he was supposed to do against some of the nation's top prospects.

And his new size:

“Peoples-Jones has the size and strength to destroy press coverage, the speed to get deep on cornerbacks and the precision in his route-running to create space in the short and intermediate passing game. …exceptional work ethic and dedication to his craft.

Although not always the ol' route running:

Exceptional athlete with above-average size, but top notch speed, explosiveness and outstanding leaping ability. Shows the ability to make tough grabs downfield with defenders on him, and has excellent body control and ball tracking skills. Must still get stronger and continue to polish his route-running, but has all of the physical tools to be a go-to receiver in college.


Tall, sturdy and physical … can just pull away from most, if not all pursuit. …really impressive especially on angle breaking vertical routes -- posts, streaks, corners etc because he doesn't have to gear down  … strong hands and a wide reach. Plucks cleanly and we really like his over the shoulder focus on deep balls. Will come down with the contested ball and when in tight quarters can outmuscle the ball from defenders.… difference maker vertically due to size/speed combo. … can routinely win one-on-one and take the top off a defense. …doesn't have an expansive tree yet. Possesses impact qualities.

"Difference maker" and "impact qualities" are rare indeed in ESPN evaluations.

Their take also gets into another important facet of DPJ's game, especially since we're comparing him to Braylon Edwards: he has great hands. Our in-person scouting has notes of it, and when he showed up for the Army game he was a vacuum:

…showed his five-star ability by catching pretty much everything. The Michigan commit showed great body control to make catches on two contested deep balls in one on ones and made a diving catch behind him on a poorly thrown short route.

Rivals praised his ability to "[make] the difficult look easy" and Mike Farrell named him the player with the best hands at the event, more for his consistency than the spectacular stuff:

…did have a couple highlight reel catches during the week of practice, but he gets the nod here primarily because he was so sure-handed.

They also preferred him to last year's #1 WR prospect, Arizona State's K'Neal Harry, because he's "more polished and physical at the same stage," and named him one of ten "can't miss prospects."

The one blip of negativity comes from this site, naturally. Over the course of DPJ's Cass career Adam, Dave, and Ace scouted him four separate times, and in doing so caught something important that the other reports tend to overlook:

As far as route running goes, Peoples-Jones rarely ran anything other than a fly or a slant, making that part of his game difficult to judge.

Cass utilizes a very run-centric offense, and then they bomb it to Peoples-Jones two or three times a game. He usually catches one for a touchdown. … It’s hard to tell whether Peoples-Jones is a good route runner because he usually just runs a go route and torches a corner in the process.

Cass's passing game was not very developed. MLK head coach Tyrone Spencer:

"I think we still haven’t even seen what he can really do because Cass runs a lot of zone read concepts so he still wasn’t getting the ball a lot."

This is more about the limitations of a high school offense that isn't IMG than Peoples-Jones, but he didn't run the full gamut of routes he'll be expected to in college. That's what ESPN is referring to when they say he "doesn't have an expansive tree yet." Until he does his effectiveness will be somewhat muted.

Peoples-Jones enrolled early and Harbaugh's already started in with the Peppers/Gary kind of talk:

"He's really serious about being good, that's what's stood out the most. That's standing out even more than some of the physical attributes that he has. So far so good. But he's serious about being good. Very smart."


"Doing an incredible job. He’s come in, and he’s a very polished athlete, mature, a winner, a champion all the way. He has been outstanding.”

Drevno, too:

““He’s really locked in. He’s really focused and really wants it. He’s very mature and has a very good concentration level. He wants to be a student of the game. He wants to do it right."

There's a certain variety of five-star who comes in without having to be de-recruited, and the kind of things that get said about them in press conferences are along these lines. Also the physical things are pretty nice. Speight:

"Donovan was doing things today that were pretty freaky. Just the catch radius he had. If the ball is way out here; there was one that was going way out of bounds and he just plucked it. Some guys that were standing out of bounds just looked at each other after that one."

Practice reports from on-site observers were "very encouraging," per this very site, because it "took him just a few practices to establish himself. Unfortunately, he was dinged up and in and out of the lineup. Per Pep Hamilton he missed "quite a few practices," which limited him to "flashes of extreme talent." He was held in relative check in the spring game, for whatever that's worth.

Survey says: not much. Peoples-Jones is a stellar athlete who's already gotten his head coach to talk about him like a future captain. It's not if he becomes a star. It's when.

Etc.: Uh

His speed is underrated and seems to catch defensive backs by surprise.


Like it isn't even a thing:

Why Braylon Edwards? Edwards remains the gold standard for terrifying downfield receivers at Michigan. He was a sleeper recruit, not the top WR in the country, but that was a scouting failure more than anything. By the time Edwards entered the NFL draft he was 6'3", 210, and running sub-4.5 40s. (He posted a 4.45 at the combine and a 4.36 at Michigan's likely-more-forgiving pro day.)  At Michigan he was able to cruise by many defensive backs and out-leap or out-muscle anyone who was able to keep up. Hopefully DPJ won't have Edwards's unreliable hands or tempestuous relationship with the head coach. 

Other comparables, per national guys, include Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams (Clemson edition). Tai Streets and Jehu Chesson are Michigan options.

Guru Reliability: Exacting. One of the most heavily scouted prospects in the country, eerie agreement, no positional projection.

Variance: Low-plus. A tiny worry or two in here: he wasn't asked to run a full route tree at Cass and he's had a couple of lingering minor injury issues. Other than that all systems go. 

Ceiling: Vast. Could easily be the first WR off the board whenever he ends up in the NFL draft.

General Excitement Level: Giggity. Michigan has not had a five star wide receiver since David Terrell. I'm looking forward to having another one.

Projection: Will play this year, obviously. Likely to fall into a genuine platoon situation early with Crawford, Black, and probably one other as Michigan starts the year wondering if they have a top two. Like Black, does not have a clear path to a starting job any time soon because of the other guys in this absurd WR class; will have to fight tooth and nail for snaps. He will get his share because he can line up on the outside and demand safety help from day one.

Breakout is likely at some point as he refines and expands his route tree; that's really the only thing missing, and a guy getting talked up by his coaches like DPJ already is will get there. Relevant question in year three is likely to be "will there be a year four?"



August 7th, 2017 at 12:17 PM ^

DPJ will be the best thing to happen to Michigan's run game from last year to this. He will command a deep safety on every snap. One less body available to any defense trying to bottle up Evans/Higdon.


August 7th, 2017 at 12:51 PM ^

The upside to his limited route tree is that he's well-practiced in murdering secondaries deep and keeping defenses honest in the run game. 

DPJ will be more than that but he can do that day one. Love me some Amara/Jehu but a guy like this can make a bad play a great one (ex: catching one of those terribly thrown deep balls at Iowa).


August 7th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

This is not a knock on Chesson or Darboh; both of them are excellent.

There is a certain "it" quality when it comes to running down the field full speed and tracking a football over your shoulder. You have it or you don't. Those who have it make their quarterback look good by making adjustments while the ball is in flight to put themselves in a place to make a catch in stride.

Think about Darboh going all Odell Beckham Jr against BYU a couple years ago. An unbelievable catch, sure. But that ball was in the air for a long while and if Darboh had "it" then he would have tailed his route a little towards the sideline while the ball was in flight and caught it in stride over his shoulder. It would not have gone down as the epic highlight of Darboh's Michigan career; it would just be a great throw by Rudock.

Chesson's lack of "it" was far more egregious because numerous times we saw him wiiiiide open, slow up for the ball while it was in the air, and then fail to catch up to the ball.

Receivers who have "it" make imperfect throws look like perfect throws. Perfect deep throws are extremely difficult at any level. I am confident that one or two of these freshman receivers are going to make Speight look very, very good.


August 7th, 2017 at 12:24 PM ^

The daily reviews of Tarik, Oliver and Nico were fantastic to read and yet there is the biggest present to enjoy - DPJ. Cannot wait for a few explosive plays by him this year and the next couple of years when he has refined his craft to match his physical abilities.


August 7th, 2017 at 12:32 PM ^

I think I'm having a senior moment because this sentence confused me.

"There's a certain variety of five-star who comes in without having to be de-recruited, and the kind of things that get said about them in press conferences are along these lines."


August 7th, 2017 at 12:37 PM ^

I think he's saying sometimes the 5* kids come in having been hyped up so much through high school that they come in expecting to start and not expecting to have to work hard to get there. The press conference things being said would be indicating that DPJ didn't come in with an inflated sense of self and got to work

Michigan Arrogance

August 7th, 2017 at 12:38 PM ^

I'm reading this as, "sure we said you're the greatest in the history of Earth, but now that you're here you have to take a back seat to a could others guys for a while. Learn the routes, learn to block, etc."


So, usually, the coaches would have to break the prima donna out of him but that's not the case with him, I guess?



The FannMan

August 7th, 2017 at 12:41 PM ^

But I think "de-recuitment" is the process where you have to tell a guy that his game has holes and he needs to work hard to get better after you (and every other coach in the world) have spent the last four years telling him how awesome he is.

The point here is that DPJ does not need to be de-recruited.  He is willing to work hard to improve his game from day one.


August 7th, 2017 at 12:35 PM ^

Smart kid, elite player, wants to be a doctor, already looking promising. He could be a program ambassador 20 years from now like a Des or a Woodson. Guys who transcend being an elite football player and really become a face of the university

No pressure kid


August 7th, 2017 at 12:42 PM ^

The next in the tradition of Michigan receivers who are dead ringers for The Wire characters

(+1 to whoever can name the other one)


August 7th, 2017 at 12:56 PM ^

When Jeremy Gallon buys a high-end nail gun at Lowe's, he doesn't take it up to the check-out counter.  He just hands a fat wad of c-notes to the guy in hardware and tells him to keep the change.


August 7th, 2017 at 12:52 PM ^

This is probably the only recruiting class in the country where a guy like DPJ will have to fight tooth and nail to get snaps at WR because of the talent of others IN HIS SAME CLASS.  

I know that we will be young as hell this year, and that could result in a few frustrating games, but we are 1 year away from finally achieving program stability close to that of OSU, Alabama and several of the other teams that have had consistent success over the past 10-15 years.


August 7th, 2017 at 12:53 PM ^

Especially if it's true that we're looking at more of a pass spread this year. Wooo we got the weapons for the outside.
On another note I've heard things about a spread o-line which helps with somethings. Can anyone share why that's the case? I'm one of the few social studies teachers who don't coach football so I'm not sure.


August 7th, 2017 at 1:36 PM ^

I'm as excited as anybody about DPJ, but I think we are underrating how good/athletic Darboh was last year.  Only .04 slower in the 40 (4.41 vs. 4.45) and Darboh has 20 pounds more muscle on him.  Darboh with slightly shorter vertical but caught everything and outstanding route tree.

I think those that think there will be zero drop off between a Senior athlete in Darboh and a Freshman in DPJ are going to be in a for a shock the frist few games.  Growing Pains.

Long term, I'm hoping for an even better version of Darboh.


August 7th, 2017 at 1:51 PM ^

The feeling I get about the fans' optimism is not that there won't be a drop off but that this group is FAR more athletic than what we've had in quite some time. Darboh was a great athlete, but he's not DPJ. For me, I'd rather have a true frosh like DPJ going out deep to catch (often less than stellar) balls from Speight than Darboh. 

With the 2016 class a year in plus this new WR haul, the weapons Harbaugh and Pep have at their disposal are far more deadly than anything they had last year. Hell, this might be the most athletic group of Michigan WR's in a long time, perhaps ever...

Growing pains will happen, it's just how it goes. Thankfully, we don't need to rely 100% on DPJ, Black, Collins (who I think will redshirt anyway) and Martin. The freshman will play but they still have guys ahead of them that are coming into their own too..

so yeah, let's be excited about DPJ catching bombs this year that Darboh/Chesson could never dream of.. it's gonna happen, more than once.

Mr Miggle

August 7th, 2017 at 3:35 PM ^

best receiver this year. I agree about SR year Darboh being hard to match. This year's group will have great depth, a big range of capabilities, provide more spectacular plays, but will not have the consistency of Amara Darboh. In 2018 though, the position group should be spectacular.

No matter the effort these young guys put forth, we'll still see a dropoff on the downfield blocking. I doubt we've ever had a better pair of blockers at WR than Chesson and Darboh.