Hello: Donovan Peoples-Jones

Submitted by Ace on December 15th, 2016 at 8:43 PM


Same. [Isaiah Hole/247Sports]

Donovan Peoples-Jones was billed as the next Detroit-produced superstar practically from the moment he set foot on the field for Cass Tech as a freshman in 2013. If anything, he surpassed those lofty expectations during a superlative high school career that culminated last month in a state championship blowout of Catholic Central—Peoples-Jones led the way with six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.

In the interim, his reputation reached near-mythical status as absurd feat of athleticism after absurd feat of athleticism went viral. Here's Peoples-Jones fooling around on Vine in the summer before his sophomore year:

Here he makes a 52-inch box jump look effortless in front of Devin Gardner and several stunned onlookers:

Here he dunks over a small village:

The small village reacted accordingly.

He won the PSL title as a junior with a 10.93 100-meter dash. He ran the anchor leg on Cass Tech's state title-winning 4x100 relay and state runner-up 4x200 relay.

Yes, that athleticism translates to the football field. Here's his go-ahead touchdown catch with 25 seconds left in this year's state semifinals:

Despite possessing so much natural physical talent that he could probably skate by without doing homework for the rest of his life, he's also a straight-A student and aspiring orthopedic surgeon; reports surfaced over the summer that he was shadowing doctors at Michigan's medical school. Even for a mom quote, this is a hell of a mom quote:

“His focus and determination, sometimes, especially during football season he’ll stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning doing homework,” Rozlyn said. “I’ll ask him if he wants any help and he says no it’s my responsibility to get the work done.

“His character. I watch him every day just want to be the best. He’s taken everything I’ve put into him and multiplied it three times over. He’s just a gift. Definitely a gift. He has the kind of determination and focus, I look at him and he’s teaching me. He’s leading and guiding me. As Christian people we’re taught that sometimes the children will lead you. He’s one of those, he’s gifted.”

He was one of the foremost prospects to speak out against the short-lived satellite camp ban, too. If it's still possible to use the term "Michigan Man" without a hint of irony*, it's applicable here.

While Peoples-Jones had long been considered a heavy Michigan lean, he never let on as much publicly, which led to a dramatic final couple weeks of his recruitment. Florida State and Ohio State emerged as serious contenders. Tonight, in a nationally televised announcement on ESPN2, he chose to stay home.

[*it's not, sorry.]

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
5*, #4 WR,
#32 Ovr
5*, #2 WR,
#13 Ovr
4*, 87, #4 WR,
#27 Ovr
5*, 98, #1 WR,
#8 Ovr
5*, #1 WR,
#11 Ovr

The only site that doesn't rate Peoples-Jones as a five-star (ESPN) has him ranked higher than one that does (Scout). All consider him somewhere between great and super-great; as a result, he's the top receiver in the composite rankings.

Peoples-Jones is listed at 6'2" (or 6'2.5") and 190-200 pounds on every site save Rivals (6'1", 188), which has an outdated figure—he measured in at 6'2", 200 at this year's Opening finals. While not imposingly tall, he's done a great job of filling out his frame over the last couple years; he already looks like a college wideout.

[Hit THE JUMP for what is without a doubt the longest Hello post I've ever written.]

SCOUTING

Peoples-Jones has been a big deal his entire high school career. The earliest recruiting post I found on him is from November of 2013, when 247's Steve Wiltfong talked to Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher about a number of his players, including senior Damon Webb, sophomores Lavert Hill and Mike Onwenu, and his star freshman:

It didn’t take long for Michigan, Michigan State and Tennessee to put freshman receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on the radar. Soon he’ll have offers and interest from programs coast-to-coast.

“He’s one of the top kids in the country towards athletic skills,” Wilcher said. “If he keeps going the way he’s going, you may be sitting in the gym waiting for (his Army Bowl presentation) one day.”

Wilcher was correct: DPJ was invited to participate in the Army All-American Bowl all the way back in May of 2015.

Allen Trieu identified DPJ as one of six Midwest prospects to watch from the 2017 class shortly after the conclusion of his freshman season. He stood out as one of the youngest competitors in attendance at the MI Elite/Raw Talent showcase the following January. He picked up his first scholarship offer in May of 2014, and a big one at that: Ohio State. He looked the part of a future five-star while earning a Penn State offer at their Junior Elite Camp that summer, per 247's Sean Fitz:

Peoples-Jones may end up being the highest-ranked prospect at the position from the camps when all is said and done. The rising sophomore was right there as our 1b to [four-star 2016 MSU signee Justin] Layne. He already boasts offers from Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State and Ohio State and he added one from the Nittany Lions after a stellar performance. Peoples-Jones crushed the testing session by clocking a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, a sub 4.2 shuttle and an astounding 10-7 broad jump. Those aren't bad numbers for someone who just completed his freshman year of high school. Peoples-Jones' quick feet, long arms and solid size (6-foot, 179) make him a potential five-star down the line.

When I saw him in the 2014 Prep Kickoff Classic, the only thing I thought might keep him from five-star status was his size:

Peoples-Jones looked really explosive off the line; on the long touchdown, he set up his route beautifully with a quick move off the snap, then accelerated in a hurry. He showed toughness after the catch, too, getting some hard-earned YAC on the screen to bull his way for a first down. He's billed as one of the top 2017 prospects in the country, and while his size may eventually keep him from five-star status, the rest of the package is there for him to be a major impact player.

He broke through a tackle attempt by current MSU WR/CB Donnie Corley to score a touchdown in Cass Tech's blowout PSL title game win over a loaded King squad. Trieu was duly impressed:

Cass sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones is one of the state's best athletes regardless of class. This phrase gets used a lot, but he actually runs like a deer. He glides out there and he made a great contested catch for a touchdown as well. He has big time ability and really has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential.

Any doubt about Peoples-Jones's talent went away during the ensuing camp season. He won position MVP honors at the RCS Cleveland and was the top underclassman among pass-catchers in Rivals's list of best performers from their camps. He was "regularly able to get separation against defensive backs" at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge. He was the SPARQ combine MVP and a top underclassman performer at the Opening Columbus regional.

In perhaps the best field to even take part in a Sound Mind Sound Body camp, 247's Steve Wiltfong ranked him fourth among offensive players after 2016 All-Americans Binjimen Victor, Mike Onwenu, and Donnie Corley:

Still talking U.S. Army All-Americans, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech 2017 five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones’s speed really showed up, just flat running by defensive backs. Peoples-Jones has stacked ten more pound of muscle on his frame and is already over 190-pounds, and is no question one of the freakiest athletes in the United States.

Rivals ranked him as the best offensive player at SMSB, I believe, but their site overhaul screwed up their old posts so badly that I can't tell you for sure or include a writeup.

Then came the Opening finals, where Peoples-Jones won the SPARQ championship over the top prospects in the 2016 class with numbers that would've stood out at the NFL combine:

At last summer's Nike "The Opening" camp in Oregon, Jones earned the highest SPARQ rating of any prospect. His results included a 42.4-inch Vertical Jump, a 4.00 20-Yard Shuttle and a 4.42 40-Yard Dash.

Had Jones posted those numbers at the 2016 NFL Combine, he would have had the highest vert, the fastest 20-Yard Shuttle and the third-fastest 40 of any receiver.

He played beyond his years in the 7-on-7 portion, as well. 247's Josh Newberg:

One of a handful of 2017 prospects at the event, Peoples-Jones has held his own against more seasoned competition. He’s used his 6-foot-2, 192-pound frame to make some tough catches in traffic.

Scout's Allen Trieu said DPJ could've had an even more notable performance if his QBs would've made more accurate deep throws:

Peoples-Jones putting up huge testing numbers is no surprise to anyone who has seen him, but him winning the NIKE Football Ratings Championship as an underclassman over all the great athletes at The Opening is still extremely impressive. In 7-on-7, he got deep a few times but it was disappointing to see him not get any accurate balls to see him go up and get it against top defensive backs. He caught passes underneath and had a solid showing in the tournament though. Despite not getting the ball deep, he still showed he's a top flight athlete and one of the nation's top juniors.

As a junior, Peoples-Jones led Cass Tech to a state title game appearance. I liked what I saw of him in limited opportunites against Southfield:

He's a 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. He toasted a corner on a fly route and had a touchdown prevented only by a blatant (and wise) defensive hold. He made an impressive mid-air adjustment and catch away from his body on a fade route that would've been a touchdown, but the throw took him well out of bounds. He had a couple nice punt returns; while he's not KJ Hamler-level shifty, he can make a guy miss and he gets upfield quickly.

Peoples-Jones is a five-star athlete. I need to see him get more targets to know if his receiving ability is at the same level, but the early returns were good in limited chances to show his stuff.

Trieu caught one of his more productive games:

Four-star junior wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones caught two touchdowns, one where he used his speed to run by the secondary, the second where he went up over a defender to score. He also had some short passes where he showed some toughness and strength after the catch. No doubt he's an elite athlete and playmaker.

After the season, he once again hit the camp circuit hard—perhaps too hard, as a hamstring injury eventually held him out of the elite camps last summer. Rivals's Josh Helmholdt was impressed by his increased size and strength at the Under Armour Future 50 camp just before the new year:

Peoples-Jones looks bigger than his listed 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds. The Detroit native not only has great length for the position, but has put the work in at the weight room. That makes him difficult for cornerbacks to press at the line of scrimmage, and he got behind the defense several times for long receptions. Peoples-Jones has the frame and the game that college coaches look for on the outside.

247 didn't hold back with their evaluation after bestowing a fifth star upon DPJ a short time later:

Find me a better athlete in this class than this kid. You cant. But he's not just an athlete anymore. He's become a polished receiver that has developed rapidly over the past year.

Rivals followed suit in their February rankings update:

“Peoples-Jones made a jump to the cusp of five-star status in the post-junior season update, and his showing at the Under Armour Future 50 camp on Jan. 1 was the final push he needed to get over the hump. A physical specimen who looked bigger than his listed 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds, 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. On top of that, Peoples-Jones is a 4.0 student in the classroom who has shown an exceptional work ethic and dedication to his craft. He released a top 10 in January that included Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee and others.” – Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst

No defensive back at April's RCS Columbus could keep DPJ in check:

The five-star prospect lived up to his billing, easily creating separation and catching everything that came his way. Physically, he was a level above the defensive backs who tried to check him. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Peoples-Jones 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.

Peoples-Jones only took a handful of reps at the Opening Columbus regional, but that was all it took to show his sky-high potential. 247's Steve Wiltfong:

Peoples-Jones didn’t take a ton of reps, but when he did it all when he was on the field, getting deep for touchdowns, going over the middle and pulling away from defensive backs after the catch and also being sure-handed on outs and digs

Then the hamstring injury flared up; DPJ didn't participate in last summer's SMSB camp or Opening finals and sat out the 7-on-7 portion of the Rivals Five-Star Challenge.

He recovered in time for his senior year. Rivals's Adam Gorney made the case for DPJ to take over the top spot among receivers after his preposterous start to the season:

The Detroit Cass Tech standout only has 14 receptions this season, but when you dig down further into his numbers, he has 430 receiving yards, which totals out to 30.7 yards per catch.

Every defensive back knows who Peoples-Jones is and no one can stop him from getting behind the defense to make big plays. If he’s catching short passes, the five-star has the ability to make people miss and move the ball down the field in significant chunks.

Peoples-Jones also has seven receiving touchdowns and that plays out to 50 percent of his catches have gone for scores. That’s an incredible number.

He has the chance to be a superstar at receiver in college. At Cass Tech, he’s also hugely valuable on defense and special teams.

Peoples-Jones has two interceptions this season, he returned one for a touchdown and he also 39-yard fumble recovery returned for a score. He’s returned two punt returns for 43 and 70 yards. Whenever Peoples-Jones is on the field, he makes play after play.

Stats are one thing. They can be deceiving sometimes in high school. But when you look at Peoples-Jones up close, it’s easy to tell he’s special.

Adam took in the PSL title game—another Cass-King matchup, of course—in which DPJ had 73 yards on only three receptions, including a 54-yard touchdown on CT's second play from scrimmage, despite being shadowed by top-100 Michigan commit Ambry Thomas. The video shows that DPJ could've put up bigger numbers if his quarterback had made a couple more deep balls catchable; just watch him blow right by Thomas at the 3:24 mark. Adam had seen DPJ enough at this point to know that this was just another in a long line of similarly remarkable performances:

That’s how things usually go for him. 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. Even though he isn’t targeted all that often, he’s always engaged. It seems like half of his highlight reel is him blocking downfield, but I felt that was worth including because it was noticeable live. He doesn’t take plays off when he isn’t targeted, and his blocks helped the backs extend runs on multiple occasions (there’s a good example at 3:52).

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. ...

Peoples-Jones made Thomas look pedestrian at times, and Thomas is flat-out great. With his skills and size (6’2”, 192 pounds), it’s obvious why he’s just outside the 247 composite top 10.

Peoples-Jones finished his senior season with 60 catches for 1071 yards and 17 receiving touchdowns as Cass Tech went undefeated; he won Michigan's Gatorade High School Player of the Year.

That season, at long last, convinced Scout to give DPJ his fifth star. Trieu:

He was excellent as a junior, catching 69 passes for 1,168 yards and 18 touchdowns, but we wanted to see what he would do as a senior. Not just put up statistics, but dominate the way a five-star should, and make game-changing plays. 

He did that. In the PSL Championship game, he beat fellow top recruit Ambry Thomas for a long touchdown. He made key splash plays every game of Cass Tech's playoff run, none bigger than his spectacular touchdown grab at the end of the state semi-final game to lift his team to a win. That was a five-star moment. Then he scored two touchdowns in the state title game to help his team secure a ring.

He blocked. He played safety. He ran through tacklers, not just around them. He checked off the boxes.

He's bigger, stronger, still as fast as ever and still an outstanding student.

Now he is a five-star. Better late than never.

Recruits of this caliber don't come along often. Peoples-Jones has a rare combination of size, speed, skill, and the proverbial intangibles. Barring the unexpected, he'll be a star at Michigan and a high NFL draft pick.

OFFERS

It's probably safe to say "everyone" but I'll include some highlights: Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Louisville, LSU, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC, and Wisconsin.

HIGH SCHOOL

This post is long enough, right? You know Cass Tech. They have 121 prospects in the Rivals database, which dates back to 2002. Peoples-Jones is the highest-ranked of the bunch.

STATS

As mentioned above, Peoples-Jones had 69 receptions for 1168 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, then followed that up with 60 catches for 1071 yards and 17 TDs as a senior.

FAKE 40 TIME

DPJ's 4.42 40 time from the 2015 Opening finals is gloriously not FAKE in any way whatsoever. ESPN has him down for an electronic 4.45 some time within the last year, in case there's any worry that his additional bulk has slowed him down. That worry can also easily be dispelled by his senior highlights. Speaking of which...

VIDEO

Senior highlights:

Senior highlights, remixed:

Another one:

Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page. As you've probably gathered, searching for his name on YouTube produces some spectacular results, too.

PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE

Wide receiver is a notoriously difficult position at which to make an immediate impact. If anyone can, though, it's Peoples-Jones, who will enroll early at Michigan. He'll compete with Moe Ways, Drake Harris, Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom, and Nate Johnson for one of the two open starting spots at outside receiver, and he should at least earn regular snaps in the rotation if not a starting job outright. He's also a potential contributor in the return game. It won't be too long before DPJ is a staple in the lineup, and not too long after that before he's getting all-conference consideration and more.

UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS

Peoples-Jones is Michigan's third receiver in the 2017 class, joining Brad Hawkins and Tarik Black, and their 22nd overall. Alabama four-star Nico Collins, who announces on Signing Day, is expected to be the fourth and final wideout in the class. The class as a whole should get in the neighborhood of 32 players.

The next commitment could come as early as tomorrow, when five-star OT Isaiah Wilson chooses between Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia in a ceremony that starts at 11:30 am ET. Two more four-stars expected to end up in the class, OC Cesar Ruiz and LB Jordan Anthony, will make their decisions public next week. Other top targets include five-star CA RB Najee Harris, five-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon, top-100 UT DT Jay Tufele, top-100 NJ OLB Drew Singleton, top-100 TX OT Chuck Filiaga, and four-star MS OLB Willie Gay. Peoples-Jones reportedly forged a tight bond with Harris during their visits to Ann Arbor, especially during their respective official visits last weekend. In what's seemingly become a very tight race with Alabama for the nation's #1 overall recruit, DPJ's pledge certainly won't hurt Michigan's chances to flip Harris's commitment from the Tide.

Comments

Grampy

December 15th, 2016 at 8:54 PM ^

You hear a lot of lip service concerning academics, it's good to see him single out education as his discriminating factor. Plus, I like that he puts some curve in the bill of his cap. I don't like the flat brim...

MJ14

December 15th, 2016 at 9:33 PM ^

No Hello Najee Harris post being worked on yet. But that doesn't mean much, there is a hello Laquon Treadwell post that was never posted. I wish they would release some of the ones they've written of players that didn't end up at Michigan after they go to the NFL.

Ballislife

December 15th, 2016 at 9:02 PM ^

Great choice by an awesome recruit. Kid's setting himself up for success, both on and off the field. This class is shaping up to be one of the most legendary to come through Michigan. I have a feeling that this class is going to cement Harbaugh in the history books. Future looks bright, folks. Buckle up, and GO BLUE!

victors2000

December 15th, 2016 at 9:04 PM ^

He looks like the real deal; ain't no way this man isn't going to be playing solid minutes come next year; he already has the size, skills, maturity...am I missing anything? Welcome aboard, Donovan! Go Blue!

Otm_Shank

December 15th, 2016 at 9:08 PM ^

Looking at his choices:

Med School - OSU not even in the same stratosphere as Michigan.

WR Coach - Fisch vs. ass clown, no contest.

It's pretty obvious that he made the wise decision.

Jonesy

December 16th, 2016 at 5:32 PM ^

That's a box jump, the numbers aren't comparable to a veritcal, he does look like a gazelle doing it though.  For reference, I'm a 6'5 white guy who never really came close to dunking who has maybe a 20 inch vertical and my best box jump is 52 inches simply because i'm so damn tall and its mostly just lifting your legs up and squatting out of it.

nMkaczor

December 15th, 2016 at 9:25 PM ^

The question is: how well can he catch and hold onto the ball? I feel like we've had a ton of extremely athletic wide receivers lately but we are constantly getting burned on dropped passes.

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