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NFL Combine Preview: 6 Wolverines Will Attempt To Boost Their Draft Stock

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Michigan had just two players taken in last year’s draft — Mason Cole and Mo Hurst.

Six former Wolverines have been invited to this year’s NFL combine (Feb. 26-Mar. 4) in Indianapolis, which doubles the number of Michigan players invited last year.

Linebacker Devin Bush, defensive end Rashan Gary, tight end Zach Gentry, running back Karan Higdon, cornerback David Long and defensive end Chase Winovich will all attempt to boost their respective draft stock at the annual event, with the on-field workouts beginning Friday.

Here is an in-depth look at all six prospects, along with where they are currently being projected, areas they need to work on, and much more.

NFL Combine Schedule

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Devin Bush

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Bush’s best statistical season came in 2017, when he compiled 102 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Per Kjeldsen

Overview: He left Michigan after three seasons in the winged helmet, culminating in a junior campaign that saw him earn consensus All-American recognition along with the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year award. His blazing speed made him a fan favorite in Ann Arbor and allowed him to rack up 194 career tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.

U-M Height/Weight: 5-11, 233

On-Field Workout Day: Sunday, March 3

Most Important Aspect: Bush will be expected to run an above-average 40 time for a linebacker, but his height is what scouts will be paying attention to. He was listed at 5-11 at Michigan, but U-M’s measurements of players have been inflated in the past — if he checks in even an inch or two shorter, it could scare NFL teams off in a big way.

What They’re Saying: “Bush really excels in the run game. He is quick to identify, fill and chest up runners. He is also capable of shocking and shedding guards when they work up to the second level. He has a high batting average as a tackler and provides some huge hits. Overall, Bush is a three-down linebacker and he’ll provide the team that drafts him with a physical presence.” — NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah

Big Board Position Rankings:

Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews pegged him at No. 18 overall, writing, “Bush cleans up against the run with his quickness, and at 5-10, 225 pounds, he has all the attributes teams need in a cover linebacker.”

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network tabbed the linebacker as his No. 19 player, saying, “Bush is a little undersized for the position (5-11, 233 pounds), but he makes up for it with instincts, twitch and production. He’s excellent as a zone dropper against the pass — quick to key routes and get a jump on the ball. In man coverage, he has the speed to run with tight ends and running backs, but he gets a little too grabby down the field. He is an excellent blitzer, using a dip/rip move to defeat running backs.”

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report placed Bush at No. 23 overall and the No. 2 linebacker (behind Devin White of LSU) in the draft. He also labeled him as the best run-stopper of all the draft’s linebackers.

Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus put the Florida native at No. 25 overall, writing, “Bush can be a weapon as a blitzer in the right scheme. He had top-five pass-rushing grades among off-ball linebackers each of the past two seasons.”

Charlie Campbell of Walter Football slotted Bush at No. 31.

Jon Ledyard of Thedraftnetwork.com pegged the speedy ‘backer at No. 37 overall.

CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso declared Bush his No. 39 overall player in this year’s draft.

Mock Draft Destinations:

No. 18, Minnesota Vikings — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller: “An offensive lineman might be the biggest need for the Minnesota Vikings, but with Devin Bush on the board and Anthony Barr set to become a free agent, it makes sense to load up on a rangy, athletic linebacker when available. Bush has developed into a force at linebacker since being a top high school recruit three seasons ago. He might not have great height at a listed 5’11”, but his 240-pound frame is stout. Paired with his excellent athleticism and instincts, Bush has all the tools to be an impressive rookie starter as a three-down impact player. The NFL is trending toward linebackers who can rush, cover and blitz; Bush does all of those well.”

No. 28, Los Angeles Chargers — CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: “Their linebacker group was a mess by the end of the season. Some of that was because of injuries, but they clearly need help there as well.”

No. 30, Green Bay Packers — ESPN’s Mel Kiper

No. 33, Arizona Cardinals — NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: “Bush’s lack of size could keep him out of the first round, though it shouldn’t because he’ll be a strong player inside or outside at the next level.”

No. 44, Green Bay Packers — TheAthletic’s Dane Brugler: “If he were a few inches taller/longer, we would be talking about Bush as a top-15 pick. Instead, the Packers get him at an incredibly discounted price.”

Rashan Gary

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Rashan Gary was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches this past season, but a second-teamer by the media.

Brandon Brown

Overview: Gary came to Michigan as the No. 1 player in the country out of high school in 2016, and left after a three-year career that saw him accumulate 24 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Some felt his true potential was never reached, however, especially after a junior campaign that saw him register just 7.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 3.5 sacks (though he didn’t play in four games).

U-M Height/Weight: 6-5, 283

On-Field Workout Day: Sunday, March 3

Most Important Aspect: The projections vary wildly on Gary, simply because his statistical production at Michigan never met what many felt he was capable of. The New Jersey native has all the physical tools to succeed at a high level in the NFL and as a result will likely test incredibly well at the combine, which may be enough for an NFL club to draft him in the top-10.

What They’re Saying: “Michigan’s Rashan Gary lined up all over the field for the Wolverines, but with his athleticism on a 6’5″, 280-pound frame, it’s easy to imagine him settling in at defensive end in the Raiders’ scheme. He’s versatile enough to bump down to tackle but could also consider shedding 10 pounds and playing more as a true stand-up edge. The possibilities with his athleticism are limitless.” — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller

Big Board Position Rankings:

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report placed Gary as the No. 4 overall player in the draft, and the No. 2 defensive lineman (behind Alabama’s Quinnen Williams). He also declared Gary as having the ‘best potential’ of this year’s defensive linemen.

Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews put the defensive end at No. 5, saying, “Gary is rising as a high-upside, versatile player. He uses his hands, power and big frame at 6-5, 280 pounds to occupy run-blockers, and he also has some intriguing inside pass-rush ability.”

Charlie Campbell of Walter Football tabbed Gary to his No. 5 spot as well, writing, “Despite being hurt for a lot of the year, Gary decided to skip Michigan’s bowl game against Florida after announcing his decision to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. Gary notched five tackles with one for a loss versus Ohio State. After missing three games with a shoulder issue – specifically, an AC joint sprain -, Gary returned to the field against Penn State and made two tackles. Previously, he had one tackle for a loss against Maryland and played through an injury he suffered against Northwestern. All night against Notre Dame in the season opener, Gary burned the Fighting Irish offensive tackles and put steady hits on quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Gary totaled four tackles with .5 for a loss, but he played much better than the stat line indicates. In 2018, he totaled 43 tackles with 7.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks.”

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network hailed the former Wolverine as his No. 8 overall prospect, writing, “Gary is a freak. He has a unique blend of size, speed, explosiveness and power. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate to production. As a pass rusher, he has a dynamic get-off and flashes the power to bull through OTs with only one arm extended. However, he lacks complementary moves and stalls at the top of his rush far too often. Against the run, he destroys TEs on the edge with pure strength and power. However, he will bury his head and fail to locate the football at times. His athleticism is on display in coverage, where I’ve seen him run and mirror slot receivers. There are some concerns about his durability after he missed time with injuries. Overall, Gary is more of an athlete than football player at this time, but the upside is off the charts and his effort is exceptional.”

Jon Ledyard of Thedraftnetwork.com slotted Gary at No. 27.

Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus tabbed the Paramus Catholic alum at No. 44 overall, writing, “Gary’s production has yet to catch up to his freakish athleticism. He earned a 68.3 pass-rushing grade this past season.”

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports declared Gary his No. 47 player, stating, “With the combine he’s expected to have, Gary could move close to the first round in my rankings, because athleticism is a pretty good predictor of future success. He’s far from being a refined defensive lineman.”

Mock Draft Destinations:

No. 4, Oakland Raiders — ESPN’s Mel Kiper

No. 4, Oakland Raiders — TheAthletic’s Dane Brugler: “Although his college production didn’t match the hype, Gary has freaky (and raw) traits for a 280-pounder that will appeal to Jon Gruden. Only one team had fewer than 30 sacks in 2018 and that was the Raiders with a paltry 13.”

No. 4, Oakland Raiders — NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: “Even though Gary had just 3.5 sacks for the Wolverines this past season, he will be a powerful asset for the Raiders on the edge.”

No. 4, Oakland Raiders — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller: “In this draft position, neither a trade nor the selection of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray should be ruled out. The Raiders front office is brand new with general manager Mike Mayock running the show, and there is no telling if it is committed to Derek Carr. We’ll know after this draft, but anything is possible at the No. 4 pick. Should the Raiders stay put and not go after an exciting young quarterback, addressing the edge of the defensive line is the best move they could make.”

No. 8, Detroit Lions — Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner: “Edge is an incredibly glaring need for the Lions at this point. Gary is as explosive a 280-plus pound man as you’ll see in college football. He’s incredibly raw at this point, but so was Ziggy Ansah coming out.”

No. 12, Green Bay Packers — Walter Football: “Rashan Gary is an athletic freak. He wasn’t extremely productive as a freshman, but he recorded five sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2017. His teammates believe he’ll be a top-10 pick.”

No. 16, Carolina Panthers — CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: “They just didn’t have enough pass rush last year. With Julius Peppers retiring, they need to get help there. Gary didn’t play as well as expected last season, but he’s still worth a look here.”

Zach Gentry

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Zach Gentry came to Michigan as a four-star quarterback in Jim Harbaugh’s debut 2015 recruiting class.

Per Kjeldsen

Overview: The quarterback-turned-tight end wound up developing into Michigan’s top target at the position the last two years, finishing his career with 49 catches for 817 yards. He became a favorite target of quarterback Shea Patterson’s this past year, when he finished third on the team in both receptions (32) and yards (514).

U-M Height/Weight: 6-8, 262

On-Field Workout Day: Saturday, March 2

Most Important Aspect: Gentry is in a similar situation that Gary is in, in that the statistical production didn’t necessarily meet the immense potential he possessed. Many felt his size was not taken full advantage of, but despite his subpar blocking skills, an NFL team is sure to fall in love with his 6-8, 262-pound body.

What They’re Saying: “I think Gentry’s best football is ahead of him, because he’s such an imposing athlete with plus movement skills for his frame. He’ll appeal to a lot of teams due to being 6-8 with tremendous length, and should be a bit of a terror in one-on-one matchups in the red zone. Gentry has also shown some raw ability in the passing game, and despite the lack of top-end production from a touchdowns perspective, has proven he can be a terror over the middle and in the open field.

“He is a size mismatch for any linebacker or safety, and will put his best football on display at the next level as he continues to grow into the position and into his frame. I think Gentry is a Day 3 prospect right now with a lot of upside. The story is still out on what he can be at the NFL level, but when you see an athlete with his size, your mouth waters a little bit with the ideas of what he can be molded into.” — NationalFootballPost.com draft analyst Dion Caputi

Big Board Position Rankings:

Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews placed Gentry at No. 100 overall in this year’s draft.

Drafttek.com tabbed him to their No. 107 spot, and the No. 6 tight end in this year’s class.

Jon Ledyard of Thedraftnetwork.com pegged him at No. 143 overall.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report labeled Gentry as the No. 9 tight end in this year’s draft.

Mock Draft Destinations:

• No. 121, Dallas Cowboys — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller

Karan Higdon

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Higdon became Michigan’s first 1,000-yard running back Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards in 2011.

Lon Horwedel

Overview: Higdon developed into a workhorse running back as a senior at Michigan, rushing for 1,178 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He was at his best from Sept. 8 through Nov. 3, when he tied a school record by rushing for at least 100 yards in seven straight games.

U-M Height/Weight: 5-10, 202

On-Field Workout Day: Friday, March 1

Most Important Aspect: How Higdon tests at the combine will be crucial to his draft status, seeing as how his stock isn’t all that high as a 5-10, 202-pound running back. His size will likely prevent his stock from rising a large amount, however, even if his testing numbers wind up being off the charts.

What They’re Saying: “I like Higdon a lot and think he will be an excellent mid-round pickup for someone. He was a high three-star out of high school who had very good feet and I like the way he runs between the tackles in college. Keep an eye out to see how he runs.” — Rivals.com Director of Recruiting Mike Farrell, after naming Higdon a ‘combine sleeper’

Big Board Position Rankings:

Drafttek.com placed Higdon at No. 126 overall and the No. 11 running back in the draft.

Jon Ledyard of Thedraftnetwork.com tabbed him at No. 138.

Mock Draft Destinations:

Sixth Round, Pittsburgh Steelers — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller

David Long

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David Long finished his career with 38 tackles and three interceptions.

Lon Horwedel

Overview: Long was one of the best cornerbacks in the country each of the past two seasons, leading Michigan to the No. 1 pass defense in the country in 2017 and the No. 2 unit this past year. His elite play the past two years made it unsurprising when he left U-M after his junior campaign.

U-M Height/Weight: 5-11, 198

On-Field Workout Day: Monday, March 4

Most Important Aspect: Long’s 5-11, 198-pound size is par for the course among cornerbacks in the draft, yet he is not being projected as a first or second-round pick. Testing well will obviously boost his stock, but there already seems to be an upper tier of cornerbacks in this draft that NFL teams have their eyes on (such as LSU’s Andraez Williams).

What They’re Saying: “Long’s combine will be an influential element to his evaluation,” Caputi admitted. “He’s your garden variety cornerback from a physical standpoint at that 5-11, 200-pound range, though I think he’ll measure in a little smaller and a little lighter than that. Long is a very tenacious cornerback who is a bit untested from a tackling perspective — I don’t think I’ve seen many opportunities where he was able to put that on display though. He plays a physical man defense, is physical in man coverage when asked to be, and has an ultimately pretty game in zone coverage when it’s required.

“Long also made the most of his opportunities when thrown at, and had a couple long returns off interceptions in 2017. I don’t know where I’d project him at this point, however, because it’s constantly a fluid evaluation. It’s not a draft where there is an anchor or two at the top in terms of a top-end talent perspective, so there is plenty of opportunity for guys to move around the board in the pre-draft process. I’m excited to see where he can wind up, and I think his combine evaluations will be very important, because he wasn’t able to participate in any of the senior festivities.” — NationalFootballPost.com draft analyst Dion Caputi

Big Board Position Rankings:

Jon Ledyard of Thedraftnetwork.com placed Long at No. 152 overall.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tabbed him as the 13th best cornerback in the draft.

Drafttek.com hailed the California native as the No. 29 cornerback and the No. 319 overall player.

Mock Draft Destinations:

No. 109, Miami Dolphins — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller

Chase Winovich

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Chase Winovich played tight end and linebacker at Michigan before settling in as a defensive end.

Per Kjeldsen

Overview: Chase Winovich’s stats were eye-popping the past two years (18 tackles for loss in 2017 and 17 this past year), which helped make him a fan favorite (along with his outgoing personality). His stats were the best of any defensive Wolverine over the past two years, and his production will be difficult to replace.

U-M Height/Weight: 6-3, 255

On-Field Workout Day: Sunday, March 3

Most Important Aspect: Despite his outstanding statistics since the start of 2017 (35 tackles for loss and 13 sacks), Winovich is still not being projected as a first-round pick. NFL teams will be more intrigued by defensive linemen with better physical stature, but whoever selects the Pennsylvania native will be getting a player with a relentless motor and work ethic.

What They’re Saying: “Without a doubt, Winovich gets home with his hands. That is to say, the placement, quickness, technique, and violence give him a better than equal shot at success at the next level. In order to explain, let us break this down. First, regardless of the tackle’s size, Winovich negates the punch with where he applies his hands. The extended arm keeps the blocker at bay and easier to disregard. Next, from the three/four point stance, he gets the jump on his opponent with first contact. As mentioned, spins, push/pull, and rips all start with sound technique. For Winovich, he enjoys a wide array of techniques at his disposal.” — FullPressCoverage.com

Big Board Position Rankings:

Jon Ledyard of Thedraftnetwork.com tabbed him No. 49 overall.

Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews placed him at No. 88 overall.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report placed him as the No. 9 edge rusher in this year’s draft.

Mock Draft Destinations:

Second-Rounder — ESPN’s Mel Kiper

• No. 51, Tennessee Titans — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller

No. 73, New England Patriots — NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: “OK, I admit to placing Winovich here because his last name is similar to Rob Ninkovich, the former Patriots edge player. But hey — the Patriots could use another versatile outside defender, so why not?”

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