Michigan football junior defensive end Rashan Gary got things started Monday by going public with his decision to enter the 2019 NFL draft.
Gary is not the only Wolverine underclassmen with a decision to make, though.
The deadline for underclassmen to apply for NFL draft special eligibility is Jan. 14. A list of accepted players will be sent to teams Jan. 18.
Any player who is three years removed from high school is eligible to declare. Here’s a look at a few U-M underclassmen who could have decisions to make.
LB Devin Bush Jr.
Bush was actually rated higher than Gary in Mel Kiper Jr. latest ESPN big board, coming in at No. 6 overall. The All-American inside linebacker and Butkus Award finalist has been the heartbeat of U-M’s defense for two years and is considered by many scouts to be the best player on this unit.
The only hiccup in his game could be his height. Michigan lists him at 5-foot-11, time will tell if that’s accurate. But he’s 233 pounds with legit sideline-to-sideline speed, the ability to blitz and terrific football IQ. He could be the 2019 version of Roquan Smith, a 236-pounder who was drafted in the top 10 in April after running a blazing 4.51-second 40-yard-dash at the NFL combine.
Not sure Bush is that fast. But he has first-round potential. He’s also in the midst of rehabbing a hip injury suffered in the Ohio State game. Bush told the Big Ten Network last week he’d likely make up his mind on the draft in late December or early January.
CB Lavert Hill
Hill hasn’t talked much publicly about his draft stock, but the junior from Detroit is considered to be among the top cover corners eligible for the draft. He’s not a carbon copy of former U-M corner (and fellow Detroit native) Jourdan Lewis, but the two are very similar in that their overall man-to-man coverage technique is outstanding.
Michigan lists him at 5-11 and 181 pounds (again, we’ll see at the combine how accurate measurements are) but he has the ability to play inside as a nickel and cover slots. He has never really been asked to do much in run support at U-M, but overall, he’s a coverage specialist. If he were to declare, he’d get picked.
CB David Long
Like his cornerback counterpart, Long hasn’t said much publicly about the draft yet. But he might actually fetch a higher draft grade than Hill based on measurements and overall testing numbers. Long is bigger and more physical at 5-11 and 198 pounds. He also may be faster, though that’ll depend on how everyone runs at the combine.
He’s more of a true outside cornerback who, unlike Hill, arrived at U-M just shortly after converting from wide receiver to defense later in his prep career. Long had eight pass breakups this season. He and Hill have both been routinely rated as one of the top corner duos in America. Things didn’t go well Saturday at Ohio State, obviously, but there’s a lot more on tape. Kiper rated Long No. 7 and Hill No. 8 in his overall cornerback list earlier this month. Long (who was also hurt in the Ohio State game) has the physical ability to be a draft pick right now.
QB Shea Patterson
Patterson’s been an interesting case this season, but he could very well find himself in a situation where he has a decision to make after the year. His numbers during his lone season at Michigan didn’t overwhelm. But he was efficient, throwing for 2,364 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 games with a 65.1 percent completion rate. He’s not Baker Mayfield-level explosive even if he is cut from a similar physical cloth at 6-2 and 205 pounds.
His football IQ is terrific, he understands the game and he has fit well into two completely different offenses during his career. If he stayed in school, he could certainly work on several areas of his game and increase strength. Though he’s not going to get any taller and the odds that Harbaugh’s offense allows him to increase his attempt numbers (just 24.1 per game this year) seem long. Where he’d fit in the draft? Unclear.
But before the Indiana game if he considered that could be his final home game at Michigan, Patterson said the following: “Not at all. Obviously, you think about it, but right now I’m just focusing on this team. Like everybody else on this team, guys that have a chance to go out early. We’re just focusing on Indiana right now.”
OL Ben Bredeson
Bredeson was U-M’s best lineman in 2018 and has been a three-year starter at offensive guard. This was his best year on tape, too, as he showed an ability to be athletic in Ed Warinner’s zone-run scheme that is prevalent in the NFL. He might not be a high-round pick, but he’s probably physically capable of making an NFL team right now. And a strong NFL combine could certainly improve his stock. Kiper had him as the No. 3-ranked guard in the class.
Unlike former interior Michigan linemen Mason Cole and Graham Glasgow, Bredeson has only played guard in college. He’d have to prove further versatility if he wants to declare now.
TE Zach Gentry
Gentry did not have a strong finish to the 2018 season, as he dropped three passes against Ohio State (including a touchdown) and dropped a touchdown against Indiana the week prior. But physically, Gentry’s tools are off the charts. He’s a fourth-year junior and he’d absolutely draw interest from teams at 6-8 and 262 pounds with the ability to run against linebackers and block on the line of scrimmage.
He made 30 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season in an opportunity limited pass offense. Those are outstanding numbers for a college tight end.
LB Khaleke Hudson
Hudson drew plenty of buzz before the year started, but did not follow up a stat stellar sophomore season as a junior in 2018. He missed what equated to one full game due to two separate targeting penalties. But still, he made 37 tackles (2.5 for a loss) and two sacks this regular season.
Listed at 6-0 and 220 pounds, Hudson is physically bigger than Jabrill Peppers was at this viper spot. Meaning he could fit into the NFL’s hybrid “moneybacker” linebacker/safety role. But he’d have to test through the roof. He might not have enough on tape right now. Time will tell.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.