NFL Draft analyst John Vogel previews the Michigan Wolverines ahead of the 2021 season. Predictions, pre-season grades, and more:

Last season was a distavorous season for the Michigan Wolverines. Not only did they finish 1-5, but Covid-19 wrecked the locker room and canceled a Fleury of games. Michigan didn’t even face off against Ohio State this year, one of the biggest rivalries in sports.

The Michigan Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh has been lackluster, for lack of a better word. He came into the program in 2015 with tremendous hype and expectations. While he’s recruited very well during his time in Ann Arbor, he hasn’t produced the results that Michigan fans want to see. He hasn’t beat Ohio State, and he hasn’t sniffed a playoff appearance. Regardless, Harbaugh is a Michigan alumnus and was given an extension after 2020, keeping him through the 2025 season.

Michigan enters this season with a very young team and has some challenges ahead of them in the 2021 season. They will host Washington (Sept. 11th) as their key out-of-conference opponent. In the conference, Michigan has road games at Wisconsin (Oct. 2nd) and Penn State (Nov. 13th). Of course, their season finale at home against Ohio State (Nov. 27th) is by far the most challenging test they will face.

Z Receiver Ronnie Bell (Sr)

#8 | HT: 5’11” | WT: 185 | High School: Park Hill (Kansas City, MO)

Ronnie Bell is an exciting prospect. He’s been the leading receiver on the team in each of the last two seasons, flashing big-play ability and making solid catches in clutch moments. He has shown an outstanding catch radius as well. Bell’s athletic ability should make him an intriguing prospect at the next level.

The problem that I see is, first off, consistency. Bell dropped some passes he shouldn’t have from “hearing footsteps” at times. The consistency and better ability to catch through contact needs to be displayed in 2021. Also, while he’s athletic, he doesn’t show the ability to be a dynamic after the catch runner because of a lack of field vision. Bell should be drafted, but he won’t be regarded as a top receiver in the class.

Pre-Season Grade: 4th/5th Round.

OT Ryan Hayes (Sr)

#76 | HT: 6’6″ | WT: 300 | High School: Traverse City West (Traverse City, MI)

Ryan Hayes is still young and inexperienced, and that showed a good bit on tape last season. There’s no doubt that his size will be intriguing to many NFL teams, but there will be some things that he needs to improve on. Hayes started the first two games of his career in the first two games of the Michigan Wolverines season against Minnesota and Michigan State. He then ended up missing the rest of the year with Covid-19.

Hayes shows some good technique with his hands to lockdown defenders, but his stance needs some work. At times, Hayes was sloppy with his footwork and spent too many steps trying to get into his anchor. His upper body is the strongest part of his body, and it’s really average at best. Hayes needs to adjust in the weight room and build up for the 2021 season and then work on his feet.

Pre-Season Grade: 6th/PDFA.

The Michigan Wolverines best offensive prospect: OG Andrew Stueber (Sr)

#71 | HT: 6’5″ | WT: 330 | High School: Darien (Darien, CT)

My favorite prospect on the Michigan Wolverines offense was hands down, Andrew Stueber. He started the season at right guard but slid out to right tackle when Jalen Mayfield opted out of the season and filled in well there. He understood his assignment well and was oftentimes the key blocker in a power run play that Michigan ran behind.

Stueber, too, isn’t very experienced, logging his first six starts in the 2020 season. He has a lot of room to grow as well. He’s still a little bit reluctant to pass off a defender in a zone scheme, which will come in time with more reps. I like what I saw as a run blocker, and I think there’s an excellent chance he’s valued early with the size and strength he possesses.

Pre-Season Grade: 2nd/3rd Round.

OG Chuck Filiaga (R-Sr)

#66 | HT: 6’5″ | WT: 335 | High School: Aledo (Aledo, TX)

Chuck Filiaga is another big body on this offensive line, another talented lineman on this Michigan offense. Filiaga was the left guard for Michigan last year and entered this season with the most starts (10) on the offensive line. He has the excellent lateral quickness and oftentimes was used as the “seal” block to contain an unbalanced defensive line and open the counter run. This is where he is most effective, having some of the best athleticism on the line.

The biggest problem with Filiaga is that his stance tends to be too wide as a pass blocker. That doesn’t allow him to set well as a blocker or really get into his bend as a blocker. He gets flat-out overwhelmed at times too. From what I could tell, it was between Filiaga and center Andrew Vastardis that allowed the most pressures in the backfield. His size is a big eye-opener at the NFL level, and his upside is tremendous. I think he can realistically grow his stock a lot in 2021.

Pre-Season Grade: 4th/5th Round.

C Andrew Vastardis (6-Sr)

#68 | HT: 6’2″ | WT: 290 | High School: Stone Bridge (Ashburn, VA)

Compared to the rest of the offensive line, Andrew Vastardis looks like a dwarf. He’s a finesse center, someone who will use his technique to limit defenders from making an impact. A four-time Academic Big Ten Honoree, Vastardis is smart and quick, important things with a center prospect.

He started his first four career games last year as a redshirt senior and struggled tremendously in his first start. He got better as the season went on but ultimately struggled with powerful interior players. His anchor leaves a lot to be desired and doesn’t have a lot of bend. Most of that can be attributed to his lack of size. Vastardis has upside as a camp body due to his lack of experience, but with his age already, it’s hard to imagine that being realized. There’s a much better chance he ends up on a roster in Canada.

Pre-Season Grade: PDFA.

Aidan Hutcherson is the best Michigan Wolverines defensive player that I've ever scouted.

Michigan Wolverines defense led by EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (Sr)

#97 | HT: 6’5″ | WT: 265 | High School: Divine Child (Plymouth, MI)

Aidan Hutcherson is as dominant of an edge rusher as we’ve seen in college football in recent memory. He might be the best one I’ve seen produced by the Michigan Wolverines. Aggressive, strong, and fast, I expect Hutchinson to test off the charts athletically at the combine. He’s straight-up nasty. Hutchinson has ridiculous upper body strength that he uses to manhandle blockers to get by simply. He’s not just a pass rusher but also an elite run defender, oftentimes shutting down an edge with a dominant tackle.

There’s not much to pick at with his game. His hand technique could be a little bit better, as sometimes he gets held up by more refined blockers. He’s also been able to rely on his ability to be more physical to win. That’s something that potentially he could be held back with by NFL eyes. Hutchinson really looks like a top-five pick.

Pre-Season Grade: Top 15.

DT Christopher Hinton (Jr)

#15 | HT: 6’3″ | WT: 300 | High School: Greater Atlanta Christian (Johns Creek, GA)

Christopher Hinton entered his first season as a starter at Michigan last season and enters 2021 with five career starts. His father, Chris, was an eight-time all-pro offensive lineman in the NFL. Hinton flashed some good traits inside, showing power and gap integrity with Michigan last year.

While he flashed as a good one-tech defender last season, Hinton didn’t show the necessary athleticism to be more than that. His effectiveness becomes limited once the play crosses outside past the C-Gap. Hinton’s bloodlines to the league are great, but he needs to show he’s more than a one-tech lineman. I don’t think it’s likely that he comes out of college this season.

Pre-Season Grade: PDFA.

DT Donovan Jeter (R-Sr)

#95 | HT: 6’2″ | WT: 310 | High School: Beaver Falls (Beaver Falls, PA)

Donovan Jeter is a defensive player that the media didn’t talk about enough in this past season. Jeter is solid and made big plays for the Wolverines defense when needed. He recovered a fumble against Minnesota and took it back for a touchdown, displaying awareness and athletic ability. He enters the 2021 season with four career starts.

The biggest question mark with Jeter is how will he be used in the NFL? He’s a three-tech defender with a lot of athletic upside. While he has an excellent first step and explosive ability, his hand technique leaves a lot to be desired. He has a lot of room to grow in the upcoming season and could easily build some stock for his draft position.

Pre-Season Grade: 3rd/4th Round.

EDGE Taylor Upshaw (Sr)

#91 | HT: 6’3″ | WT: 250 | High School: Braden River (Bradenton, FL)

At times, Taylor Upshaw flashed immense potential as an edge rusher. He enters the 2021 season with his first two career starts under his belt, both in action replacing star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. Upshaw has good speed for the position and flashed ability as a run defender, displaying good pursuit angles to the boundary and playing to the whistle.

Despite all of these positives, NFL teams will have some question marks around Upshaw. He almost disappeared in his two starts, not playing opposite of Hutchinson. Many of the plays he made were on broken plays where he hustled and stopped the play. This is good – but it also makes people wonder whether he’s a pure pass rusher or a hustle defender. Regardless, lack of experience now makes it difficult to tell where he is, but a solid year could really build him some capital.

Pre-Season Grade: 7th/PDFA.

ROVER Michael Barrett (Sr)

#23 | HT: 5’11” | WT: 225 | High School: Lowndes (Valdosta, GA)

Michael Barrett is an interesting evaluation in this class. Last year, he started the first six games of his career and started as an off-ball linebacker. That being said, Barrett’s body size does not project him into that role at the next level. He much better fits a ROVER/STAR role, which we have moved him to for his evaluation. Now, we’ve seen him play a lot in the box, and he’s a good tackler with good range. He’s usually there cleaning up the play.

The problem is that Barrett wasn’t often used in anything other than zone coverage and as a pass rusher. He’s limited as a pass rusher at the next level because of his lack of size. While I like his tackling ability, I’m concerned about what kind of coverage ability he brings to the field. Another good season will help him, but it’s hard to project him at this point.

Pre-Season Grade: 7th/PDFA.

CB Gemon Green (Sr)

Gemon Green makes a play on the football preventing a touchdown for the Michigan Wolverines defense
Oct 24, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman (0) attempts to catch a pass as Michigan Wolverines defensive back Gemon Green (22) plays defense in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

#22 | HT: 6’1″ | WT: 180 | High School: DeSoto (DeSoto, TX)

Gemon Green was the more talented cornerback for Michigan last year, who struggled tremendously in their secondary. Every team that they faced tested the cornerbacks and attacked them relentlessly, hoping to use their lack of experience as a weapon. It was. Indeed, this Michigan secondary gave up a lot of huge plays. Green showed good ability as a perimeter-run defender as well as some excellent press technique.

It became clear throughout the season that Green was improving with every rep. His positioning was getting better. He was using his hands better and finding the ball better. The six starts will help as he enters this season, but the questions remain. Where is his upside? Does he have the speed to keep up with faster receivers? Green is long and raw. That’s oftentimes enough to be selected on day three.

Pre-Season Grade: 4th/5th Round.

CB Vincent Gray (Sr)

#4 | HT: 6’1″ | WT: 185 | High School: Rochester Adams (Rochester, MI)

Vincent Gray played the opposite of Green last season, struggling tremendously. There were flashes during the season of how good Gray could be, but the hits kept coming, and he couldn’t seem to shake the blues that surrounded him.

If we’re honest and real, Gray was the liability in the Michigan secondary last year. Gray was picked on relentlessly for his failure to locate the football and his aggression, which led him to bite on many fakes in the route. On top of that, he’s not nearly as good as a run defender, struggles to get off of blocks, and wasn’t a strong tackler. All of this combined makes it difficult to see Gray getting drafted next year. He’ll need a big year.

Pre-Season Grade: PDFA.

S Brad Hawkins (R-Sr)

#20 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 215 | High School: Suffield Academy (Camden, NJ)

Brad Hawkins almost declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, going as far as to accept an invitation to the College Gridiron Showcase. However, he opted into returning to school with the Michigan Wolverines and honing his craft. Probably a good thing, too, as he comes off of an injury against Penn State.

Hawkins has good but not elite speed and athleticism. He gets low to make the tackle and generally takes good pursuit angles to the football. His instincts, however, weren’t the sharpest last season as sometimes he was out of position, especially against more advanced route concepts. I’d like to see Hawkins do a better job staying in position and continuing to make big plays next year.

Pre-Season Grade: 5th/7th Round.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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