The Michigan football team’s recent NFL Draft success continued this week, as eight Wolverines heard their name called in Cleveland between Thursday and Saturday. Only four schools — Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Notre Dame — saw more players drafted than Michigan.
The Wolverines’ 11 draft-eligible players didn’t have to wait long to hear one of their names called. The Indianapolis Colts selected defensive end Kwity Paye with the No. 21 overall pick, making him Michigan’s sixth first-round pick since 2017. He’s also the Wolverines’ third first-round EDGE in that span, joining Taco Charlton and Rashan Gary.
A trio of Michigan players came off the board in the third round, with offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield heading to the Atlanta Falcons at pick No. 68, wide receiver Nico Collins going to the Houston Texans at pick No. 89 and cornerback Ambry Thomas heading to the San Francisco 49ers at pick No. 102. Collins and Thomas opted out of the 2020 season amid COVID-19 concerns, while Mayfield only played sparingly due to injury.
Linebacker Cam McGrone and fullback Ben Mason were each selected in the same eight-pick span during the fifth round — the former by the New England Patriots and the latter by the Baltimore Ravens. McGrone, the No. 177 pick, becomes the fourth Wolverine drafted by the Patriots since 2019. The previous three — Josh Uche, Chase Winovich and Michael Onwenu — have all made an impact early in their careers in Foxborough. Mason, meanwhile, will get a chance to impress Ravens coach John Harbaugh in the ways he dazzled Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. The former team captain saw reps at full back and defensive line and emerged as a senior captain in Ann Arbor. He was announced as a tight end, though he projects to be at his best in short-yardage situations.
Drafted No. 202 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, running back Chris Evans is set to join a dynamic young offense. He became the program’s first running back drafted since Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, Mike Hart, in 2008. After a productive beginning to his career, Evans served a one-year suspension during the 2019 season prior to rejoining the team in 2020. He worked primarily as a pass-catching option out of the backfield — a role that should carry over well to Cincinnati.
The Wolverines’ final draft pick came in the sixth round, when the Washington Football Team selected long snapper Camaron Cheeseman at pick No. 225. It’s uncommon to see a specialist drafted, but Cheeseman entered the weekend as the consensus No. 1 long snapper in the 2021 class.
Following the draft, defensive tackle Carlo Kemp and tight end Nick Eubanks each inked free agent deals. Kemp became a Green Bay Packer, while Eubanks joined former Michigan teammate Sean McKeon in the Dallas Cowboys tight ends room. Kicker Quinn Nordin remains unsigned as of Sunday evening, but it would be unsurprising if that changed in the near future.
Despite last year’s 2-4 record, the Wolverines’ eight draft selections is a strong indication of the talent Harbaugh’s program continues to produce. Collins, Thomas and Cheeseman opted out of the 2020 season, while Paye, McGrone and Mayfield were hampered by injuries. With 18 players selected in the last two NFL Drafts, Michigan will look to reload before taking the field again this fall.