Donovan Peoples-Jones Player Profile
Hand: 10 1/8
Arm: 33 4/8
Wingspan: 79 2/8
Throughout sports history, it’s been said that “numbers never lie”, most recently fans will remember the TV show of the same name which featured Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Today I’m here to break up that notion with a hidden gem in this years loaded wide receiver class. Born and raised in Michigan, Donavan Peoples-Jones quickly became a household name and nationally ranked prospect, as he entered as the fourth best wide receiver in the 2017 recruiting class. Sadly though, due to inconsistent quarterback play and lack of volume, Peoples-Jones slipped from the top and will now face an uphill battle proving his worth to NFL scouts and GM’s. Follow along as we take a deep dive into the pros, cons, expectations, and landing spots for one of the most gifted, most explosive, and certainly most underrated prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Pros: What would you do if your boss was underutilizing you? The typical response nowadays would be to “throw shade” or start spreading false rumors. Peoples-Jones has never once talked bad about the Michigan coaching staff, the erratic play of quarterback Shea Patterson, or his underutilization despite being the best athlete offensively. Humbleness and hard work are two elite NFL traits that don’t shine in every athlete and quite frankly get overlooked. Peoples-Jones has continued to work hard during the Senior Bowl and put on a spectacular performance during the NFL Combine, thus rising his draft stock despite career numbers that are far from elite. Now, let’s talk briefly about what style of football Peoples-Jones can bring to the field. First off, push the brakes on reading this and go YouTube his two career punt return touchdowns, watch them and come back. Slippery right? Multiple check marks for me on tape which include his ability to adjust his body to the ball, pluck balls right out of the air, and masterfully bring both feet down to make some remarkable sideline catches. Personally it’s my belief that Peoples-Jones has the best route tree of anyone in this class because of his ability to adjust to whatever scheme Michigan threw at him. NFL head coaches and coordinators will love that ability and hopefully explore the many options that come along with it. Lastly, you know we gotta talk about the major key for any long lasting wide receiver career nowadays; blocking. Aside from being that home run hitting style of wide receiver, Peoples-Jones excels at being physical in the run game and general stalk blocking. This part of his can actually be attributed to the wacky nature of the Michigan offense, at least they helped him learn one thing!
Cons: Not to sound bias at all, but there are not many flaws in the game and style of Peoples-Jones. This doesn’t necessarily mean I think he’s better than the top ranked wide receivers, but certainly in the top 10. Where we find the biggest question mark is simply due to a lack of college production. From what you can see on tape, even when not targeted, is that Peoples-Jones gets separation from defenders. However, physical NFL defenders could trip him up when playing on the outside even though I don’t think this will be a problem due to the likelihood that teams relegate to the slot. Now another thing I’ve noticed and actually learned about Peoples-Jones is that on special teams he’s almost exclusively a punt returner. I could see this becoming a problem because let’s say a team drafts him with a fourth/fifth round pick right? That team will be looking for Peoples-Jones to contribute in every which way to make an NFL roster and if he can’t showcase the same electric ability on kick returns then someone on the team will. To summarize, Peoples-Jones needs to just continue proving his value instead of relying on stats since he doesn’t have the best numbers.
Comparison/Expectations: In both size and athletic ability, the safest floor for Peoples-Jones is Cordarrelle Patterson. One interesting stat I found via Twitter is that Peoples-Jones had only four drops on 57 targets in 2019. While that’s amazing, the reason why I linked Patterson to Peoples-Jones is because a “lack of drops” (three drops on 84 targets in 2012) was one of the reasons NFL scouts fell in love with Patterson’s game coming out of college. With how deep the class is, many teams are realizing that they can draft viable starting wide receivers in the fourth/fifth round. With that being said my bold prediction is that the Minnesota Vikings take a chance on Peoples-Jones after figuring out how to replace Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph. This would be the perfect situation for a young receiver, as he’d get to learn from a polished veteran and be supported by an elite run game.