Donovan Peoples-Jones was once a very touted recruit but didn’t really live up to the hype at the University of Michigan. Cleveland, though, saw enough to snag him in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Here are People-Jones’ odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Browns’ over/under win total.
Peoples-Jones was a five-star recruit out of Cass Tech in Detroit and the No. 1 receiver in the country. He would be named the Wolverines’ Rookie of the Year in 2017. He played in all 13 games with seven starts, generated a total of 654 all-purpose yards (277 receiving yards) and one touchdown (via punt return) and earned his first varsity letter. Against Air Force, he scored the first touchdown of his career on the longest punt return touchdown by any Wolverine since 2006 with his 79-yard score.
As a sophomore in 2013, he appeared in all 13 games at wide receiver and on special teams; totaled 47 receptions for 612 yards with eight touchdowns to earn his second varsity letter. Peoples-Jones was an All-Big Ten selection as a wide receiver (third team coaches, honorable mention media) and punt returner (third team, coaches and media).
Last year, he had some injury problems and appeared in 11 games with 9 starts at wide receiver and also played special teams; he caught 34 passes for 438 yards with 6 touchdowns; added 24 punt returns and finished with 604 all-purpose yards. Overall, he totaled 2,155 all-purpose yards with 16 touchdowns (14 receiving) in his UM career.
Cleveland took him with the No. 187 overall pick in the draft. He was inconsistent on tape, disappearing for most of the game only to make the occasional big play. Perhaps splitting his reps between the slot and out wide prevented him from excelling in either. In his three years in Ann Arbor, Peoples-Jones never led Michigan in receiving yards, and his numbers pale in comparison to Tee Higgins and Jerry Jeudy, who were the second and third best wideout prospects in the 2017 class.
“Let’s just call it what it is,” said Devin Gardner, a former Wolverine QB and now radio analyst on WTKA. “On film, we saw at the quarterback position we were not hitting guys who were running open, guys were getting too deep so the quarterback was not strong enough to hit them or maybe the quarterback was just waiting too long to throw.”
Mel Kiper had a fourth or fifth-round grade on Peoples-Jones: “He has first-round talent, but he didn’t play like a first-rounder.”
Still, Peoples-Jones (6’2/212) produced some very good athletic testing numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, running the 40 in 4.48 seconds and performing well in the vertical and broad jumps as well.
He has a nice combination of size, hands, ball skills and athleticism. Erratic quarterback play at Michigan allowed him to showcase his ability to make adjustments to off-target throws and snatch the football securely outside of his frame. Peoples-Jones has many qualities that make him an appealing NFL prospect and likely a better pro than college player. The biggest concern with Peoples-Jones at the next level is how consistently he can beat press coverage.
Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer loves Peoples-Jones: “I still think that guy should be a top-10 draft pick,” Meyer said. “I think he’s that good. “I coached against him. He’s one of the best punt returners. I don’t want to get into, ‘Did they use him right?’ … and all that … because I don’t know. In high school, Donovan was one of the best receivers I’ve ever seen.”
Peoples-Jones will be in a deep competition for the top punt returner on the Browns, a role that Jarvis Landry also knows well — he’s returned 96 punts and has scored one touchdown since he joined the league in 2014. He also returned five punts last season.
“He has a lot of questions, which I admire about him,” Landry said. “He is asking me about punters, and he is asking me about guys on the team and all of the questions that I admire about him.”