June 25, 2024

In July 2023, former Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh expressed his belief to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic that 20 Wolverines would be drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft. While this assertion was met with skepticism at the time, Harbaugh’s foresight hinted at the team’s remarkable journey towards a National Championship. With a deep faith in his players, particularly those who opted to remain at Michigan for their shot at championship glory, Harbaugh had ample reasons for his bold prediction.

Jim Harbaugh favored to bolt Michigan for NFL | Reuters

As the NFL Draft approaches, attention turns to whether Michigan can surpass the record set by the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs, who saw 15 players drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft. The memory of Georgia’s dominance, which included a victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl during the Wolverines’ inaugural College Football Playoff appearance, remains vivid for Michigan fans.

Let’s assess Michigan’s prospects of surpassing Georgia’s record and meeting Harbaugh’s ambitious forecast.

Assured Selections (6): J.J. McCarthy, Kris Jenkins, Roman Wilson, Junior Colson, Blake Corum, Mike Sainristil
This group comprises the core contributors of the 2023 Michigan football team. McCarthy’s draft stock has soared, positioning him as a potential top-five pick. Jenkins, Wilson, and Sainristil are all likely to be selected in the second round, while Colson and Corum are increasingly viewed as Day Two picks. These projections are hardly surprising given their contributions to the team.

High Probability (3): Zak Zinter, Trevor Keegan, A.J. Barner
Zinter’s injury may temper his draft status slightly, but he remains a desirable prospect. Keegan possesses the qualities sought after in NFL linemen and is expected to be drafted in the middle rounds. Barner, a proficient blocking tight end, should find a place in the draft, although the uncertain draft placement of block-first tight ends leaves room for variation in selection.

Probable Selections (3): Cornelius Johnson, Drake Nugent, Braiden McGregor
Johnson’s testing metrics suggest he may be chosen in later rounds. Nugent, recognized as one of the premier centers in this year’s draft, garners mixed assessments from different draft evaluations. McGregor’s NFL appeal has grown as he distances himself from injury concerns, presenting a solid late-round prospect with considerable potential but limited college production due to Michigan’s stacked defensive line.

Uncertain Status (5): Michael Barrett, LaDarius Henderson, Jaylen Harrell, Josh Wallace, Trente Jones
Barrett, admired by Michigan supporters, faces challenges due to his age relative to draft norms, likely limiting him to a special teams role in the NFL. Henderson’s performance fluctuated during his time in Ann Arbor, and his Senior Bowl showing was underwhelming, yet his positional versatility may attract interest. Harrell’s lack of explosiveness raises questions, despite his consistent positioning on the field.

Unlikely Draft Prospects (2): Josh Wallace and Trente Jones
Wallace, a valuable addition from the transfer portal, may face challenges due to his limited athleticism. Similarly, Jones has scant tape available, primarily serving as a sixth offensive lineman throughout his collegiate career.

Unlikely to be Drafted (1): Karsen Barnhart
Barnhart’s prospects are dimmed by documented struggles against elite competition at tackle, although he may find a role at guard in the NFL. However, his chances of being drafted appear slim.

Long Shots (1): James Turner
Kickers typically face an uphill battle to establish themselves in the NFL, making Turner’s chances of being drafted unlikely.

Based on current projections, approximately 12 Wolverines are expected to be drafted. To surpass Georgia’s record, Michigan would need all 12 projected selections, along with the addition of at least four among Michael Barrett, LaDarius Henderson, Jaylen Harrell, Josh Wallace, Trente Jones, and Karsen Barnhart. While this scenario presents a potential path, it is not highly probable.

As for Harbaugh’s forecast of 20 draft selections, it appears unlikely to materialize. His prediction might have accounted for potential entries into the draft by Donovan Edwards, Rod Moore, or Quinten Johnson, which, while plausible at the time, did not come to fruition. Nevertheless, the National Championship victory serves as a notable achievement for the team.

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