(Editor's Note: Throughout the spring, DallasCowboys.com will continue its NFL draft coverage by looking at various college Pro Days and workouts around the nation. Michigan hosted its annual Pro Day on Friday, and Max Bultman, staff writer for The Michigan Daily, was on hand for the event.)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With more NFL draft hopefuls than any year in recent memory, the Michigan football team's Pro Day drew an understandable amount of hype this season. Nearly every starter from one of the nation's best defenses will be available in next month's draft.
It's possible that the Wolverines could have 10 or more players drafted, and many of them were on display to scouts on Friday afternoon.
While no media were allowed in to watch the workouts or testing, several players said they saw improvement from their NFL Combine numbers. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis tweeted simply "4.4. flat," which seems to imply improvement in the 40-yard dash after running a 4.54 second 40 at the Combine earlier this month.
Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow said he did 24 bench press reps of 225 pounds after posting 20 at the Combine. The biggest name, safety Jabrill Peppers, did not run the 40 at Pro Day, but once again worked to allay concerns about his positional fit at the next level.
Top picks: DE Taco Charlton, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Jourdan Lewis, DE/DT Chris Wormley, TE Jake Butt, WR Amara Darboh, CB Channing Stribling, WR Jehu Chesson, DT Ryan Glasgow
Possible Cowboys Fits:
DE Taco Charlton
No Wolverine rose as quickly up draft board this season as Charlton. The senior edge rusher had seen little productivity in the early parts of his career, and he was hampered by an ankle injury early in the 2016 season. But after a senior season in which he totaled 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, Charlton proved himself as one of the draft's elite pass rushers. At 6-foot-6, his athleticism is impressive for his size, and it's not hard to see him as a fit on the Cowboys' defensive line, should he fall to them.
TE Jake Butt
Prior to tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl, Butt was expected to be one of the first tight ends off the board. Now, the winner of the 2016 Mackey Award — given to the nation's top tight end — could become a steal for someone. Butt's talent in the receiving game is without question. He posted 51 catches in 2015 and 46 in 2016 and has been a reliable safety blanket for the Wolverines the past two seasons. His blocking has been called into question on occasion, though Butt seemed to make some improvement there as a senior. His knee will no doubt be a concern and will cause him to fall in the draft, but, if he can recover fully, he still has one of the best skillsets at his position. And here's a nugget Cowboys fans will love — Butt says he'd like to model his game after Jason Witten.
S Jabrill Peppers
One of the most polarizing players in the draft, Peppers spent his Pro Day trying to prove himself as a safety. Because he played linebacker in his final college season, he's aware of the lingering questions about whether he can transition back to a defensive back, and he called those questions fair. But, at a certain point, he's still a very good football player. His positional versatility has been well-documented, and he posted an impressive redshirt sophomore season in which he totaled 71 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries and an interception. On top of all that, he averaged nearly 15 yards per punt return, and he found plenty of success on offense. The positional questions are fair, but, at some point, Peppers' versatility will stop being a knock on him.
CB Jourdan Lewis
The knock on Lewis has always been his size — he stands at 5-foot-10 — but the First-Team All-American nonetheless found a way to produce in college. Lewis broke up a whopping 20 passes his junior season and followed that up with 11, while facing significantly fewer targets, in 2016. Recently, though, new concerns may have arisen around the cornerback after Lewis recently pleaded not guilty to a domestic violence charge.
DE/DT Chris Wormley
Wormley made his name for the Wolverines with his versatility along the line. He was often a force off the edge, and, at 6-foot-5 and nearly 300 pounds, he moves well for his size. That size also gives him the option to shift inside, and his discipline and intelligence will make him an attractive option for teams looking for consistency and versatility along the line. Wormley doesn't draw the same headlines as Charlton, but he proved to be just as disruptive at times through his career.
WR Amara Darboh
Darboh emerged as the Wolverines' top receiver in 2016 after playing a supporting role to Jehu Chesson in 2015. His hands made him a consistent option in the passing game, though his speed kept him from reaching an elite level in the deep game. Still, he posted 57 catches for 862 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a capable blocker who rose to his elevated role as a senior, and he could find success with the right system at the next level.
WR Jehu Chesson
After a blistering finish to his junior season in 2015, many expected Chesson to blow the lid off defenses in his senior campaign. Instead, he never seemed to find that rhythm on a consistent basis. He posted just 35 catches for two touchdowns as a senior after catching 50 passes for nine touchdowns as a junior. Chesson suffered a knee injury at the end of his junior season that could be to blame for his senior struggles, but he'll need to regain his 2015 form if he's going to make an impact for an NFL team.
CB Channing Stribling
The Wolverines' defensive backfield was among the best in the nation in 2016, and Stribling was a big reason why. The 6-foot-1 cornerback came on strong in his senior season, breaking up 13 passes and totaling four interceptions. He's not a sure thing at the next level, and fit will be important for Stribling's development. His size and ball skills will make him attractive to a variety of teams, though, and he has potential to make an impact down the line.
DT Ryan Glasgow
Often the most unheralded player on the Wolverines, the former walk-on proved to be a dominant inside force in college. He's a tough player with great strength, and he helped make Michigan's defensive line one of the best in the nation. He may not draw many headlines, but his strength and ability to plug holes inside will surely appeal to teams looking for depth on the defensive line.
Top Performer: Without being able to watch any actual drills or tests, it's hard to give a true top performer. But with that said, Chesson seemed to earn some buzz after the event, drawing praise from Jim Harbaugh's director of communications and operations, J.T. Rogan. Rogan tweeted that Chesson improved his combine numbers in the vertical jump and the 40-yard dash, and speed and strength coach Jim Kielbaso tweeted that Chesson ran a 4.33 (unofficial) in the 40. If that's accurate, it would represent a major win for the receiver.
What they said:
Charlton on where he sees himself in the draft:
"I think I'm definitely a top-15 guy. I watch film all the time, I'm the hardest critic of myself with things I should have done — 'I should have done this, I could have done that.' But I feel like I'm only going to get better. The more football I play, I'm only going to improve. And you watch film, especially my last games where I'm faster and more healthy, I'm one of the better edge guys out there."
Charlton on his versatility:
"I played four different positions in four years, so I've never actually gotten the chance to really stay at one position and learn to master it. I've been at four different positions all four years of my college career, so that's one thing I do offer to a team—the fact that I've been able to play four different things, inside, outside, whatever it may be."
Butt on comparisons to Jason Witten:
"Let me set the record straight, I'm not comparing myself to Jason Witten, but who would I like to model my game after? Hell yeah, I'd love to model my game after Jason Witten. He's one of the G.O.A.T.s. But I'm not Jason Witten."
Butt on whether the possibility of playing with Witten excites him:
"It would. And to learn underneath him, if that was something that happened, that would be wonderful."
Peppers on his Pro Day experience:
"It was less nerve-wracking. I felt like the Combine I was definitely a little bit more nervous for, and I did a lot more at the Combine. Here it was just trying to fine tune, show them that I could get to the deep middle, get off the hashes, get to the fade balls in each corner. You know, just pretty much try to put the cherry on top."
Peppers on questions about how well he can play safety:
"Those are all fair questions because I don't have much tape at safety. But at the end of the day, some reasonings for me not being able to plat safety are mind-blowing. I feel as though, if I'm a punt returner, I can track the ball, it's just going up and getting it at the highest point instead of letting it fall into the breadbasket."
Darboh on what he thinks he brings to a team:
"My competitiveness, I think, is one thing. I'm a very competitive guy, I'm a guy that's going to keep improving. I started to play football late and I feel like my ceiling is high still, and I'm going to keep getting better, as I've shown every year. And also my knowledge of the game. I feel like I'm fortunate to be around coaches that teach me the game, and I spend the time watching film on all that."
Max Bultman covers Michigan football for The Michigan Daily. Follow him on Twitter, @m_bultman.