Michigan football in NFL draft: Mike Sainristil scouting report

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Mike Sainristil is the epitome of a Michigan man. He came into the program as an unheralded defensive back, switched to wide receiver, then made the change back to defensive back before the 2022 season. Sainristil would be elected captain, lead the team in interceptions, and make some of the biggest plays in program history. He will be remembered as a legend.

Of course, all good things come to an end. Sainristil had a terrific career in Ann Arbor, but it is time for him to move on. Mike entered the NFL draft and has garnered a lot of attention from scouts and media alike.

Firstly, Sainristil will likely play on the inside in the NFL. He did a great job of moving around from the boundary to the slot depending on the team’s need in college, but he does not have the size to man the boundary in the NFL. Look for him to be drafted as a nickel corner.

The first trait required to play slot corner in the NFL is aggressiveness at the point of attack. Sainristil checks that box with ease. He measured in at the combine at just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, but that is acceptable for an interior defender. The important part is that he plays larger than his body, which is certainly true as Sainristil seeks out contact in run support and is an impressive tackler overall. He understands pursuit angles (besides one snap in the Rose Bowl) and does a great job of hitting his target low and wrapping up. On occasion, he makes the big hit that gets fans out of their seats, but for the most part, he is a very safe and consistent tackler. His coaches in the NFL will be comfortable using him as a force defender against the run or as a blitzer.

Secondly, Sainristil thrives in any type of coverage. He’s probably a little more comfortable in zone schemes, but he understands the technique behind man and can execute it well. His versatility is made possible by his exceptionally fluid hips and terrific burst, which allows him to get a jump on the ball or undercut a route. Coming from an offensive background, Sainristil also has a great understanding of route combos and offensive tendencies which he uses to his advantage. The guy is a terrific coverage player and can play pretty much any role from a variety of looks.

This article would be incomplete without briefly mentioning what Sainristil did at the combine. He didn’t steal the show, but his numbers were perfect for the role he will play in the NFL. Sanristil performed exceptionally well in both of the jumping drills, the shuttle, and his 10-yard split. These might not be the exercises that garner the most media attention, but they are the workouts that best display what it takes to play slot cornerback. Mike will be guarding slot players in the NFL, which means that he does not get to use the sideline as an extra defender in coverage. To compensate, his burst (10-yard split) and change of direction (shuttle) will be crucial to ensure that he can guard both in and out-breaking routes. Finally, his jumping ability means that QBs can’t simply dial up a 50-50 ball with a taller receiver. He will be able to contest most passes at the catch point and should be able to do a good job of breaking up anything thrown his way.

Finally, Mike just has that ‘it’ factor that you look for in a defensive playmaker. He always seems to be around the ball and has made jaw-dropping plays in just about every big game of his career. Against Ohio State he had a massive pass breakup in the end zone, he won MVP in the Big Ten title game, and, of course, had the game-sealing interception against Washington to secure a national title for the Wolverines. The guy understands football and what it takes to be great. He’s got the confidence and poise to perform on the brightest stages and will likely be a starter for whatever team decides to pull the trigger.

So, where will he go in the draft? Good question. He certainly won’t make it out of the second round but might be able to sneak into the first as a high-upside slot player who can start day one. I highly doubt anyone takes a shot on him that early, but Kansas City might need to shuffle their CB room without Sneed (assuming he is traded) and Baltimore has a need inside. Time will tell his destination, but I would be shocked if he lasts into round three.

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