Ranking Michigan football's top 6 wide receivers heading into 2018 season

Sophomore class dominates Michigan wide receiver corps

Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Grant Perry are among Michigan's top wide receiver options heading into 2018. (Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Since Jim Harbaugh's arrival in Ann Arbor, the passing game has been a weakness for the Michigan football team.

But with new quarterback Shea Patterson's arrival, the Wolverines are hoping to have more success through the air in 2018.

Patterson is only one piece of the puzzle, however, and Michigan will need to be better along the offensive line and at receiver. Ed Warinner was brought in to coach up the linemen, but the receiving corps will be manned by familiar faces.

Most of the offensive struggles were pinned on the quarterback and offensive linemen last season, but the wide receivers were also a problem. Michigan had trouble getting open downfield and converting anything but routine catches.

Injuries played a role in the struggles, as did youth. Which receivers will step up this season, with more talent around the offense?

Here are the top seven receiving options heading into the 2018 season.

6. Nate Schoenle

Last season: 4 catches for 41 yards and 0 touchdowns

Michigan WR Nate Schoenle in the 2018 Outback Bowl against South Carolina (Lon Horwedel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Schoenle joined Michigan in 2016 as a preferred walk-on, with three scholarship wide receivers above him in the recruiting class. Three of those receivers (Nate Johnson, Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom) are no longer on the team and another has switched to defensive back (Brad Hawkins).

Meanwhile, Schoenle has worked his way into a significant role on the team. He's no longer just a special teams contributor, though he did make seven tackles in 2017. He took the field as a wide receiver in six games last season, making catches against Purdue, Minnesota and South Carolina.

Harbaugh also trusted him as a blocking wide receiver on screen passes and outside runs.

He won't fill the highlight reel like some of the names to come on this list, but Schoenle has turned into a contributor on the offense.

5. Oliver Martin

Last season: Did not play

Michigan WR Oliver Martin warms up before the game against Rutgers in 2017. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

In most recruiting classes, a team's fourth-best wide receiver commit isn't a top-200 overall player. But most classes aren't as strong as Harbaugh's 2017 haul.

Martin was the No. 1 player in the state of Iowa and a four-star receiver when he committed to the Wolverines. He didn't play last season, but now that he's got a redshirt under his belt, there's no reason to believe Martin wouldn't see the field in 2018.

Martin was a monster in high school, catching 156 passes for 2,443 yards and 30 touchdowns between his junior and senior years.

While he's only listed at 6-foot-1, Martin is fast and explosive. Michigan's offense badly needs a player who can get behind the defense and make big plays, and Martin has a chance to be one of those guys.

4. Grant Perry

Last season: 25 catches for 307 yards and 1 touchdown

Michigan WR Grant Perry against Cincinnati in 2017 (Leon Halip/Getty Images).

Perry led the Wolverines in receiving yards last year with just over 300 on the season. That shows how much Michigan struggled to move the ball through the air.

Perry caught five passes for 61 yards against Michigan State and four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati, but the rest of his season was fairly uninspiring.

Heading into his senior year, Perry has had an up-and-down career both on and off the field. His best-case scenario in 2018 is to become the team's short-yardage option on third and fourth downs from the slot. If he can fill that role, especially with Patterson extending plays in the backfield, he'll be a valuable piece of the offense.

3. Nico Collins

Last season: 3 catches for 27 yards and 0 touchdowns

Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins at the 2018 Outback Bowl between Michigan and South Carolina on Jan. 1, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. (Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He barely saw the field as a true freshman, but Collins has the tools to be one of the best receivers on Michigan's roster.

At 6-foot-4, 218 pounds with good speed and reliable hands, Collins is the kind of player who can go up and get a jump ball or shield a defender to pick up a first down.

Collins was the No. 5 player out of Alabama in 2017, rated as a four-star receiver. He's a good compliment to his classmate Martin because he has good size and can make catches in traffic.

2. Donovan Peoples-Jones

Last season: 22 catches for 277 yards and 0 touchdowns; 4 carries for 57 yards and 0 touchdowns

Donovan Peoples-Jones #9 of the Michigan Wolverines runs after a catch in the fourth quarter of a game at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 23, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Michigan won 28-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Nobody in the receiving corps has a higher ceiling than Donovan Peoples-Jones, the former top player in Michigan and No. 1 overall wide receiver recruit in 2017.

Peoples-Jones demonstrated his raw skills as a true freshman, catching 22 passes, rushing for 14.3 yards per carry and returning a punt for his first career touchdown.

Even though he was the highest ranked player in Michigan's 2017 class, Peoples-Jones went through some growing pains last year. With the ball in his hands, he was as explosive as advertised, but at times, he struggled to get open on his routes.

If he can sharpen up some of the subtle nuances of being a college receiver, Peoples-Jones could very well be the best weapon on the team this season.

1. Tarik Black

Last season: 11 catches for 149 yards and 1 touchdown

Michigan football wide receiver Tarik Black makes a catch against Cincinnati (Joe Robbins/Getty Images).

Perhaps the biggest blow to Michigan's offense last season was losing freshman wide receiver Tarik Black to injury in a win over Air Force. In his first three college games, Black caught 11 passes for an average of 13.5 yards.

Black was Michigan's best offensive player through three games last season, showing great explosiveness and getting open consistently, something the rest of the receivers couldn't do.

His playmaking ability was on display from the start, as he needed just two catches to record 83 yards and a touchdown in his debut against Florida.

Black was the No. 2 receiver in Michigan's 2017 class behind Peoples-Jones, but he was the more polished product as a true freshman. When he went down, Michigan's passing game completely evaporated.

At 6-foot-4 with the best hands on the team, Black is a matchup nightmare. All the pre-college accolades suggested he would be an excellent player from the get-go, and he backed it up with his play on the field.

Even though he hasn't seen game action in nearly a calendar year, Black should be Michigan's No. 1 receiver when they start the season Sept. 1 in South Bend.

Other receivers

Ronnie Bell -- Michigan's lone class of 2018 wide receiver signee (No. 213 WR in nation)

Ethan Deland -- Freshman walk-on

Tyler Grosz -- Senior walk-on

Jake McCurry -- Sophomore preferred walk-on

Brendan White -- Senior walk-on

Jack Young -- Sophomore preferred walk-on

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