After producing three early-round picks in April of 2022, what do the Michigan Wolverines have to offer in the 2023 NFL draft? Here’s an early look at Michigan’s draft-eligible class in the 2023 cycle. On both offense and defense, there are prospects worth keeping tabs on.
Michigan prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Interestingly, the future might be more exciting for Michigan than the present. At some point, J.J McCarthy is going to get his chance at quarterback. He provides far more upside than what they’ve had in recent years. And elsewhere, young players like Andrel Anthony, Rod Moore, and Junior Colson all show promise. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet — because in the meantime, there’s still plenty of potential 2023 NFL Draft talent in stock.
Cade McNamara, QB
He was a high school football legend, and he’s now earned a place in Michigan football history as well. Cade McNamara was the first Michigan QB to lead the Wolverines to the College Football Playoffs. Granted, they largely got there because of their defense and running game, but McNamara helped keep the ship steady. McNamara is a certified “Good college QB,” but his 2023 NFL Draft projection is unclear. He’s likely a Day 3 pick at best. McCarthy is the Michigan QB with early-round upside, but for now, it’s McNamara’s time.
Blake Corum, RB
Already a well-established dynamic threat on the college football stage, Blake Corum is now officially draft-eligible. And he’s already garnering buzz for the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Corum isn’t the largest back, standing at around 5’8″, but he sports a dense 200-pound frame and great initial explosiveness and burst. He also has the lateral suddenness to manipulate space and make defenders miss. Corum won’t be a workhorse at his size, but there’s a steady demand for this kind of back at the NFL level.
Ronnie Bell, WR
Ronnie Bell’s 2021 season was potentially the most efficient WR campaign in history. He caught one pass for 76 yards and a touchdown before suffering a torn ACL that ended his season. Thankfully, Bell is on track to be fully available in 2022, and it’s a pleasant development for the Michigan offense. Bell is a steady veteran. He can run routes, contort and extend for the football, line up on the boundary and in the slot, and work through contact. That versatility and reliability are welcome in Michigan’s WR corps.
Cornelius Johnson, WR
When Bell went down in 2021, someone had to step up. That someone proved to be Cornelius Johnson, a 6’3″, 211-pound size/speed freak. McNamara and Johnson don’t completely mesh in terms of their skill sets, but Johnson still managed to put up good numbers, with 40 catches for 627 yards and three scores in relief of Bell. Johnson can be more consistent against contact, but he might have the most upside of Michigan’s entire WR group. A strong 2022 season could see him experience a Nico Collins-like rise.
Mike Sainristil, WR/CB
In three years at wide receiver for the Wolverines, Mike Sainristil has caught 36 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns. He’s a valuable spark plug in Michigan’s WR rotation, but now, there’s talk that the 5’10”, 185-pound veteran could be moving to cornerback for his final season. The team’s primary slot defender from 2021, Daxton Hill, entered the 2022 NFL Draft, so Sainristil could be called upon in that role. His combination of explosiveness, speed, short-area athleticism, and ball skills would make it a worthwhile experiment.
Roman Wilson, WR
If Sainristil moves to cornerback full-time, there’ll be added pressure on Roman Wilson to be the premier speed threat of the Wolverines’ receiving corps. Wilson no doubt has the speed and explosiveness. Especially from the slot, he can press defenders up the seam, then explode into the middle of the field and generate chunk plays. But at 6’0″ and just 180 pounds, Wilson’s frame isn’t the most imposing. He can be jarred by contact. Nevertheless, if Michigan can maximize Wilson by using him in space, both parties could benefit.
Erick All, TE
If you’re looking for a top 2023 NFL Draft breakout candidate at the tight end position, you can end your search with Erick All. All looks the part of an NFL tight end and is just getting started on his ascent up the ladder. 2021 was a big step forward for the 6’4″, 245-pound target. In 2021, All amassed 38 catches for 437 yards and two scores, including a game-saving touchdown against Penn State. Not only does All have great speed, physicality, and natural receiving ability, but he’s also a stalwart lead blocker. Another strong year should land him firmly in the 2023 NFL Draft conversation.
Ryan Hayes, OT
The Michigan Wolverines might have had two tackles worth consideration in the 2022 NFL Draft cycle. But while Andrew Stueber went on to the NFL, left tackle Ryan Hayes returned for one more season. Hayes, standing at 6’7″ and 307 pounds, isn’t the heaviest blocker at his size. That relative lack of play strength shows up at times. Yet, Hayes is an excellent athlete. He can get out in space, finish blocks on the move, and keep building on his tools in 2022.
Zak Zinter, G
Being a true junior, Zak Zinter still has plenty of eligibility remaining. A realistic scenario involves him playing through his senior season. But Zinter is at least deserving of being on the radar in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. The 6’6″, 320-pound blocker was a full-time starter at right guard last season and helped contribute to one of the best offensive lines in the nation. He’s a good athlete who gets off the line well, but he can also surge his pads through blocks and drive power forward. His pad level can be a bit inconsistent, but Zinter has potential.
Trevor Keegan, G
Senior blocker Trevor Keegan is also a name to watch on the Michigan offensive line. While Zinter manned the right guard spot, Keegan was the Wolverines’ starter at left guard, playing alongside Hayes. Keegan stands at 6’6″, 324 pounds, and shows off good play strength with that frame. He’s a bit high-hipped, and pad level can be an issue. But Keegan has shown he can be a productive college offensive guard. His experience will prove even more valuable in 2022.
Olusegun Oluwatimi, C
A standout blocker for Virginia in 2021, and a finalist for the Rimington Award, Olusegun Oluwatimi now heads to Michigan. There, he’ll play at the center of a unit that won the Joe Moore Award in 2021. Oluwatimi is quietly a very solid interior blocker. He’s stout and well-leveraged but also strong, powerful, and very assignment-sound. He’s exactly the kind of player that could silently start for years on end in the NFL. And at Michigan, he’ll have the opportunity for the exposure he needs to become a highly-touted 2023 NFL Draft prospect.
Mazi Smith, DT
The stats — 37 tackles and 2 1/2 tackles for loss — aren’t overwhelming from Mazi Smith. But they don’t even begin to do justice to the impact that the 6’3″, 326-pound defender has on the field. Smith is a phenomenal run defender who uses his size, strength, and upper-body torque to tug around blockers and clog rushing lanes. He also flashes the necessary burst and lateral athleticism to factor in as a pass rusher. In the early 2023 NFL Draft nose tackle rankings, Smith is near the top.
Julius Welschof, DT
German graduate student Julius Welschof was a valuable rotational defensive lineman for Michigan in 2021. He’s expected to retain that role in 2022. Welschof will be a 26-year-old rookie, so that alone may render him an undrafted free agent. But Welschof has the tools to get a look in camp and potentially carve out an NFL career. At 6’6″, 288 pounds, he flashes impressive athleticism. He was documented on the 2022 edition of Feldman’s Freaks as having a 4.68 40-yard dash and a 10’5″ broad jump.
Mike Morris, EDGE
There aren’t any sure things in the Michigan EDGE room after the departures of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. But a safe bet is that veteran Mike Morris will get the first shot at making an impact. Morris isn’t quite as athletic or as fleet-footed as his predecessors, but the 6’6″, 278-pound defender has a long, imposing frame. He possesses the strength to set the edge in run defense, and that play strength could also serve him well as a pass rusher.
Taylor Upshaw, EDGE
He might not start, but Michigan’s EDGE depth will receive a valued boost from Taylor Upshaw in 2021. With all the uncertainty in the wake of Hutchinson and Ojabo departing, Upshaw’s presence is, at the very least, stabilizing. Upshaw might not command a selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’ll be a 24-year-old rookie, and he doesn’t show off a great pass-rushing skill set. But Upshaw does have good size and a hot motor, and those are two things that could earn him a chance in camp.
Jaylen Harrell, EDGE
As we saw last season, breakout stars can always emerge out of nowhere. And naturally, with David Ojabo coming from Michigan, it turns our eyes to other under-recognized talents who might be primed for bigger roles. One such player is Jaylen Harrell. Standing at 6’4″, 242 pounds, Harrell’s job in 2021 was similar to that of Ojabo’s in 2020, a year before his breakout. Harrell might not be quite as long as Ojabo, but he shows good burst as a stand-up edge rusher, as well as the range to snuff out run plays in pursuit.
Braiden McGregor, EDGE
Entering his third year, the anticipation is mounting for Braiden McGregor’s eventual breakout. He was a highly-rated recruit in the 2020 class, with offers from Alabama and Ohio State. Now, with Hutchinson and Ojabo off to the NFL, there could be an opening for McGregor to earn more reps in a deep EDGE rotation. Listed at 6’5″, 265 pounds, McGregor has the physical tools. But in this position battle, he’ll need more than that to emerge.
Nikhai Hill-Green, LB
The 2021 season ushered in an uptick in reps for Michigan linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green. Then a sophomore, Hill-Green managed to put up 50 tackles and a pass deflection. Hill-Green started six games and also logged reps on special teams. Now, with Josh Ross gone, the ascending underclassman may be asked to take on an even greater role in 2022. He’ll need a true breakout season to potentially declare for the 2023 NFL Draft early, however.
Michael Barrett, LB
With Colson and Hill-Green gaining more reps, it’s beginning to look like Michael Barrett will close out his Michigan career as a rotational defender. But even in that kind of role, Barrett could earn looks from NFL evaluators looking to fill out 90-man rosters. Barrett flashes decent athletic traits, even if he is a bit undersized at 6’0″, 227 pounds. He has enough speed and frame density to be a core special teamer. That’s an occupation that will never go out of style in the NFL.
DJ Turner, CB
Michigan’s secondary drew plenty of eyes in 2021 because of eventual first-round pick Daxton Hill. But there were times when it was hard to look away from DJ Turner on the boundary. Standing at 6’0″, 181 pounds, Turner frequently generates exciting flashes of high-level play at the cornerback position.
He has good length and short-area athleticism, and he can stick to receivers moving upfield. He also has a knack for making plays on the ball, as evidenced by his two picks and seven deflections in 2021. As long as he keeps following this upward trend, Turner should be selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Gemon Green, CB
Gemon Green wasn’t quite as productive in 2021 as he was in 2020. The 6’2″ Michigan defensive backlogged eight pass deflections in 2020, only to snag one interception and one deflection each in 2021. But the raw stats do Green justice. At his size, he’s a good athlete. And more importantly, he’s reliable in both phases. He can jam at the stem and match receivers in coverage, and he can also extend, engage blocks, and hold his own in run support. That veteran stability from Green will serve Michigan well in 2022.
RJ Moten, S
Hill was a breakout candidate at safety for the Wolverines in 2021. This year, the breakout candidate is RJ Moten. While Moten doesn’t have the positional versatility that Hill had, he can be a game-changer on the back end with his range and playmaking upside. He has the size of a box safety at 6’0″, 221 pounds, but the range of a single-high ball hawk. A former baseball outfielder with a vertical jump over 40″, Moten’s upside is nearly unmatched.
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