Michigan EDGE Mike Morris has been productive in 2022, and his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report is suddenly a topic of discussion. The Wolverines have produced a great deal of edge rushing talent over the past few cycles. Is Morris next on the conveyor belt?
Mike Morris NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Edge Rusher
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’6″, 292 pounds
Few teams have generated more NFL defensive end talent than the Michigan Wolverines since 2015.
The streak started with Frank Clark that year, who was selected in Round 2 by the Seattle Seahawks. Since then, Michigan has had eight more defensive ends selected in the NFL Draft — among them first-rounders Rashan Gary, Kwity Paye, Taco Charlton, and 2022 second-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. The list also includes David Ojabo, who might’ve been a first-round pick in 2022, had it not been for a pre-draft Achilles injury.
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At this point, Michigan is expected to produce EDGE talent. And Morris looks like he could be the next man up. It took time for Morris’ career to ramp up at Michigan. He saw little playing time early upon arriving as a four-star recruit and was only a rotational contributor during the team’s playoff run in 2021.
But 2022 has seen Morris take his game to new heights. He’s one of the leading defensive producers in the entire Big Ten, with 19 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks through nine games. He also has two deflections and a forced fumble on top of that.
Morris’ late breakout gives him the production that normally comes with early-round picks. But does Morris have the tools to follow that path in the 2023 NFL Draft? Let’s explore.
Mike Morris Scouting Report
Morris is an incredibly unique player, in a modern NFL that values uniqueness, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Uniqueness often implies versatility, and that’s the case with Morris. But how exactly does he project?
When you see Morris’ listed size, you have to do a double take when you see where he plays. At 6’6″, 292 pounds, Morris has a massive, burly frame with rare mass and exceptional length. But he’s also athletic enough to play from a two-point stance outside the tackle at his size, or line up farther inward. That versatility is evident across his Michigan film.
Athletically, Morris has good, not great initial burst off the line. He can at least generate enough momentum to supplement power at contact and flashes great long-track explosiveness working from wider alignments when he has room to open up his strides. With that long-track explosiveness, he’s flashed the ability to stress tackles at the apex.
Naturally, a player built like Morris is going to bring a cumbersome power element. That’s the assumption, at least — and it rings true with Morris. With his strong combination of mass and length, Morris has high-end power capacity. He effectively loads up power from his hips and lower body, and fully channels that power with full extensions and torque at contact.
Morris has the raw power to drive blockers backward even moments after making contact. But he also shows off the necessary functional application to maximize his power output. He has urgent, constant leg drive at contact, and can drive power forward with overwhelming leg churn. Moreover, Morris flashes above-average flexibility in his hips, which he uses to generate torque from his lower body while rolling his hips through contact.
Tight ends are easily displaced by Morris’ power on outside running plays. In those instances, the Michigan EDGE can easily shift the line back. He can also use his hips to torque and extend at contact, pry off anchors, and surge to the apex. Morris’ hands flash overwhelming knock-back power, even without fully loading at times. He can knock back blockers and then successively apply torque and work around them with efficiency.
Also assisting Morris’ production are the flashes of impressive short-area twitch and foot speed for his size. The Michigan EDGE stresses blockers laterally into contact and widens blockers before exerting power. For his size, Morris has the corrective twitch to snap outside and capitalize on displacement, after driving blockers in and creating space.
Another expected and very present boon gained from Morris’ frame is his elite play strength. He has the core strength to set the edge after fully extending, preventing blockers from generating displacement. His strong base and overall mass allow him to hold his ground against opposing power.
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Additionally, Morris’ raw strength allows him to slab and stonewall moving blockers, maintaining the line. Beyond that, he’s able to set a strong edge, hold positioning, and then timely deconstruct and wrap up ball carriers who enter his reach.
The application of Morris’ strength, in both phases, is just as impressive as the presence of that strength. The Michigan EDGE can quickly stack and shed boundary blockers working across face. He also peeks and rips down blocks to clog outside rushing lanes. With his raw strength, Morris forces tackles upright and increases his space to work with around the apex.
It helps that Morris can effectively align himself to channel energy from his lower body to his extended arms, acquiring leverage and driving power forward. He can also acquire leverage as a run defender — lowering his pads, aligning his base, and latching inside the torso to assert control.
Morris’ hand usage is still developing, but it’s not something he lacks. He could be more consistent, but there’s a relatively full arsenal of moves and traits waiting to be maximized. He’s shown to use quick double-swipes to scrape away from tackles while stunting inside, then quickly drive power into interior blockers. He’s also shown to stack long arms with rip moves and inside swims in succession while working upfield.
Going further, Morris can use his strength to engineer push-pull maneuvers later in reps and wrench inside. He can also wrench through blocks with high-level hand strength on double swipes and rips. What’s even more encouraging beyond his hand usage, however, is that Morris effectively uses initial attack angles to bait blockers into over-setting, then capitalize inside with violent arm-over moves.
Overall, Morris is a high-energy rusher who will use his hands to deconstruct anchors and levy second and third-effort attempts. He fights through contact to finish rushes with exciting consistency and actively uses his length to deflect passes when in throwing lanes.
Meanwhile, in pursuit, Morris flashes above-average pursuit speed when unblocked. With his length and athleticism, he can run down some runners from behind, and he has enough speed and agility to finish in the pocket and wrangle up QBs who attempt to step in.
Morris’ Areas for Improvement
Morris’ build is exciting, but it does come with some questions — both about his overall ceiling as a pass rusher and his ultimate role at the next level. The biggest concern on Morris’ scouting report, however, has to be his lack of bend.
Morris isn’t a liability in the bend category. As discussed earlier, he does have enough hip flexibility to roll through contact at times. But overall, Morris’ frame is slightly high-cut and appears a bit tightly wound. He visibly lacks the torso flexibility to shrink under blockers and turn the corner. Ankle flexion is also largely absent from his game, limiting his ability to reduce his surface area.
Moving on, while Morris has good long-track explosiveness, he lacks the elite short-area burst to close backfield gaps in pursuit consistently. Without elite initial burst and bend, he sometimes struggles to win quickly in reps.
Staying in the athletic sphere, Morris doesn’t have great change of direction in space, and he sometimes struggles to sink and redirect. His hips have some stiffness when forced to redirect quickly. As a result, he loses his balance and becomes a non-factor in pursuit.
All this being said, Morris has a physical combination that grants him NFL upside in the right role. However, he’ll need to keep refining his game to maximize that combination.
Morris could better apply power with improved leverage and full energy circuits. He sometimes diverts upright at contact, allowing blockers to get inside his frame and stall power rushes. When working laterally, he drifts too far upright, thus negating his lower body when exerting power at contact.
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Morris can be more precise in targeting the torso with power exertions. He doesn’t always effectively drive power after channeling momentum and could do a better job loading and exerting maximum power at times. While Morris has high-end raw power, he doesn’t always load up full potential energy ahead of extensions.
Overall, Morris has a good arsenal of pass-rushing moves, but he can still be more precise with his hands and consistently stack counters. The Michigan EDGE sometimes struggles to recover and stack moves quickly when his initial bull rushes stall out.
Elsewhere, Morris occasionally fades out of plays as a pursuit defender. Every now and then, he mistimes the snap in an attempt to anticipate, risking penalties. His length, while great overall, isn’t elite proportionally, and he doesn’t have elite pursuit speed or closing burst.
Pursuit is a particularly imperfect operational area of Morris’ game. The Michigan EDGE sometimes misreads options and takes improper pursuit paths when reading in the backfield. Additionally, he’s sometimes a tick late reading options as the unblocked defender, which can let angles get away from him.
Morris is also prone to missed tackles when engaging receivers in the flat. His upright form and poor use of length can allow runners to scrape free, and he could do a better job wrapping up in pursuit.
Current Draft Projection for Michigan EDGE Mike Morris
Morris grades out as an early Day 3 prospect on my scale. There’s a chance, with a strong finish to the year and good testing numbers, he could work his way into Day 2 range.
Morris is a very different mold from the two Michigan edge rushers to come before him, and he doesn’t have quite as much pass-rushing upside outside the tackle. But the appeal with Morris comes from his unique size and athletic profile, as well as the projected alignment versatility that comes with that.
Ultimately, with his size, burst, power, strength, and lack of bend, Morris projects best in a role that heavily features usage as an even-front DE, or a 3-tech and 4i in hybrid fronts.
Inside, Morris has enough burst, agility, and hand strength to be a mismatch against guards. But the added appeal is that, even at his size, he can rotate outside and build speed to power from a wide-alignment two-point stance.
Morris has below-average bend and lacks elite initial burst or twitch. These are qualities that limit his upside on the edge. But as a versatile mismatch piece on the defensive line and a sturdy run defender, he can be a strong rotational piece at the NFL level and a potential starter with pass-rushing upside from multiple alignments in hybrid fronts.