Grading Michigan football player selections in 2023 NFL draft
The 2023 NFL draft has come and gone, and now all of the thinkpieces are coming out about how each team did and how the players fit from a franchise perspective. But what about how things worked out for each player, individually?
Players enter the draft with certain expectations about where they’ll end up. Assuredly, departing stars who have more time left on the clock in terms of eligibility envision scenarios where they hear their names called on day one, if not early day two, but that’s not always how it works out.
With that in mind, how did the draft work out for the nine Michigan football players drafted and the two undrafted free agents? We took a look at it from their perspective, gave their pick a grade, and then our thoughts.
Mazi Smith - Dallas Cowboys
This is the perfect fit for both Mazi Smith and the Dallas Cowboys. Smith wasn’t a consistent first-round pick in the many mock drafts out there, with only a handful having him going on day one. Yet, the ones that did usually had him going to Dallas. Honestly, it’s a fit that just makes sense, and given that he was the strongest defensive lineman in the draft, it tracks that Jerry Jones wanted him in the middle.
This is a pick that works for both parties.
Luke Schoonmaker - Dallas Cowboys
This is another perfect fit for both parties — and again, it’s Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys.
Schoonmaker went much higher in the draft than anyone anticipated, and he has all the attributes of an elite Cowboys tight end. In many ways, you can see the similarities to Jason Witten, even if he’s not quite as bulky. But Dallas isn’t one that often takes the Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham-type receiving tight ends, despite having tight ends that tend to be pass catchers. This is another one that just seems to be a match made in heaven.
DJ Turner - Cincinnati Bengals
This is great value for the Bengals, getting the fastest man in the draft in the tail-end of round two. But given that Turner was in a few first-round mock drafts, this wasn’t the best scenario for him — which is how we’re grading these things.
The good news for both parties is that he’ll be in the same defensive backfield as his former teammate, Dax Hill, which should help in terms of familiarity and coming along in the scheme. Team-fit-wise, it works well, but for Turner, he should have gone higher.
Jake Moody - San Francisco 49ers
Grade: Beyond A+
If you listened to us talk on the Locked On Wolverines Podcast about where Jake Moody could have gone in the draft, we were not of the mindset that he would go as low as the fifth-round. But draftniks listening likely were laughing at the assumption that he could be a day two pick. Yet, here we are.
In the wildest dreams of any kicker, this is probably about where they would go. Given that Moody went above so many high-end players like Kelee Ringo from Georgia, and 100 spots higher than were Tom Brady was picked in 2000, it’s about as storybook of a scenario as he could dream up.
And well-deserved, we might add.
Mike Morris - Seattle Seahawks
This was a nightmare scenario for Mike Morris. Generally, the prime Michigan football edge rushers go from the first-to-third rounds in the Jim Harbaugh era, and such has been the case for every starter except Morris. Instead, Morris went just 26 picks higher than rotational defensive end Mike Danna did in 2020, assuredly due to him not having quite the speed that many of the others have had.
The good news is that most of the former Wolverine edge rushers have stuck in the league. For Seattle, this was an A-pick due to the amount of value the Seahawks are getting Morris at. But for Morris, not being at least a third-rounder, which was the pre-combine thought, is disastrous.
Olu Oluwatimi - Seattle Seahawks
Another Wolverine to Seattle, just three picks later, it was a little better for Oluwatimi, who we feel should have been either a third or fourth-rounder. The best center in college football, Olu, despite his size and strength, didn’t project well to the next level. Some mock drafts didn’t even have him going, so at least it isn’t the worst-case scenario.
Really, this is about as to be expected, so we’re giving him an above average pick grade, despite us feeling he should have gone higher.
Brad Robbins - Cincinnati
We teetered on the verge of giving Robbins an A here, because it was no certainty that he would be drafted. Yet, he went higher than two Wolverine draft picks as well as the two undrafted free agents.
It’s a good fit as he’ll be back in his home state of Ohio, only a few hours from where he grew up in the Columbus suburbs. Honestly, it’s about where you’d expect a high-end punter to go, somewhere in the sixth or seventh rounds, and that’s where Robbins ended up going.
Ryan Hayes - Miami Dolphins
It could have been worse — he could have gone undrafted. But for the stalwart, starting left tackle of the two-time defending Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line to go in the seventh round of the NFL draft, it was pretty much a disaster for Ryan Hayes.
Once thought to be an early-round draft pick after assuming the position in 2020, the three-year starter didn’t make many mistakes and held down the fort about as well as any left tackle could. Perhaps he’s missing the same kind of mean streak that some others have, but he did his job, you didn’t hear his name mentioned in a bad way at really any point, and yet, he nearly didn’t hear his name called in Kansas City at all.
Ronnie Bell - San Francisco 49ers
One mock draft had Bell pegged as Mr. Irrelevant at No. 259, and he just narrowly escaped that moniker and the fate of going undrafted. Though he never had that eye-opening season as some of his counterparts, we’ve often compared him to Chris Olave, though he wasn’t as sure-handed as the Buckeyes star. Yet, he has a similar skillset as well as a penchant for overachieving and outpacing expectations.
His ACL tear in 2021 certainly has to do with some skepticism, but Bell will likely thrive at the next level if given the opportunity.
Gemon Green - New York Giants
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Green could not have thought that he would go undrafted when he decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the draft. Yet, that’s precisely what happened. He at least gets the opportunity, signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent.
Still, we abide by what former Florida head coach Dan Mullen said: if you’re at least a third-round pick, you should go to the draft. If not, you should come back to school. Far too often, we’ve seen players decide to take their shot only to find themselves with no guaranteed money, fighting beyond expectation to even make a 53-man roster. Green has a lot of ability and unteachable attributes like size that will help him out. But he has an uphill battle from here.
Joel Honigford - Arizona Cardinals
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Honigford was featured almost entirely as a blocking tight end and wasn’t utilized nearly as much as Michigan’s other options. That he gets a shot at the next level is a credit to what he was able to do with the time he had.
The former offensive lineman was given a big ask to slim down and take on a tight end role. He had but one catch in his career (at Nebraska in 2021), yet, he still gets a shot. This is better than could be hoped for given the circumstances.