Mel Kiper Jr. NFL Draft Ranking Has Michigan Football Stars

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After losing two linebackers/pass-rushers to first-day picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, Michigan football may have another first round on its hands.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest top-25 rankings for the Class of 2023 this week. This may be of interest to Detroit Lions fans, who will likely see their team draft in the top five once again. , and maybe even first.

Only one player in Michigan football or Michigan State has been ranked in the top 25, but several Wolverines have made Kiper’s positional ranking. But some might be surprised which UM star didn’t make the cut.

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Kiper Jr. isn’t as high on the Michigan State players with only one — the power-legged Bryce Baringer — making his top 10 positional rankings.

These rankings are sure to change over the final month and offseason of the college football season, but here’s what we found in Kiper’s latest:

Mike Morris climbs on the dashboard

Losing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who have combined 20-plus sacks in 2021, would rock any defense. But Michigan had an apparent star waiting in the wings with Morris.

Morris, listed at 6-foot-6 and 292 pounds, had high expectations heading into his junior season. He’s met them and more, climbing Kiper’s list to No. 22 after going unranked in his Week 3 top 25.

Michigan linebacker Mike Morris with the Paul Bunyan Trophy after Michigan's 29-7 victory over Michigan State on Saturday, October 29, 2022 in Ann Arbor.

“It’s rare to see a guy as tall as Morris play on his feet as a standing rusher, but he moves eextremely good for its size,” writes Kiper. “…he’s only had a half sack in three starts in 2021. This season Morris has 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble, and he pops up when I put the tape on because of his size and characteristics.

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“He could continue to improve as we get closer to the April draft.”

Morris is ranked No. 3 defensive end in the 2023 draft class. Teammate Mazi Smith is ranked No. 5 in the class.

Lions who need defense have options

With fans clamoring for a franchise quarterback, the top two projected picks are defensive linemen: Alabama defensive end Will Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Yes, they need to find a successor to Jared Goff, but the Lions also need to find players to pull their defense from the 30s scores, where they’ve been ranked for the past three years.

Anderson (33 pressures, six sacks and 14 total tackles for loss in eight games this season) has long been crowned the top prospect in the class and could help a Lions defense struggling to pressure the passer and stop the race. Anderson has racked up 17.5 sacks in 2021.

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Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. reacts after a sack against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half on October 8, 2022 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Carter, who missed two games in October with a knee injury, moved up a spot from Kiper’s last seeding, trading places with Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud.

“Even though he was on an instant count, his impact was evident on transmissions,” Kiper writes. “Georgia had five defensemen picked in the first round last April, and Carter was arguably more disruptive than all of them last season. He’s explosive on the snap and finishes well around the ball, even though he didn’t didn’t do a lot of tackles (8.5 tackles) He’s got a big frame and can play as a 3-tackle I want to see him be a bit more consistent, but NFL teams will be betting on his ceiling.

After the two linemen are a trio of quarterbacks, one of whom should be available for the Lions even if they win too many games to be picked first. Stroud, at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, has been excellent for the Buckeyes and is Kiper’s No. 1 quarterback, followed by Will Levis. Levis (6-3, 242) lacks Stroud’s numbers, but does have a “rocket launcher” for one arm, leading Kiper to compare him to former Lions pro-baller Matthew Stafford.

The shortest Bryce Young, listed at 6-0 and 194 pounds, boasts the 2021 Heisman Trophy, an impressive touch and could easily become the best quarterback in the class, Kiper said.

“He’s accurate and he goes through reading progressions to find his target. He’s an anticipation pitcher who knows how to hit receivers where they need the ball to run after the catch. He doesn’t do much mistakes,” Kiper said. “The knock on Young is height; he doesn’t have a huge frame, which is something NFL scouts will probably play as we get closer to the draft. I don’t think he’s quite 6-foot. Still, his arm is more than good enough for him to be a great signalman at the next level.”

Little love for Blake Corum

Wolverine running back Blake Corum (1,078 yards and 14 touchdowns on 179 carries) is having a wonderful season, but he’s not one of Kiper’s best backs for the draft class. He’s not even the Big Ten’s best prospect.

Bijan Robinson (920 rushing yards on 162 rushers and 280 extra receiving yards) is No. 1, thanks to an explosive performance this year for the Texas Longhorns. He could be top-10, Kiper says, which is quite a compliment for a running back. Former Michigan guard Zach Charbonnet, now with future Big Ten team UCLA, is ranked No. 4 behind Travis Dye, who plays for another future Big Ten team, USC.

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Michigan running back Blake Corum is sent off by Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) during the second half on October 15, 2022 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Illinois running back Chase Brown, who leads the nation in rushing after his transfer from West Michigan, is the only Big Ten player ranked in the top 10 RBs, ranking 10th overall.

Corum, which has garnered some Heisman buzz, is an honorable mention along with Minnesota star Mohamed Ibrahim.

Ryan Hayes was an honorable mention among offensive tackles, and Michigan freshman Olu Oluwatimi was rated second center, making it a marginal first-rounder.

A few special special teams in the state

The aforementioned Baringer wasn’t alone in the top 10 bettor rankings; Michigan punter Brian Robbins and Michigan kicker Jake Moody were also ranked.

Kiper ranked Barginer the No. 2 kicker or punter in the class, behind Iowa punter Tory Taylor who has an astonishing 47 punts in eight games — more than once a quarter. Baringer, the Waterford native who fought for a struggling offense at Michigan State, has been called to a task “only” 34 times.

Northville native Jake Moody was ranked No. 4 pundit and No. 2 kicker, behind Maryland’s Chad Ryland, who doesn’t have as many runs or as high a hit rate as Moody but is 5-for- 8 in the past two seasons with kicks 50 yards or more (Moody’s is 3 for 4 in such situations). Robbins, with a solid 45.5-yard average and 62-yard length, is ranked No. 8 overall and the fourth-highest punter.

The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.

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