Michigan football has had at least one draft pick in all 84 NFL Drafts, and looking ahead to 2023, the Wolverines have several players expected to be selected. The Athletic put together a list of the most intriguing prospects from each Big Ten team, and the Maize and Blue’s representative might be a bit of a surprise.
The site’s Nick Baumgardner selected graduate left tackle Ryan Hayes, who’s entering his fifth year with the program, as Michigan’s most ‘intriguing’ and his ‘favorite’ prospect. That may mean he’s not necessarily expected to be the highest-picked player for the Wolverines, of course. Hayes did not appear on PFF’s early big board, while three other Michigan players — junior running back Blake Corum, graduate center Olusegun Oluwatimi and senior cornerback DJ Turner — slotted top 100.
So what stands out about Hayes as an NFL prospect? Baumgardner certainly isn’t alone in tabbing Hayes as one to watch next spring. We pegged the lineman as one of eight Michigan candidates to be picked in 2023, and Bleacher Report actually has him going No. 8 overall in a way-too-early mock draft.
A former tight end, Hayes’ athleticism is his biggest strength, the writer said. Last season, per PFF, Hayes held up well on Michigan’s Joe Moore Award winning offensive line while routinely facing the opposition’s top pass rusher. He posted a 66.7 overall grade — a couple points above average — and gave up 27 pressures and three sacks (both team highs) in 427 pass-blocking snaps.
“A former 6-foot-7, run-blocking prep tight end who played at around 250 pounds in high school, Hayes came to Michigan with the plan of building himself into a left tackle from day one,” Baumgardner wrote. “Despite minor injury bumps in 2020, he’s done exactly that. From 271 as a true freshman to 300-plus today, Hayes’ natural size is built to hold mass, and his ability to carry it remains top notch.
“He’s had no problem maintaining the quickness and speed he played with in high school as a TE and his ability to bend and get underneath shorter defenders in the run game helped set the tone for Michigan’s offensive resurgence last season.”
Hayes is still improving, of course, and has a ways to go before becoming a first-round pick. But the leadership is there — he could be a potential captain this fall — and he’s gotten better every season. He’s got the traits to have a big year in 2022, and could make himself some good money in the process.
“Senior offensive linemen Andrew Vastardis and Andrew Stueber were known leaders, but [Michigan head coach] Jim Harbaugh singled out Hayes as a day one leader on last season’s Big Ten title squad,” Baumgardner continued.
“Hayes can get downhill and stick on second-level defenders as an agile, mobile run blocker with plenty of athletic recovery. His play strength is still developing, as has been the case throughout his career, and Hayes must work to maintain consistently strong pad level and proper bend (knees, not waist) in 2022.”
Baumgardner also named Michigan senior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson, senior tight end Erick All and Oluwatimi as other players to watch. He also made mention of junior guard Zak Zinter and senior guard Trevor Keegan, noting it “may be too early for them” but that “they’ll get there.”