Michigan Football: Why Ex-Wolverines RT Michael Schofield Was One of the Biggest Surprises of the 2014 NFL Draft

Gregory Shamus

Michael Schofield showed spurts of Sunday-worthiness during his career with Michigan. However, not many saw the right tackle going in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft (No. 95 overall to the Denver Broncos).

Entering draft weekend, there wasn't much doubt surrounding Michael Schofield's ability to play football on Sunday. However, his placement within the 2014 NFL Draft was definitely in question.

On the high end, CBS projected the 6'7," 307-pound former Michigan right tackle as a third- or fourth-rounder. That was the extreme high end. According to most of the mocks that I read, he was tabbed as a late, late-rounder.

As a matter of fact, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pegged Schofield as a man destined for the seventh, ripe for the Detroit Lions at No. 227. But instead, he was taken off the market on Friday, picked up in the third--and No. 95 overall--by the Denver Broncos.

Back in April, Fox Sports' Joe Klatt cited the Broncos' need for assistance on the O-line--but that need was for guard, not right tackle. So, because things tend to happen this way, don't be flabbergasted when (and if) Schofield gets converted and takes a step to his left.

Can Schofield Crack the Rotation?

By picking Schofield, Denver adds the obvious: Depth and youth on the right side. In 2013, Orlando Franklin started 15 games at right tackle, which is Schofield's natural position. But according to NFL.com's Marc Sessler, Franklin, a four-year vet, is set to move to right guard this fall. That could create an opening for Schofield, who would also have to pass Winston Justice, a seven-year vet, and Paul Cornick, who's fresh off his rookie season.

Zzzzz...

So, now that there's a clear path to playing time, one must ask a question about Schofield: How did this happen?! He has a realistic shot of seeing the field--and often--in 2014. But he was supposed to be a late-rounder, and late-rounders sit on the bench after taking beatings during weekly practices.

The Broncos saw enough "something" to gamble on him so early. Maybe "gamble" isn't the right way to say it. How's "take a small chance" sound?

The selection of Schofield, not to mention Taylor Lewan, is a testament to Darrell Funk (yes it is). Regardless of his line's struggles on Saturday, he's managed to thrust a couple of guys into the draft. And they stuck. Lewan was taken No. 11 overall by the Tennessee Titans--no shock there, we all expected him to go early.

But Schofield?! On Friday?!

Honestly, I viewed him as a fourth-rounder at best. That was the ultimate ceiling. Wrong. I was wrong. In cases such as Schofield's, I don't mind being incorrect. Underdogs, "slept-ons" and "looked-pasts" are my cup of tea. I love a good "against all odds" kind of story.

For the record, per Walter Football, James Hurst was the No. 16-rated OT of 2014. Schofield was No. 20. Antonio Richardson of Tennessee was ranked higher than Schofield. So was Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff of Canada's McGill University. He was drafted in the sixth by Kansas City.

According to NFL.com, they were among the best available--overall, not by position--after Schofield was picked.

Schofield's coming from a line that saw its quarterback get pummeled at least 34 times--those were the sacks--in 2013. He's coming from a line that hasn't had a running back go for more than 1,000 since Fitz Toussaint did it in 2011.

And he's coming from a team that's vastly underachieved for the better part of 10 years. The recent slides under RichRod and Brady Hoke only emphasize the recent mishaps. Lewan was a different breed. We knew that the All-American was something special and that he'd play Sundays.

As for Schofield, well, he was second fiddle to one of the program's greats--no shame in that at all. But the keyword is "was." Today, he "is" a surprise of the draft, and for good reason.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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