Despite a lackluster 3-9 season, Stanford football saw five players selected in the 2023 NFL Draft last weekend. Two more signed to teams as undrafted free agents (UDFAs) after the draft was over, meaning that they will also be offered contracts and spots on teams’ 90-man offseason rosters going into training camp.
Wide receiver Michael Wilson was the first to be drafted; the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the No. 93 overall pick in the third round.
Next up was senior cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly, who was selected in the fifth round with the Baltimore Ravens’ 157th overall pick. Kelly is a two-time All-Pac-12 Second-Team selection who started all four years at Stanford. He led the conference with 13 pass breakups in 2021. The Ravens have a strong history of converting late-round cornerbacks into strong starters (see Tavon Young, Lardarius Webb and others in recent years) — Kelly will hope to follow in that tradition.
Two starters from the Cardinal offense were selected in the sixth round. Though projected by many analysts to be taken as early as day two of the draft, junior quarterback Tanner McKee was selected No. 188 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. McKee racked up 5,336 passing yards and 28 touchdown passes in his two seasons as Stanford’s starting signal caller after being heralded as a five-star recruit coming out of high school.
Meanwhile, senior wide receiver Elijah Higgins was picked nine slots later at No. 197 by the Miami Dolphins.
“I think this is a great pick for [Miami head coach] Mike McDaniel,” said NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein on air shortly after the selection. “This is a pick selection for the offense that they run. And I think Elijah Higgins — he’s going to do the most with it.”
Stanford’s last player drafted was fifth-year safety Kendall Williamson, chosen with the penultimate pick of the draft at No. 258 in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears. “This is the type of player, that if you’re [Chicago general manager] Ryan Poles, you’re like ‘I’m going to secure him because he has traits that other teams might covet,’” said NFL analytics expert Cynthia Frelund. Williamson joins a thin safety rotation in Chicago; he is already listed on the Bears’ second-team rotation on ESPN.com.
Though they did not hear their names called on draft night, fifth-year wide receiver Brycen Tremayne and fifth-year defensive back Ethan Bonner were signed as UDFAs shortly after the last pick of the draft on Saturday.
Tremayne finished his Stanford career with 1017 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, earning an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in his senior season. He joins the Washington Commanders on a deal that includes $100,000 in guarantees, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. Bonner signed with the Miami Dolphins on a deal boasting $80,000 in guarantees (per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald) after recording 28 tackles and five pass deflections in his senior season. Bonner boosted his draft stock last month with an impressive performance at Stanford’s pro day. The Texan’s blazing 4.39-second 40-yard dash was the best among all participants.
With the 2023 draft and early UDFA signing period in the books, Stanford now boasts 31 players on active NFL rosters — a mark good enough for third-best in the Pac-12 after UCLA’s 38 and Washington’s 37.