As part of a Michigan team that finished 8-5 in 2012, then-junior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan had a presumably easy decision to make. In an NFL draft class loaded with top-tier offensive lineman, Lewan was the second-best offensive lineman and 13th overall prospect eligible to declare for April's draft, per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.
On Jan. 9, just eight days after the Wolverines fell to South Carolina in the 2013 Outback Bowl, Lewan announced his decision to stay at Michigan—shocking not only the college football world, but even his own teammates, according to Rothstein.
"There was no doubt in my mind at the end of it I had to return to the University of Michigan,” Lewan said, per Rothstein's report.
Now, after a 7-5 regular season in which Michigan's offensive line was often one of the main reasons for the unit's struggles, Lewan’s draft stock is drawing differing views, according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin. ESPN's Mel Kiper still considers Lewan to be in the "mid-first round area," and NFLDraftScout.com rates him the second-best offensive lineman and 11th-best overall prospect in the draft class of 2014.
It seems, on the surface, that Lewan hasn't done much to help his draft stock by coming back. But apparently, he hasn't hurt it too much either. With a strong performance against Ohio State and one final opportunity to showcase his talents in Michigan's bowl game, Lewan can leave NFL scouts and general managers with a final taste of why he was one among the top offensive lineman in last year’s lineman-heavy draft.
But when it's all said and done, Lewan missed out on anywhere between $2 to $4.5 million this season when considering the salaries of fifth overall pick Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah of the Detroit Lions and 20th overall pick Kyle Long of the Chicago Bears—a selection range Lewan would have almost undoubtedly fell in between.