Questions Still Surround Taylor Lewan's Top-15 Draft Status Entering the Combine

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Questions Still Surround Taylor Lewan's Top-15 Draft Status Entering the Combine
Tony Ding/Associated Press

Taylor Lewan has gone from 4-star recruit to redshirt freshman starter to All-American to probable top-15 pick to a relative afterthought in the offensive tackle class of 2014. 

It's been quite the wild ride for the eccentric edge-protector, a ride filled with triumph, sprinkled with disappointment and one that's left many not exactly sure when he'll be drafted. 

Lewan was a staple of durability during his collegiate career—he appeared in 50 games for the Michigan Wolverines and made 48 starts, including 41 in a row. 

 

How Does the NFL Feel Now?

Like many "Michigan Men" before him, Lewan decided to return to Ann Arbor for his final year of eligibility with the winningest program in college football history. 

His stock was high after the 2012 campaign in which he was named an Associated Press First-Team All-American. 

This, from Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio from January 10, 2013: 

If Lewan had entered this year’s draft he likely would have been the second offensive tackle off the board, following Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M. With another strong year at Michigan, Lewan could be the first offensive lineman drafted in 2014.

At 6'8'' and 318 pounds with an inherent nasty streak, the offensive line gods couldn't have molded Lewan more exquisitely to play left tackle. 

In November of 2012, respected draft analyst Tony Pauline listed Lewan as the No. 5 overall prospect in a Sports Illustrated column. 

He wrote the following: 

The Wolverines have a history of placing talented left tackles into the NFL, and Lewan is one of the best in recent memory. He is not as dominant as former Wolverine Jake Long, but Lewan is more athletic and much better blocking in motion.

Per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Presson a conference call with the media, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said the following before Lewan announced that he would return to school: 

Lewan, right now, is 13 on the big board. He will be battling, ironically, a kid from the Mid-American Conference, not far away at Central Michigan, in Eric Fisher. So it’s Eric Fisher or Lewan to be the second tackle off the board, behind Joeckel.

As NFL.com's Mike Huguenin pointed out in an early December column, Michigan's offensive woes certainly didn't improve Lewan's stock: 

The season hasn't necessarily gone as Lewan expected. Michigan struggled to a 7-5 regular-season finish, and the offense was the problem -- specifically, an inability to run. 

The Scottsdale, Ariz., native wasn't named as an Outland Trophy finalist—an award given to the best offensive lineman in the country—in 2013, which came as a surprised to some after what was expected of him heading into this final season with the Wolverines. 

It's not that Lewan had a disastrous redshirt senior season, it's just that he didn't continue to develop and become the totally dominant tackle many draftniks and evaluators thought he would be. 

Despite a relatively unexciting year, Lewan remains one of the top offensive tackles in the 2014 class to some of more esteemed draft analysts: 

Taylor Lewan's 2014 NFL Draft Rankings
Ranker / Site OT Rank
Matt Miller / Bleacher Report 3
Walter Cherepinsky / Walter Football 3
Daniel Jeremiah / NFL.com 3
Dane Brugler / CBS Sports 3
Matthew Fairburn / SB Nation 4

Multiple Websites

Auburn's magical run to the BCS title game was highlighted by a few miracle plays, incredibly productive running from Tre Mason and the rapid improvement of left tackle Greg Robinson. 

The ultra-athletic, 6'5'', 320-pound Louisiana native emerged from relative obscurity, and the general consensus seems that either he or Texas A&M stalwart Jake Matthews is the top offensive tackle entering the NFL this upcoming season. 

If it weren't for Robinson's lightning-quick rise up boards, Lewan's stock would have essentially been where it was after the 2012 season. 

 

Off-the-Field Concerns? 

Lewan's known for his outspokenness and fun-loving personality, but his character will come into question after an alleged off-field incident that occurred after the rivalry game against Ohio State. 

According to the Detroit Free Press via SI.com, the fan, Ryan Munsch, said that Lewan punched his friend and then punched him in the face and in the ribs in Ann Arbor.

While in Tempe, Ariz., for Michigan's bowl game against Kansas State, Lewan commented on the matter saying:

I’m not going to get into too many details. I wasn’t in any fight. I didn’t hit anybody. I was really just trying to help out a situation and break up something. I can’t really go into any more details than that.

Lewan wasn't arrested or charged. 

He can expect just about every NFL team to inquire about that incident and the play in which he twisted the facemask of a Michigan State defender that was ultimately reviewed by the Big Ten. 

Neither transgression led to Lewan being suspend by the conference or Michigan program, but organizations will want to make sure the monstrous offensive tackle isn't a hot head.  

 

What Scouts Will Look for at the Combine

Lewan is one of the tallest offensive linemen in the class, and he's proved to be rather athletic for someone of his stature and weight. 

However, Robinson's athleticism is absolutely stunning, especially in the run game. 

While Lewan has the length and foot-speed to eventually materialize into a fine pass-protector, NFL teams will want to see the longtime Wolverine move well in the agility drills, even if he won't be as impressive as Robinson. 

Many times, larger offensive linemen can be pushed off balance by smaller pass-rushers due to their lower center of gravity. Therefore, Lewan could do himself some favors by displaying proper knee bend during the on-field drills.

Because of his long arms, scouts, general managers and coaches won't expect Lewan to be among the top bench-press performers, but after five years in Michigan's weight-lifting program, he needs to finish with a respectable repetition number to remind front-office members of his strength. 

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