Taylor Lewan, LT, Michigan (HT: 6'7⅛"; WT: 309 lbs)
First Round: 11th Pick
NFL Comparison: Nate Solder, LT, New England Patriots
+ Has prototypical size for an NFL left tackle and very long arms.
+ Displays above-average footwork.
+ Had an absolutely dominating performance at the 2014 combine.
+ Tenacious and tough prospect who genuinely seems to play angry.
- Shifts his weight to the back of his feet in pass protection and sacrifices balance.
- Can struggle with overextension on the edge.
- Can struggle to engage defenders at the second level with good leverage.
- Intensity and motor can wane through games.
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Despite being accused of some truly concerning off-field issues, per Kyle Feldscher of MLive.com, Lewan appears to be a smart player on the field. He has good awareness of where pressure is coming from the defense, and the natural athleticism that resides in his feet allows him to keep his body in generally good position to counter.
He is an offensive line prospect who is over 6'7" and clearly a giant at 300-plus pounds. He also ran the fastest 40-yard dash among offensive linemen at the combine. It's very hard for an evaluator to point out flaws in Lewan's "feet," given the quantitative evidence stacked in his favor. However, he has issues with overextension and balance due to his height, which can be proliferated by occasionally lazy footwork.
In this .gif, we see terrific recognition, understanding and follow-through from Lewan (LT No. 77) as he recognizes stunt from the defense, keeps his outer half free and pumps his feet well through engagement. He stays athletically balanced. The strength in his initial punch can be seen in how the defender's body receives his first blow. Through engagement, when focusing on the feet, evaluators will see Lewan resetting his kicks and gliding with natural urgency.
On this play, where the defender executes a successful inside-conversion move on Lewan, it's easy to see how he can be beaten when he isn't focused. When the defender comes under his body, Lewan shows a troubling habit that pops up through games. He quits pumping his feet and gets his center of balance overextended forward. This allows virtually any pass-rusher worth his salt to get free in some form or fashion toward the quarterback.
Motor, Explosiveness, Toughness and Power
Lewan was one of the lone bright spots on a Michigan offensive line in 2013 that, at times, played a disastrous brand of football. Clearly, the athletes in Michigan's trenches were frequently frustrated. In evaluating Lewan, "toughness" should be the furthest consideration from any evaluator's mind. He hung in through games and competed as the line's best weapon and was even seen, as above, playing with blood dripping down his face.
He displays great motor through the majority of games and is known to "play through the whistle." The .gif provided here shows that he is a prospect whom defenders don't look forward to facing, as he plays like a total meathead.
On film, he can be seen consistently harassing opponents not only with his often-dominating skills but also after the play is over. One concern evaluators have about Lewan is whether he could have issues with his temper that will lead to more penalties at the NFL level. Many will also question why his motor seems to peter out a bit through games.
Lewan has a great, explosive first step upfield in the run game and is hard to get off once he has latched onto his target. For all his great physical attributes, he has small hands. While it can sometimes look like holding, he shows that he has great hand strength despite their size, and he will often toss defenders like a big bully.
Quickness, Agility and Balance
Lewan checked all the "quickness and agility" boxes for evaluators with his dominating performance at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. To review, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any lineman in attendance. He had the best 10-yard split as well. He also finished fourth in the three-cone drill and ninth overall in his short shuttle.
In evaluating Lewan, balance is the key issue. As seen in the "feet" breakdown above, he can get overextended both forward and backward and become top-heavy in either direction, allowing defenders to more easily convert rush moves off the edge. This relatively minor flaw in his game is notable but in fairness fixable with NFL coaching and development.
Run Blocking and Pass Blocking
The Jadeveon Clowney versus Taylor Lewan game posted above was one of the most heavily analyzed by NFL evaluators through the 2014 draft process. In the game, Lewan put on tape some nice moments and also some not-so-nice ones.
What he is supposed to do here is down-block Clowney. This is a power concept. When Clowney crosses Lewan's face, Lewan knows to block down instead of kick out. The puller is coming from the back side of the play at the left guard position and will provide the kick-out block. What should be an easy block for Lewan turns out to be a horrible play-buster versus an impressive show of interior line disruption from Clowney. The guard can't even make it through the traffic that is caused.
In pass protection, Lewan performed well overall. In this play, you'll notice that Lewan has a nice kick slide that some may not have given him enough credit for on evaluation. He sets to good depth and uses his hips well to always be mirrored appropriately.
Lewan has put enough on tape to merit consideration as a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, given the substantial relative drop-off in talent at his position that will come the minute his name is called. At a marquee position, Lewan brings a mean, tough and physical presence with upside to be a decade-long pillar of an NFL offensive line.
Alex Dunlap is an NFL Featured Columnist. All quotes and information gained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Alex Dunlap on Twitter - @AlexDunlapNFL
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