Mel Kiper: U-M’s Taylor Lewan could be No. 2 pick in NFL Draft

ANN ARBOR — A year ago, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan was projected to get picked in the mid-teens if he had left early for the NFL draft.

But while he had to endure a rough 2013 season for the team, with the offensive line being savaged as the Wolverines went 7-6, he might not have lost anything personally.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who said in January 2013 that Lewan made a “bad call” returning, was complimentary of Lewan in a conference call Thursday.

Kiper said Lewan should be close to a top-10 pick and might be drafted as high at No. 2, by the St. Louis Rams.

“If he gets down 11 to Tennessee, he’s a heck of a pick,” Kiper said. “He could go two to St. Louis. He could go somewhere in that top grouping. Buffalo at nine is another team that is looking offensive tackle. So right now, if you had to say where he ranks on the board, he would be in the top 10. I have him at eight right now on the ‘big board.’ So he’s a top-10 guy … you can push him up to even five, if you want.”

Part of Lewan’s appeal is that offensive tackle is always a position of need in the NFL. With the NFL combine in two weeks, it’s about three elite tackles jockeying for draft position.

“He’s an elite prospect, and I think he’s going to go pretty high,” Kiper said. “I have him at 11 because you have Greg Robinson at Auburn and Jake Matthews (from Texas A&M) and you’ve got Lewan, three left tackles battling between now and May 8 to see who’s going to be the first one taken. He’s right in that mix. He could be the first left tackle or taken second or third. He’s not going to be any deeper down than the third.”

Kiper said, right now, the order he’s getting is Robinson then Lewan then Matthews, though Matthews could jump Lewan because he can play on both sides of the line. He said all three of these tackles will have higher grades than last year’s top three tackles, which included No. 1 overall Eric Fisher from Central Michigan.

The U-M offensive line took a lot of abuse for the Wolverines’ offensive inconsistency last season, but Lewan was still evaluated at a high level. He was named the Big Ten’s offensive lineman of the year for the second straight season and a second-team All-American by most analysts.

“I think he’s a heck of a prospect,” Kiper said. “I’ve thought that all along. (When) people were questioning Lewan, I didn’t understand during the year. It wasn’t him, it was the interior of the line. It wasn’t (right tackleMichael) Schofield and Lewan, it was the interior, the center and the guard spots, changing by the week with inexperienced players. Taylor Lewan has outstanding feet, balance in pass protection, technically sound, has that nasty streak you love to see in a left tackle. Michigan’s obviously produced a lot of players for that position over the years in the NFL.”

Other U-M players: Kiper is high on Schofield and receiver Jeremy Gallon after their performances in last month’s all-star games.

“Schofield at right tackle: solid, just a guy who does his job, very consistent, very steady. I think third round would be a viable spot for him,” Kiper said.

“Gallon doesn’t have the size, doesn’t have the tremendous speed, all he does is find a way to get open and find a way to make big catch after big catch and not drop any balls this year. With his hands, he’s a gamer. You have spots for these guys in the NFL. You see all these guys who are doing a great job in that slot situation are guys who went late or undrafted. Gallon’s probably a day three guy.”

Max Bullough: Kiper also was asked about Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough, who was being suspended for the Rose Bowl for a violation of team rules.

“He was a tough, productive, great bloodlines with the Bullough family,” Kiper said. “I thought he was a third- to fifth-rounder all along, and where he’s rated right now with the inside ’backers, there’s some good ones. There’s some pretty good ones at the top, with inside linebacker with C.J. Mosley and Chris Borland. After that, you could conceivably put him as your third inside linebacker. I have him five; you could put him at three. Workouts will be important for him, interviews will be important, all that.”


Posted by Tribune News Services

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