BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
It was a surprise for many that Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan returned to Michigan for his senior season. Lewan seemed destined to be a top-5 pick in 2013, especially after three offensive tackles went in the top five picks of this year’s draft. Listed at 6’8″ and 308 pounds, Lewan has the ideal frame NFL teams are looking for in an offensive tackle.
Lewan is experienced: he has started 35 games in the first three years of his Michigan career against good competition in the Big Ten. Lewan was second team All-Big Ten as a sophomore in 2011, but the accolades really began to pile up this past season. Lewan was named a Walter Camp All-American and Associated Press All-American. He was honored as the Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year and selected as a first team All-Big Ten player by Big Ten coaches.
Why You Should Watch Lewan
The strength of Lewan’s game is his ability to get movement in the run game. He is a powerful player, and can naturally drive block. He is a true mauler as a run blocker and finishes blocks very effectively. Lewan looks to dominate his opponent on every down.
He is exceptionally good at getting to the second level and sealing off linebackers. Several times per game, you can also find Lewan pulling to the boundary and blocking defensive backs. His natural athleticism allows him to break down in space and block smaller, quicker players.
Lewan is a very solid pass blocker as well. He has a very good kick-step and anchors well. He has a strong ability to re-anchor and defend counter moves from pass rushers. He uses his long arms to his advantage and can be trusted to protect the quarterback’s blind side. Michigan left him alone without double-team help in 2012, and Lewan held his own all season.
In making 35 consecutive starts, Lewan has proven to be very durable in his first three seasons with the Wolverines.
Lewan seems to really understand the mental part of the game. He does a great job picking up blitzes, understanding protections and determining where the pressure on the defense will come from.
What He Needs To Prove In 2013
Lewan’s feet are good but not great, and can be slow at times. That makes it difficult for him to redirect.
He has a very wide base in his pass set, and that gets him in trouble at times. This was really exposed in the Outback Bowl, when he faced South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney beat Lewan several times on inside moves which took advantage of Lewan’s wide-based stance.
Lewan needs to shorten his base and use quicker, choppier steps to be able to handle NFL pass-rushers’ inside moves. At the college level, he can overcome this with his outstanding strength, but his foot speed will need to be quicker in the NFL.
His hand placement needs to improve as well. He does not consistently win hand placement battles, particularly when pass blocking. Clowney also exposed this aspect of his game last season. On most downs, Clowney had better hand placement than Lewan, which allowed him to get into Lewan’s pads and drive him back. He will struggle at times against players who are great hand fighters and play with great technique.
Projecting Lewan’s Draft Stock
Lewan should have more than 45 starts in his career as a Wolverine when his senior season comes to an end. He is versatile enough to fit in any scheme, whether it is power or zone.
Lewan is exceptional as a run blocker, and solid as a pass blocker. He has tremendous ability to make blocks at the second level. He is a plug-and-play tackle who someone will draft and fill a position for the next 10 years.
Lewan has all the size and athletic ability a scout wants in an offensive tackle prospect, and firmly belongs among the top 10 picks. He has all the makings of a great NFL tackle.