Many believed had Taylor Lewan entered the 2013 draft, he would have been a first-round pick. He may have even been a top 20 pick.
Lewan decided to return to Michigan for his senior season and he didn't do a lot to improve his draft standing. That's not to say Lewan had a bad season. After all, he was named the top offensive lineman in the Big Ten for the second consecutive season. But Lewan didn't progress enough to stop someone like Auburn's Greg Robinson from overtaking him as the draft's second-best tackle behind Jake Matthews of Texas A&M.
Much of Lewan's game is built around power, tenacity and intimidation. When he's playing with proper technique, Lewan is hard to beat. He's just quick enough to handle outside rushers and when he gets his hands on a defender, he has the advantage. Here's a full breakdown of Lewan's game:
Agility/movement: On the second level, Lewan is inconsistent. On one play, he'll be picture perfect. That was evidenced against Ohio State last season when his block on cornerback Doran Grant sprung wide receiver Jeremy Gallon for an 84-yard reception. On other plays he'll look lost moving in space and miss his blocking target. Michigan rarely used Lewan on pull plays. When he did have to come down the line, he looked tentative moving around the edge. Against Michigan State, Lewan worked a pull and hesitated as he turned the corner. The allowed Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond to get underneath Lewan, pop him in the air and make the tackle. Lewan's issues with movement look to be coachable areas.
His pure agility (which can be seen if you watch his feet), is above-average. He'll never fool anyone into thinking he's Alex Gibbs-style blocker, but he's also not cemented to the ground.
Pass blocking: Against bull rushers, Lewan often has the advantage thanks to his strength. When Lewan properly sets his base and gets his hands on a defenders, he can neutralize them in space. Against four-man fronts, there aren't a lot of defensive ends who will beat Lewan with power. It's against speed rushers where he has issues. Throughout his Michigan career, Lewan could be beaten on inside moves (see the South Carolina game his junior season). That was due in large part to technique and footwork. On blocks to the edge, Lewan has been inconsistent. At times he can kick out and beat speed rushers, but he doesn't do it well enough to say it's a strength. If pure speed rushers can get under him and beat Lewan to the outside, this sort of thing will happen (via Land Grant Holy Land):
Conversely, Lewan's ability to block the edge was on display when he faced off with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was getting Lewan on inside moves, but not speed to the outside. Also, the career hit Clowney had against Michigan wasn't Lewan's fault. He was asked to block to the inside. This was something consistently odd about Michigan's line responsibilities. More so in 2013, Michigan's scheme often called for Lewan to abandon blocking the end at the edge and focus on working to the inside. This would leave a running back alone to handle the end. The results were often disastrous.
Run blocking: If you had to pick whether Lewan is a better pass or run blocker, it's the latter. He's a powerhouse left tackle capable of pushing defenders around. When he stays at the line of scrimmage, Lewan prefers to push defenders into the pile to take them out of the play. When Lewan keeps his pads low, he can get a good initial hit on an opponent to jolt them backward. When he stays on his block, Lewan has shown he will drive his legs until the whistle.
Strength: Lewan's blocking game is built around his power. Because he's not the most athletic player, he makes up for it with his power. He's strong throughout his frame with a good power base and ample strength in his arms and upper body. There were some five techniques who have pushed Lewan around some, but that's more of consequence of footwork and base.
Technique: This is where Lewan needs the most work. Physically, he's obviously gifted. But Lewan's technique needs coaching. He is often bent at the waist when he gets set into his stance. That negates the power advantage Lewan should have against most defenders. This was apparent when Ohio State freshman Joey Bosa went up against Lewan. When Lewan starts to get overpowered, he widens his base too far and gives up an angle. Lewan's hand use is generally proper. He delivers a solid punch and will extend his arms.
The physical attributes are there for Lewan. He's obviously big and powerful. The question NFL evaluators will have about Lewan is about his technique. If he can take well to coaching, he should have an good NFL career. If he continues playing with a poor base or not staying low with his knees bent, his potential won't be reached. Also, whether it's fair or not, part of Lewan's offseason process will be defending or owning up to things like this:
Say whatever cliched thing you want about football being a game for tough guys – and Lewan certainly is one. But he deservedly grew a reputation for dirty plays and getting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The interview process is going to be an arduous one for Lewan. He's going to get asked a lot of questions about more than one off-field allegation.