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Taylor Lewan 2014 NFL Draft preseason scouting report

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One of the nation's top offensive tackle prospects decided to return for his senior season. Was it a mistake?

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Taylor Lewan 6'8, 308 pounds | Offensive tackle | Michigan

Taylor Lewan should have entered the 2013 NFL Draft. Returning to school and getting a degree is admirable. As is sticking with your college teammates for another year. But purely as an NFL Draft prospect, Lewan was ready for the pros. He would have been, at worst, a top 11 pick. As prospects, Luke Joeckel is a better technician and Eric Fisher is a superior athlete. But Lewan would have slotted right behind them and in front of the likes of Lane Johnson and D.J. Fluker.

Returning for his senior year, Lewan risks injury. His draft stock is probably at its ceiling as well, and he could get overtaken by the likes of Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama. There aren't many areas where Lewan needs to improve his play. His biggest deficiency is pressure to the inside. He's NFL ready as a run blocker and has optimum size.

As a junior, Lewan was named to just about every media service's All-American team. He was also named the top blocker in the Big Ten. Lewwan enters his senior season with 35 starts at left tackle to his credit.

What he does well

For a player listed at 6-foot-8, Lewan has nice athleticism and range of movement. He can get out to the edge and upfield on bubble screens and handle defenders in space. On one play against Illinois, Lewan was 10 yards ahead of the line of scrimmage before the pass was even thrown. Lewan's block on a defensive back helped break the play for a big touchdown.

As a left tackle, Lewan has an impressive frame and build. Who knows how he'll actually measure in at the combine, but he is a tall, thick frame with long arms. He's not a slow, plodding big-bellied offensive lineman. Fatigue should never be an issue for Lewan.

Lewan's play in the run game is a major reason why he's so highly regarded. He's a natural knee bender and maintains a good power base. He specializes in driving defenders into the ground and routinely finishes plays off. Lewan seems to knows how to use his size to his advantage. He can engulf defenders at the line of scrimmage and take them completely out of the play with his strength.

What he needs to improve on

One of the things that Lewan has struggled with for his entire college career is picking up blitzes to the inside. Lewan can be slow moving to his right and double moves give him problems. It would be nice to see Lewan develop a better counter to secondary moves to the inside.

While Lewan keeps his hands active, he too often lets defenders inside his pads. This negates his natural strength and defenders can push him around. This was really noticeable on a first quarter play against Notre Dame last season. Prince Shembo, a smaller end for Notre Dame, got under and inside Lewan and pushed him back to get pressure inside.

Beating fast defensive ends to the corner is one area where Lewan has been inconsistent. Ohio State's Adolphus Washington used speed to bend around Lewan and get at the quarterback. When Lewan doesn't win with his first move, he doesn't have the foot quickness to make up for it.

Although you can argue that holding happens on every play, Lewan seems to get away with it a lot. He got caught holding a few times against Jadeveon Clowney and was even seen pulling the All-American's hair. While he's gotten away with it in college, it's something NFL referees might notice more.

Obviously this isn't something he can work on, but it's worth noting that Lewan has had minor nagging injuries throughout his Michigan career. A shoulder injury against Ohio State in 2012 knocked him out of part of the game.

Bottom line

It's no coincidence that Lewan wears No. 77 for Michigan. It's not a number randomly handed out. It's held for top-level left tackles and was previously worn by players like Jake Long and Jon Jansen. Lewan wears it because he has the look of a future top 10 pick in the draft.

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