Mel Kiper on Taylor Lewan: 'He has that nasty streak you love to see in a left tackle.' (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Former Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan, who returned to college for his final year of eligibility despite being considered a top NFL prospect, could be taken as high as No. 2 and most likely no lower than No. 11 in the upcoming NFL draft.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper said Lewan is in the mix with two other left tackles – Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Greg Robinson of Auburn – to be the highest lineman taken in the May draft.
As it stands now, Kiper ranks Lewan No. 8 on his Big Board. Kiper’s latest draft projections have Robinson going No. 2 overall to St. Louis, Matthews to Buffalo at No. 9, and Lewan going to Tennessee with the 11th pick.
“(There’s) three left tackles battling between now and May 8 to see who’s going to be the first one taken,” Kiper said Thursday morning during an ESPN teleconference. “(Lewan’s) right in that mix. He could be first left tackle taken, second or third. He’s not going to be any deeper down than the third, so I don’t think he gets past Tennessee at 11, and he could go as high as (No.) 2 to St. Louis.
“If he gets down to 11 to Tennessee, he’s a heck of a pick. He’s one of the best. If you had to say where we ranks on the board, he would be in the top 10. He’s a top-10 guy; you could push him up as high as even five if you wanted. He’s an elite prospect. I think he’s going to go pretty high.”
Kiper praised Lewan’s feet, balance and pass protection and described him as “technically sound.”
“(And) has that nasty streak you love to see in a left tackle,” Kiper said. “He’s a heck of a prospect, and I thought that all along. People were questioning Lewan (during the 2013 season). It wasn’t him, it was the interior of the line, so it wasn’t (right tackle Michael) Schofield and Lewan. It was the interior the center and guard spots that were changing by the week and were inexperienced players.”
Schofield distinguished himself during the Senior Bowl last month. Lewan, Schofield and former Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon have been invited to the NFL combine that begins Feb. 19 in Indianapolis, according to a CBSSports.com report.
Kiper said Schofield, who practiced at right guard and right tackle at the Senior Bowl, is a “solid” player.
“Just a guy who does his job and is very consistent and very steady,” Kiper said. “I think third round would be a nice spot for him.”
Gallon, a 5-foot-7 slot receiver, also drew praise for his performance in the East-West Shrine game last month.
“Gallon doesn’t have the size, doesn’t have the tremendous speed,” Kiper said. “All he does is find a way to get open and make big catch after big catch and not drop any balls this year.
“With his hands, his toughness, 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, they’re all guys who went late or undrafted. Gallon is probably a Day 3 guy.”
Former Michigan State linebacker and captain Max Bullough, suspended for the Rose Bowl for undisclosed reasons, arrived at the Senior Bowl at 265 pounds, 20 more than his playing weight at MSU. He did not speak to reporters while there.
Bullough has been considered a third-to-fifth round prospect by Kiper all along.
“He was tough, productive, great bloodlines with the Bullough family,” he said. “Inside linebackers, there are some good ones, some good ones at the top. You could conceivably put him as your third inside linebacker. Workouts will be important for him, interviews will be important, all that. I’d say third to fifth round.”