Lewis talks about packing on the pounds and the possibility of playing slot corner in the NFL.
Mobile, Ala. — Jourdan Lewis can’t do anything about his height. The former Michigan cornerback, measured 5-foot-10 at the Senior Bowl, isn’t about to have an unexpected growth spurt prior to the NFL Draft.
But Lewis did manage to answer concerns about his frame when he stepped on the scale at the event’s weigh-in Tuesday. He impressed talent evaluators, checking in at 188 pounds. Not bad for a guy who came to the Wolverines weighing less than 160.
“It was a relief,” Lewis said. “That was a big thing. I know guys were flabbergasted. They thought I’d be 180.”
Lewis credited the Wolverines’ strength-and-conditioning staff, led by Kevin Tolbert, for helping him bulk up over the years. And more recently, he’s been working with the team’s former trainer, Mike Barwis, to reach the next level.
The weight hasn’t sapped any of Lewis’ speed or quickness, which is key. And he’s open to adding even more, as long as his body allows it.
“There’s no ceiling,” he said. “If I can get up to 190, 190-something, that would be fine. I feel comfortable at this weight.”
Size, whether it was his height or weight, never hindered Lewis at Michigan. He epitomized being a shutdown corner with his blanket coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete fewer than 40 percent of passes thrown his direction in 2015, then improved on that figure this past season.
In those two seasons, he broke up 29 passes and intercepted four.
Still, many expect Lewis to be a nickel cornerback in the NFL, playing inside against slot receivers. That’s where he operated most of the first practice at the Senior Bowl. He played with noticeable physicality, but was beaten one-on-one more than you would expect. He also got blown up by a one-armed block from Pittsburgh offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty.
“It was a little sluggish for me the first day, but I’m going to get acclimated to the environment,” Lewis said.
Lewis prides himself on his versatility. Coach Jim Harbaugh worked the defensive back inside plenty at Michigan and Lewis certainly s comfortable there. He said he feels he can play any position in the defensive backfield, if needed, plus he’ll happily remind you he can return kicks and punt.
And while he’ll tell you he’s open to playing anywhere he’s asked, he can’t keep his desire to prove himself on the outside contained.
“That’s why we’re here right now, to defy that terminology, guys thinking I’m too small to play outside,” Lewis said. “I want to show everybody, I can match up with those big receivers.”
Lewis will get his chances outside and there’s some size in Mobile that will put him to the test, whether it’s former teammate Amara Darboh (6-2) or Louisville’s Jamari Staples (6-3) during the North team practices or Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds (6-3) in Sunday’s game.
When you ask Lewis the toughest receiver he faced in college, it was speed that bothered him more than size. The cornerback highlighted Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, a first-round pick for the Houston Texans last year, as the most difficult coverage draw.
“He’s a big deep threat,” Lewis said. “You’ve got to get your hands on him or he’s gone, he’ll burn you.”
Lewis is projected to go anywhere from the late first round to early third in the April draft. His performance this week, and at the scouting combine next month, can only help his stock.
A Detroit native, Lewis could certainly help the Lions. The team got disappointing production out of second-year nickelback Quandre Diggs last season. He surrendered 34 completions on the 38 passes that were thrown his direction.
The soon-to-be rookie welcomes the idea of staying in state, much like former teammates Graham Glasgow and Jake Rudock did last season after being drafted by the Lions.
“It would for sure be convenient, No. 1, not having to move all my stuff, not having to get accustomed to a new city,” Lewis said. “I would definitely be excited to play for my hometown. That would be a great thing.”
Where local prospects have weighed in at the 2017 Senior Bowl:
Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan: 6-foot-1 3/4, 215 pounds
Ben Gedeon, LB, Michigan: 6-1 5/8, 243 pounds
Kyle Kalis, OL, Michigan: 6-4 1/4, 308 pounds
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan: 5-10, 188 pounds
Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan: 6-5 3/8, 297 pounds
Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan: 6-5 3/8, 330 pounds
Desmond King, CB, Iowa (Detroit East English Village): 5-11, 206 pounds