Nov 3, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Michigan Wolverines offensive linesman Taylor Lewan (77) makes a block in the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan’s left tackle Taylor Lewan has been an institution on the blind side in Ann Arbor since he played 10 games as a redshirt freshman. Even as a freshman, Lewan was noticed as a potential franchise tackle for the NFL with how talented he was right out of the gate. Outside of a couple small injuries, he has owned that position for most of the past four years. He has a ton of experience against big time competition and held his own against some of the best in the business as the best player on the Wolverines for the past few years.
Lewan has all the height and length to be a great tackle in the NFL but does not have ideal ballast. He does a great job of bending and getting behind his pads to create space in the running game but has the ability to protect the edge in the passing game. Lewan will occasionally have lapses in judgment with angles and what is required to make a block as well as occasionally trying to take the easy way out in some blocks which can get him in trouble. Nevertheless, Lewan grades out as a first round pick and the likelihood is that he could end up being selected in the top 25 picks.
Vitals & Build
Lewan is listed at 6’8” 315lbs and shows some impressive flexibility. He has a ton of length and can reach out to make blocks, but he understands how to get leverage and make the most of his power. His feet are good but not great and they tend to be as good as he needs them to be in a given situation. Lewan has solid strength but extremely good functional power and can create space. The one issue that hurts Lewan physically is his ballast as he is just not an overly wide body and that can cause him some trouble with his balance and getting good blocks. Lewan appears to have the ability to just keep adding strength and the question will be how much he can add before it hurts his athleticism. Especially in his upper body, there appears to be a good amount of room to add to his frame.
Lewan’s athleticism is somewhat misleading as he tends to be a good athlete but he does not always show it. His feet are good but not great when it comes to his lateral movement. His footwork can be too mechanical and is quite deliberate. It seems to be as fast as he needs it to be which can be risky. On the other hand, Lewan does a great job going forward and getting to the second level, being able to get in position to make blocks and do it under control.
Run blocking is where Lewan really stands out, because he does such a good job of getting low, getting behind his pads and having a strong base. He is extremely aggressive and seems to really enjoy run blocking, so he brings an attitude. There are times when he will quit on a play early when he is behind it, but when he is engaged and has an opportunity, he will look to dominate and finish people. There was one particular example against Michigan State where this aggressiveness and competitiveness went too far and his coach and Lewan himself admitted it was too much and just a dirty play.
Lewan does a good job firing off of the ball and attacking forward. He gets a good punch, can get low and drive forward on opponents, showing a good punch. Once he locks on, he can drive the opponent down the field and create a ton of space.
Lewan’s ballast can become an issue when he takes less than ideal angles to get to his blocks and as a result, opponents can fall off of blocks. This lack of a broad build can work to negate some of his arm length. This does not mean that Lewan’s long arms are short enough to become a problem but as he is forced to reach his arms outside on some opponents, it just makes it so his arms are not as overwhelming in their length.
Lewan can pull and get out of front of plays, but he is not overly comfortable in this area. He will do it and can do it but it is not necessarily a smooth transition and exposes his height to the opponent, which can give them an opportunity to get under his pads and drive him back. Lewan does a good job when it comes to reach blocks and being able to get his hands on the opponent and controlling them when he takes a good angle.
The one area that will hurt Lewan is occasionally he will overextend on an opponent and some of the stronger, savvier opponents have used a push pull move to get him off balance and have him getting too far forward.
He has experience at both tackle spots and can be a terrific run blocker in both areas. Lewan looks ready to contribute immediately in that aspect of the game and should only get better with added strength, but the key is just consistency with him. When he is engaged, motivated and using the proper technique, he is dominant as a run blocker.
Lewan has more questions as a pass blocker than run blockers but he has the tools to be an extremely successful pass blocker. His feet are good enough to do the job when adding in his overall length and his ability to reach and extend to make blocks. \Lewan’s footwork seems to respond to the level of competition and while some of this is just a matter of the opponent he is facing and how fast they can move, there are definitely situations where Lewan tries to take the easy way out with his footwork and just win from a bad position.
These situations make themselves obvious with Denard Robinson in at quarterback for the Wolverines. There are numerous examples where Lewan will take slide out with an inside position to just run the opponent past the play or what Lewan thinks is the play while maintaining the pocket. Lewan certainly could have worked harder to stay with the opponent, keep working to the outside and take them out of the play, something he has demonstrated more than enough times to make it clear it is something he can do. In some of these situations when Lewan appears to take the easy way out, it becomes obvious as Robinson breaks the pocket and works to the left side of the field and the player Lewan shielded off from the pocket is now unblocked and able to make a play on the quarterback. Some of the time, Robinson is getting himself sacked but Lewan is also trying to take the path of least resistance and hoping that it is enough.
Lewan does a tremendous job with taking on power and has a great base to absorb, combat and ultimately deflect power moves. There are a choice few rare examples when Lewan gets caught under his pads and is beaten with power. Overall, power is mostly a waste of time and effort with Lewan and he not only just takes it on and wins, but will lock on and drive the opponent out of the play with the intent to dominate.
Lewan has more trouble with speed and it is not that he cannot win against it as he clearly can, but it comes down to how much effort Lewan thinks he needs to give to stop it as opposed to how much he actually needs to give. When he is motivated and engaged, he can really get outside and combat the opponent, shows good mirroring skills and can use his length to win. The times he misjudges how much speed he needs, he can get beaten to the outside and is then forced to overextend and reach to combat the play rather than just using good technique to win as he knows he can. In these situations, he is vulnerable to being beaten with better leverage and opponents being able to use speed and get low against him.
Ballast becomes a small issue with Lewan in pass protection too as he can end up having opponents slip blocks and get past him. He is at far more of a premium when it comes to establishing hand position as when his arms are fully extended, he can end up too far inside on the opponent’s body and give them an angle to get around him. The times he shows good hand placement, he does not merely deflect the opponent but erases them and looks to drive them into the ground.
Lewan has a good sense of adjusting to various line stunts and blitz packages. His experience pays off as there is just not much Lewan has not seen in his career at Michigan. He does not panic often and reacts quickly to what is coming at him with the ability to shut it down.
There are always going to be questions with Lewan’s feet and if they are enough to seal the edge against the speediest of rushers, but so far, he has shown he can compete against whoever is up against him and his success is based entirely on how focused he remains during the game. The tools are all there for him and it all comes down to how much effort Lewan is willing to give on every single play and how focused he remains throughout the game.
Lewan shows he can use good technique, but will run into issues with getting his hands too far inside the opponent and giving them a way to slip around him at times. He demonstrates a pretty good punch and can get opponents off balance and drive them off of the ball, but when he does not keep his hands working to establish good position, he opens himself up to being beaten.
Occasionally, because of his length and trying to get leverage on opponents, he can end up overextended. He does a good job avoiding this for the most part, but every so often he ends up on the ground as a result.
Lewan’s footwork is never going to be elite, but he is good enough in pass protection and does a great job as a run blocker. Laterally, he has more trouble than he does going forward and while his footwork can be a little too deliberate and look heavy footed, he seems able to adjust to counter moves and protect the edge. His length helps make up for a lack of elite footwork laterally so he can function as a tackle in the NFL.
As a run blocker, Lewan gets up the field quickly. He can get a great first step and drive the opponent off of the ball or get to the second level to make blocks. Lewan really excels at getting position and landing blocks at the second level. He maintains his control, does not look off balance and realizes he does not need to try to throw his entire body into an opposing linebacker or defensive back to make a good block. His feet in pass pro will a matter for debate all the way up until draft day but as a run blocker, he is impressive.
Lewan appears best suited for a power scheme. He really excels as a run blocker, really seems to take pride in it and plays with a mean streak those types of teams will love. He is athletic enough to protect the edge as a pass blocker, but most power schemes tend to want to force opponents outside and around as opposed to being exceptionally athletic and being able to mirror at a tremendous level. Lewan’s length and power allow him to reach out and make blocks on the edge.
Lewan can play in other schemes and be successful, but he may be looked at as more of a right tackle in those circumstances. He could certainly play left tackle if needed but there may be teams that look at Lewan with a talented left tackle in place and want to take advantage of his ability to protect the pass while having the power to be an anchor in the running game. There might be a few teams that take him as a right tackle initially and then move him over to the left side as well.
Lewan’s game is similar to that of Nate Solder of the New England Patriots. Both players came into the NFL out of Colorado with tremendous physical gifts including length but with questions with consistency. Lewan is a little more powerful than Solder while Solder was a little lighter on his feet in protection. Nevertheless, both players will come into the draft process with questions about how much they can be relied upon as a left tackle. So far, the Patriots are happy with what Solder is giving them as he just gets better and better and Lewan could have similar success when he is drafted.
Taylor Lewan has an incredible amount of experience as he enters the NFL Draft process. He is rarely surprised, has great length for the position and adequate feet to be a tackle in the NFL. Despite his height, Lewan does a great job of getting in position to have leverage and make the most of his power along with a mean streak that will have him attempting to dominate opponents and be a great asset in run blocking. Lewan grades out as a first rounder with everything he can do and the potential he still has as someone who can contribute immediately. It would not be a surprise if Lewan was eventually taken in the top 10 due to the need at the position but he is more likely to be selected in the top 25 overall.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com