Mel Kiper: Taylor Lewan could rise as high as No. 6 in NFL Draft, Denard Robinson possible 2nd-rounder
Taylor Lewan's NFL stock continues to hold strong.
And it could get a little better.
The junior Michigan left tackle has been tabbed by most prognosticators as a potential top-15 pick in April's draft. NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters that Lewan has boosted his position with improved play this year.
Kiper pegs Lewan as the No. 2 offensive tackle, trailing only Texas A&M’s Luke Joecke, and the No. 8 prospect overall -- although he could rise as high as No. 6 if he forgoes his final season at Michigan.
"He's played better and better as the season's went on," Kiper said. "The left tackle spot is critical in the NFL and what they're doing in this league, throwing the ball so much.
"He’s got a chance to be another outstanding Michigan offensive tackle. They’ve got a great history of providing the NFL with great offensive linemen, going back to Dan Dierdorf and Jumbo Elliott, obviously, up through Jake Long and a lot in between. So, he’s the next, and he will have a chance to be maybe an early first-round pick.”
Long was the most recent Michigan offensive lineman to be selected in the first round, going No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins in 2008. The only other first-rounder since was defensive lineman Brandon Graham in 2010.
Lewan has said he hears the NFL talk, but has tuned it out as he completes his junior season. He did not give an indication of whether he was considering leaving school early.
Michigan's other top draft prospect is quarterback Denard Robinson, although Kiper, like most analysts, maintains Robinson would be best served moving to another position such as slot receiver and return man.
Kiper gave two examples of mobile quarterbacks to illuminate his point: West Virginia's Pat White insisted on playing quarterback, but floundered at the position.
Indiania's Antwaan Randle El made the move to receiver, and had a successful nine-year career. He was named to one Pro Bowl and won one Super Bowl.
Kiper said Robinson should follow Randle El's path -- which means Robinson will have work to do in the offseason proving he can catch balls.
“What made him a second-round pick, Randle El, was the Senior Bowl week -- that’s when he proved he could catch the ball,” Kiper said. “Pat White out of West Virginia, (I) thought he should have been a slot receiver. He wanted to be a quarterback, went in the second round as a Wildcat quarterback and now he has no future in the league. I thought he would have been better served playing another position.
"You think about Robinson with his speed, can he catch it? And that’s what he’s going to have to show, whether it’s his pro day, whether it’s at the combine, whether it’s at the Senior Bowl week.
“He could maybe, possibly be like Antwaan Randle El, be a second-round pick, but it’s still a big question mark until he shows he can catch the football. We know he’s fast, we know he’s athletic, we know he’s tough and all that, but can he catch the football? I really can’t say for sure where he’d go until we know that. But he’s not going to be a quarterback.”
You can check out the full audio from the teleconference here. The Michigan segment begins at about the 12-minute mark.