Analyst says Michigan's Taylor Lewan will be elite NFL prospect in 2013, Denard Robinson won't be a QB
The Michigan football program has had one first-round NFL draft pick since 2008.
But it has the potential to add another in 2013.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Monday that he projects Michigan junior left tackle Taylor Lewan as an elite prospect in next year's NFL draft.
"They've been raving about him for a couple years down there, every time I talk to Michigan," Kiper said of Lewan. "6-foot-7, 305, 310 pounds. You think about what (former Michigan tackle) Jake Long did coming out of that program, could (Lewan) be the next Jake Long?
Michigan currently lists Lewan at 6-foot-8, 302 pounds, one inch taller and 15 pounds lighter than Long -- who was chosen by the Miami Dolphins with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Lewan started all 13 games at left tackle for Michigan in 2011, finishing the year as an All-Big Ten second team performer, as voted by the league's coaches. He appeared in 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2010, making nine starts at left tackle.
At least one website agreed with Kiper on Monday, projecting Lewan as the No. 8 overall selection in the 2013 draft.
The NFL prohibits college football players from entering the draft until they're three years removed from high school.
Technically, Lewan could have entered the draft this spring as a redshirt sophomore, and will definitely have the opportunity to do so next year as a junior.
He may opt to return to school, but if he doesn't, Kiper likes his projection as an NFL bookend tackle.
"You've got to start thinking about Lewan, he has a high grade, he's one one of my five-star guys," Kiper said. "I would definitely keep an eye on him."
Michigan's other hot-button 2013 prospect is expected to be senior quarterback Denard Robinson.
Although, Kiper was very outspoken about the fact that the words "quarterback" and "Denard Robinson" won't be put together again once his Michigan career ends next year.
"In terms of Denard, he's going to have to be that slot receiver, return man," Kiper said. "That's going to be his role, he's not going to be a quarterback, no chance of that.
"He might be a 'wildcat' quarterback, but that's about it. He's going to have to have a position change."
Kiper compared Robinson's draft status to that of former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El, who converted to wide receiver after finishing his college career, allowing him to become a second round choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers and an eventual Pro Bowler.
Kiper said "you could argue" that Randle El was a better college quarterback prospect than Robinson currently is, but made the wise decision to accept his future as a receiver/return man in the NFL.
And, according to Kiper, as long as Robinson is willing to accept the same fate -- he'll have a shot at a productive career at the next level.
"(Randle El) made the transition, he went to the Senior Bowl and said, 'Hey, I'm going to work at wide receiver, I'm going to work in the return game,'" Kiper said. "He did what he needed to do at the Senior Bowl to show he could make the transition, and he was open to making the transition.
"Pat White from West Virginia wasn't open to making the transition. Wanted to be a quarterback, went to Miami in the second round but didn't do anything. He's gone. You have to be open (to the position switch) and hopefully Denard Robinson understands (that)."
In March, Robinson told The Associated Press that he intends on staying at quarterback in the NFL, but added "we'll see what happens."
Former Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway, who was taken in the seventh round by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February that Robinson 'probably' knows he'll have to switch positions at the next level.
Kiper suggests Robinson listen to his former receiver.
"He's not going to be a quarterback," Kiper added. "After he's finished with the maize and blue and his career at the 'Big House' is over, his quarterback days are over.
"He's not going to be throwing any passes at quarterback. ... He's going to have to transition to receiving position and help in the return game, and he can do all that."
Early 2013 draft rankings
CBSsports.com released its early 2013 NFL draft position rankings last week, and several Michigan players make the cut.
And, yes, Robinson is listed at quarterback.
The senior signal caller is rated No. 5 on CBS' list of top quarterbacks for 2013.
Other Michigan players mentioned are: wide receiver Roy Roundtree (No. 10), inside linebacker Kenny Demens (No. 8), defensive end Craig Roh (No. 11) and strong safety Jordan Kovacs (No. 16).
CBS did not include underclassmen in its early projections, meaning Lewan and junior running back Fitz Toussaint were left off the list.
Want to stay connected to Wolverine basketball in your Facebook newsfeed? “Like” AnnArbor.com's Michigan Basketball News & Views.