ESPN: Taylor Lewan is No. 12 pro prospect, No. 2 tackle in next year's draft class
The Michigan football team has had only one player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in the past four years, its worst rut since 1987-90.
It's possible that drought could end next year -- although that's probably bad news for the Wolverines, since it would require their star left tackle, Taylor Lewan, to leave school a year early.
But it could happen, according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.
Will get the Jake Long comparisons all year in Ann Arbor. Elite length and athleticism for the position, profiles as a left tackle. Long arms, able to move with and swat away speed rushers. Underrated power as a run-blocker given his frame.
At 6-foot-8, 302 pounds, Lewan fits the profile for a prototypical NFL left tackle. He's also an inch taller and only 15 pounds lighter than Long, who went No. 1 overall in 2008 to the Miami Dolphins and has become a four-time pro bowler.
It's premature to say Lewan will become that kind of player, but the comparisons are apt.
Entering his junior season, he already has started 22 games at left tackle and played in 24. He was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches last year, and honorable mention by the media.
If he makes the next step next year -- for him, that means becoming more disciplined -- comparisons to Long will follow him into the offseason as he weighs his pro options.
For what it's worth, Long could have left after his junior season, but elected to return for his senior season. He parlayed that choice into a No. 1 selection, only the second time that's happened in school history.
"They've been raving about (Lewan) for a couple years down there, every time I talk to Michigan," Kiper said recently. "You think about what Jake Long did coming out of that program, could (Lewan) be the next Jake Long? Maybe."
Kiper ranks Lewan as the Big Ten's second-best player, trailing only Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
He's the No. 2 tackle, trailing Alabama's D.J. Fluker, who Michigan will see in its Sept. 1 season opener.
Also of note, Kiper ranked the top five players at each position for next year's draft, and slotted Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson fifth -- at wide receiver.
Robinson has maintained publicly he wishes to play quarterback in the NFL, although former Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway recently acknowledged he believes Robinson knows he'll have to make a position change to make it at the next level.