Last week, I wrote an article on UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and how he would fit with the Dallas Cowboys if he should happen to fall into their laps. This week, we are going to look at a tackle who should go in the top 10 just based off ability, but might fall due to an outstanding draft class and a few off the field issues. And let me be clear about something before I go on talking about addressing the offensive line early in the draft. I know the Cowboys have bigger needs on their roster and almost all of them come on the defensive side of the ball. But the Cowboys aren’t good enough as a team to be passing on better players because they believe that they need to fill a need on defense. If the best player on the board is a tackle, take him. Too often this team gets in trouble when they feel like they are only one or two pieces away (See: Morris Claiborne). There is no position on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster that can’t be improved upon. They need to draft the best player available.
Having said that, let’s take a look at Michigan’s All-American tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been the “Big Ten Conference Offensive Lineman Of The Year” for the past two seasons, along with being an All-American in both years. But Lewan was arrested in March of 2013 for an assault charge and that may have damaged his draft stock some. Because I don’t know the facts of the situation and have no inside information on Lewan, I will not discuss his off the field issues. All I can speak about is what I see on the field. With that being said, let’s take a look at how Lewan physically measures up to the other elite offensive line prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft:
(Click To Enlarge)
Let me first start off by saying that I love Greg Robinson and as of the release of this article, he is my number one graded player in this entire draft. So put him aside during these next few sentences. If you compare Lewan to J. Matthews and Z. Martin, he is clearly the most athletic lineman of the three. He is longer than both and he dominates both of them in the 3 cone drill and 20 yard shuttle (not listed). And that athleticism and length translates to what I saw on the field. I saw a player who plays with good balance, possess a kick step that covers a ton of ground, and uses his length well. So let’s look at Taylor Lewan on the field, shall we?
When I watched Taylor Lewan against Notre Dame in 2013, I was shocked to see how the pass rushers wanted no part of him by the end of the game. To me, it looked like they were already mentally beaten because they knew in order to beat Lewan, you had to beat him off the edge. And that just isn’t going to happen often because of his quickness and length. Let me show you an example: (Lewan is the LT #77)
It’s actually laughable when you see just how scared some of these guys looked, In this particular game, it was a losing battle if you were asked to go up against Taylor Lewan.
But Lewan isn’t a perfect prospect by any means. I wasn’t blown away with him in the running game. From the few games I watched in preparation for this article (ND-2013, MSU-2013, OSU-2013) he wasn’t the elite road-grader that Greg Robinson is or even what Tyron Smith was coming out of USC. Often, I felt like he was just trying to get in the way of the defender instead of putting him on the ground. He won’t maul defensive ends, but what I did notice is that he does an excellent job of getting to the second level and blocking linebackers. He has a good feel at how to get to the linebackers and not over-extend when he’s in position.
The other that thing I like about Lewan is that he is one nasty player And I think the Cowboys could use some of that on their offensive line. When Marc Columbo left the Cowboys in 2010, he was a shell of his former self, but he had an angry disposition about him that I loved. And maybe that’s who Lewan reminds me of. A pre-injury Marc Colombo who will thrive as a right tackle in the NFL due to his length, athleticism and toughness. Take a look at some of his “nastiness” from the Michigan State game.
Some may call it playing dirty, but I call it playing with attitude. I want my tackle to be a guy that is a bully (on the football field of course). But I believe his aggressiveness is somewhat calculated. I think he got into the heads of the Spartan defenders. Again, like in the Notre Dame game, the defensive ends were putting no effort into getting to the quarterback by the end of the game. The ends either took such wide rushes that there was no chance at them ever getting to the quarterback, or they didn’t engage with Lewan at all. He completely dominated his opponents. They knew that Lewan was better. And he proved it.
After watching Taylor Lewan and really scouting him in depth, I believe he is a better player right now than Lane Johnson who went fourth overall last year to the Eagles and I have a similar grade on Lewan as I did Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel from last year. I don’t believe it is likely Lewan falls to number 16 because of the need for tackles around the league, but it is always good to be prepared. If he does happen to get past 14 teams, (St. Louis owns the #2 and #13 picks) I would be itching to pull the trigger on Lewan in the first round. Helping Tony Romo has always been the goal here in Dallas and selecting a stud offensive tackle in round one would make a lot of sense. I believe in always working on the offensive line and I especially believe that this holds true when you can get a player who plays as mean and nasty as Lewan does. I want my offensive lineman to be angry and that is exactly who Taylor Lewan is. Keep him on your radar for the Cowboys if he happens to start sliding on May 8th.