The 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and even though Michigan football didn’t live up to expectations last season three Wolverines are in line to be drafted, including one in tonight’s first round. Here’s a look at what to expect this weekend, what the experts are saying, and Michigan’s NFL Draft history.
|Taylor Lewan – OT | Projected: First Round
Lewan is the only Michigan player in this year’s draft that will be selected in the first round. Had he chosen to enter the draft after his junior season Lewan would have been a virtual lock for a lottery pick. Instead, he returned to Michigan for his senior season, and a combination of the team’s poor performance and some off-the-field problems have caused him to slide a little bit. Even so, he’s still considered one of the top three offensive tackles in the draft and likely to be selected in the top 10 or 15.
What they’re saying
Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune:
The Raiders have the fifth overall pick, and although they already inked left tackle Donald Penn to a two-year, $9.6 million contract, would make Lewan the highest Michigan player drafted since Jake Long went first overall in the 2008 draft.
ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. thinks he could be drafted even higher:
“In terms of (Lewan) going No. 2, that’s not out of the question,” Kiper said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “If (the Rams) do take a tackle, he’s right there with Robinson. You could make an argument he’s better than Robinson, and right now, he is.
“Robinson may have the bigger upside, but I think Taylor Lewan, right now, really benefited from coming back his senior year.”
Despite claiming that the Rams could take Lewan, Kiper thinks they’ll select Robinson, but has the Atlanta Falcons drafting Lewan at No. 6 in his mock draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay also has Lewan going to the Falcons.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is less bullish on Lewan:
“I don’t think [Lewan's] going to pass either [Robinson or Matthews],” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he’s going to be the third tackle off the board. Some teams might even like Zack Martin better. He’s going to be the third or fourth tackle, but I believe the third tackle off the board.”
It’s worth noting that Mayock is an analyst for NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame football, so there is likely some bias there regarding Martin.
Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage, responding to a fan question on Twitter, agrees with Mayock:
Peter King of Sports Illustrated also has Lewan in the top 10 of his mock draft:
Bills stunned that Lewan’s still hanging around, and they pass on tight end Eric Ebron, who could be a great security blanket for E.J. Manuel. Keep in mind that GM Doug Whaley is very much open for business here, and could trade down and still get another guy they love: Odell Beckham.
Regardless of where he goes, Lewan will be Michigan’s first first round pick since Brandon Graham was selected 13th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Michigan has had a strong history of sending offensive linemen to the NFL, especially in the past 20-25 years. Since 1993, five Michigan offensive linemen have been selected in the first round (center Steve Everitt 14th overall in 1993, tackle Trezelle Jenkins 31st in 1995, guard Steve Hutchinson 17th in 2001, tackle Jeff Backus 18th in 2001, and tackle Jake Long first in 2008). Michigan has had 37 offensive linemen drafted during the common draft period since 1967.
|Michael Schofield – OT | Projected: Third Round to Fifth Round
Schofield, like Lewan, didn’t help his draft stock last season due to Michigan’s poor offensive line play, though that wasn’t much to his fault. The former four-star recruit from Orland Park, Ill. did show versatility throughout his career, playing both guard and tackle, which should be a valuable asset in the middle rounds of the draft.
What they’re saying
Kiper says Schofield could be an NFL starter:
“The one that I think is a little underrated is Schofield,” Kiper said. “I think maybe round three, round four … he has a chance to be a nice player for you. … Michael Schofield can be a starting right tackle in this league.”
Mayock was impressed with Schofield at the Senior Bowl, but thinks he will only work out as a right tackle, not a guard.
“Not a highly acclaimed kid; a late add [to the roster],” Mayock said. “I thought he stoned everybody in the [1-on-1] drill. Now, he’s a right tackle only, in my opinion. They tried him at guard. Right tackle only is not a good thing to be in the NFL unless you’re a starter. I think he has the potential to be a starting right tackle.”
The Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly lists Schofield among others as a “realistic possibility” for the Dolphins, who have a need at right tackle.
CBSSports.com ranks Schofield as the 11th-best offensive tackle and 108th-best prospect in the draft.
The Big Blue Review, the New York Giants’ SB Nation site, sees Schofield as a good fit for the Giants:
“I really think he does. Giants have traditionally loved grabbing high caliber high school recruits. Schofield was a four-star back then. He’s technically sound and a massive overachiever, which sounds like every successful Giant OL ever. He’s also versatile enough to play guard or right tackle. His personality fits exactly what the Giants look for and seems like a great locker room guy. He drew praise from Mike Mayock at the Senior Bowl, and we know that Jerry Reese and company pay attention there.
“It would not surprise me in the slightest if this guy was a New York Giants selection. I wouldn’t touch him before round 3, maybe Round 4, but can’t ever rule out tackle prospects. Could see him going as early as round 2, though it’d be a slight reach for me.”
Michigan has had a player drafted as an offensive lineman in each of the past three drafts. Last year, the New York Jets took William Campbell in the sixth round. Although Campbell played on the defensive side of the ball at Michigan, the Jets drafted him as an offensive guard. David Molk was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the San Diego Chargers, and while he didn’t last long in San Diego, he signed a futures contract with the Philadelphia Eagles this past January. In 2011, Stephen Schilling was drafted in the sixth round by the Chargers, and after spending time on their practice squad and even starting a couple of games in his rookie season, signed with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last month.
|Jeremy Gallon – WR | Projected: Fourth Round to Seventh Round
Gallon is an interesting case study because he finished his career as one of the greatest receivers in Michigan history, but doesn’t figure to be drafted highly. That’s obviously because of his height. With the numbers he put up, if he had a typical receiver size he’d be a first round lock. But he proved at Michigan that he plays much taller than his 5’8″ frame and could still be a dangerous weapon in the right offense as a slot receiver.
What they’re saying
Kiper thought Gallon performed well at the Combine:
“Ran better than I thought he would, showed 4.5, 4.6 speed (in games),” Kiper said. “He was caught from behind in several of the games I watched, but he ran great (at the combine). A kid with that size, a slot receiver, could be an early day-three pick.”
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe lists Gallon among his top specialists:
Small frame will drop him down draft despite big senior season (1,373 receiving yards, nine TDs) but returned kickoffs and punts at Michigan to help his value.
ESPN ranks Gallon as the 45th-best receiver available.
CBSSports.com ranks Gallon as the 58th-best receiver and 465th-best prospect overall.
WEEI.com football writer Christopher Price has Gallon as a “sleeper for Patriots fans to focus on”:
The Patriots made the pilgrimage out to Ann Arbor in March to work out the undersized (5-foot-8, 187-pound) Gallon, who put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. (He had 184 yards against Notre Dame and 369 yards on 14 receptions against Indiana.) He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011. There are some questions as to whether or not he’ll hold up because of his size, but could project nicely as a slot receiver at the next level if he proves to be durable, and the fact that LeGarrette Blount has departed as a free agent means the Patriots could be in the market for a returner.
Michigan has had 26 receivers selected since the common draft began in 1967. The last Michigan receiver to be drafted was Junior Hemingway, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to that, Michigan had gone three years without a receiver being drafted after having five taken in the four drafts from 2005-08. The highest receiver Michigan has ever had drafted was Braylon Edwards, who was selected third overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2005.