Kiper: 2014 draft flush with left tackles

The Pittsburgh Steelers have used two first-round picks and a pair of second-round selections on their offensive line since 2010.

If they are not convinced their left tackle of the future is currently with the organization, the next NFL draft is shaping up as the one for the Steelers to use another first-round pick on the offensive line.

ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said during a conference call on Tuesday that the 2014 draft should be flush with premium left tackle prospects.

Kiper has Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews rated as his third overall prospect among those players expected to be in the draft.

But he is also high on a number of other tackles, including Iowa’s Brandon Scherff and Auburn’s Greg Robinson.

Scherff is a redshirt junior and Robinson is a redshirt sophomore so each could return to school. But if each enters the 2014 draft they would be first-round picks, Kiper said.

Scherff actually played quarterback his sophomore year of high school before outgrowing the position. He is a good all-around athlete and Kiper couldn’t say enough about the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder.

“He’s just dominating as a run-blocker, light on his feet,” Kiper said. “He’s had a couple of mistakes in protection but other than that he’s been outstanding.”

Kiper has also been impressed with Robinson, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 327 pounds, and plays with a maturity that belies his status as an underclassman.

“Professional already in terms of his approach and demeanor,” Kiper said. “Has everything you want.”

Kiper hasn’t soured on Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan even though he may have hurt his draft stock by returning to school for his senior season. Kiper still has Lewan as a sold first-round pick.

“He’s gotten unfairly criticized,” Kiper said. “The bookends (of Michigan’s offensive line) haven’t been the problem.”

Kiper said as many as seven potential left tackles could go in the first round of the draft depending on how many underclassmen come out early.

Other potential first-rounder offensive tackles he mentioned specifically included Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, Florida State’s Cameron Irving and North Carolina’s James Hurst.

Kiper still has South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney rated as the top overall player in the draft even though Clowney has had a disappointing junior season.

“Unless you need a quarterback or a great left tackle you take Clowney,” Kiper said of the top overall pick. “It’s hard to go through a brick wall and that’s what teams are doing, they are walling things off.”