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Report: Oakland Raiders prefer Lewan to Matthews, Robinson

Most analysts have Michigan's Taylor Lewan as the No. 3 offensive tackle in this draft, but the Raiders being the Raiders, they reportedly have him No. 1.

The Raiders -- who hold the draft's fifth-overall pick -- like Lewan more than Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, the Oakland Tribune's Jerry McDonald reported via Twitter.

There are three ways to look at this:

1. It's a smokescreen and they have no intention of taking a tackle at No. 5.

2. The Raiders do like Lewan better than Robinson and Matthews, and knowing it would be a tiny reach to take him at No. 5, they are willing to move back a few spots to get their man.

3. The Raiders do like Lewan better than Robinson and Matthews -- and anybody else that might be available when they are on the clock -- and they want him at No. 5.

Truthfully, there isn't all that much difference between the tackles. For instance, NFL Media analyst Charles Davis has Robinson, Matthews and Lewan ranked fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, on his list of the draft's top 32 prospects. He writes that "it's so hard for me to separate the 'Big Three' OTs," and says the trio is ranked "in varying orders throughout draft rooms in the NFL."

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Fellow analyst Daniel Jeremiah ranks Lewan as the No. 3 tackle and the No. 10 overall player in his list of the top 50 prospects, and senior analyst Gil Brandt has Lewan as the No. 3 tackle and No. 9 overall player on his top-50 list. Analyst Bucky Brooks has Lewan as the No. 3 tackle and No. 8 overall prospect on his Big Board.

During February's NFL Scouting Combine, NFL Network analyst Shaun O'Hara said the three tackles "might even be better" than the top three tackles last year -- and those three were gone by pick No. 4.

Lewan (6-foot-7, 309 pounds) definitely is a top prospect and one who almost certainly will be gone by the 12th pick, which is held by the Giants. He grades out at a high level as both a run and pass blocker. At the combine, he had the fastest 40 time among the linemen (4.87 seconds) and also the best broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches). Lewan, who is from the Phoenix area, surprised more than a few folks by returning for his senior season. He was a four-year starter at left tackle for the Wolverines. He didn't play offensive tackle until he was a senior in high school; before that, he was a defensive end.

Lewan plays with a mean streak and can physically overwhelm opponents, but he also has quick feet. He basically held his own against South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney -- generally considered the best prospect in this draft -- in the Outback Bowl following the 2012 season.

Lewan's demeanor, though, has led to some issues, both on and off the field. But the Raiders have been one of the most accepting franchises when it comes to taking chances on players with conduct issues.

With the fifth pick, Oakland should be in the market for a quarterback and a stud wide receiver. The idea of the Raiders drafting an offensive tackle has to worry Raiders fans. Since taking Iowa tackle Robert Gallery with the No. 2 overall pick in 2004 -- a selection that didn't work out too well -- Oakland has drafted seven tackles, including Florida State's Menelik Watson in the second round last year. Hillsdale's Jared Veldheer was a third-rounder in 2010 and he has panned out, but signed with the Cardinals this offseason. It's too soon to tell on Watson. The other five did not work out. Truthfully, Raiders first-round picks starting with Gallery haven't worked out all that well, either, but that's another story for another day.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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