Potential Defensive Chess Piece.
The 2016 NFL Draft is fast approaching and there are so many tremendous defensive players still to canvass. One of this drafts best defenders is former Clemson player, Shaq Lawson. Not only is Lawson dominant, but he also certainly turned heads during this year’s national championship game against Alabama, with two sacks and four total tackles. I reviewed that game, along with his 2015 games against Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida State, NC State and Miami, to get a better feel for the skills and attributes that this disruptive, potential superstar might bring to the next level. Here are my thoughts:
DE/OLB-Shaq Lawson, Clemson 6′ 3″ 269 lbs.
While Lawson is a very versatile player, it might be difficult for him to hold the edge in a 3-4 scheme, weighing in at only 269 lbs. In my view, Lawson is much better suited to play a 4-3 defensive end or perhaps even as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. However, his motor can run hot and cold. Often times he appears less interested if the play is further away from him. Additionally, the former Tiger does not possess an arsenal of varied pass rushing moves, which leads to mostly forcing feeding his brute strength and athleticism to get past blockers. Although that mode of attack may work in college, Lawson will need to refine his swim move, spins and recoil his hands better, when trying to create separation between opposing offensive lineman trying to contain him, if he wants NFL success. He is a little tight hipped and will need to improve his ability to bend more frequently, if he wants to be an impactful NFL level pass rusher.
Unlike most defenders, the muscular, thick framed Lawson can play equally well against the pass and run. He has quick-striking, powerful hands, which allow him to get off blocks with force. The former Tiger fires out low at the snap, has a good first penetrating step and can change directions quickly. Additionally, he shows good technique making tackles and can line up in a four, three or even two-point stance with effectiveness, while on his way to the quarterback; either method does not seem to matter to him. He has good balance and bounces up quickly when getting knocked down. Ultimately, it’s his quickness and agility that allow him to bust up a wide receiver screen ten yards away. During the NFL Combine, the Lawson posted an impressive 4.70 second time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.21 20-yard shuttle time, which were both tops at his position.
Lawson is an overall solid defensive player, but will probably not ever be elite at the NFL ranks. He needs to improve his pass rushing technique and acquire a little better bend to his motion. Personally, I expect him to be a better fantasy option should he remain listed as a defensive end, rather than an outside linebacker. In the end, Lawson is a top five rookie defensive linemen in this class, while being a top fifteen outside backer.
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