January 15, 2016
A Prospect a Day: This series, launching today, will outline one prospect per day, every day up to the upcoming draft. However, it is entirely possible that some days may feature more than one prospect.
The series will be starting with 4-3 Defensive Ends
SHAQ LAWSON, DE, CLEMSON
6’4 260 lbs
Very nice height, weight, speed combination, but probably larger than you’d want from an edge rusher in a 3-4.
Ideal fit is as a 4-3 end, though may even be effective as a 3-4 end due to his strong pocket-pushing ability and well-rounded abilities as a pass rusher and run-stuffer.
Can get sideline-to-sideline when needed and has a relentless motor, often making plays due to sheer effort.
Lacks a versatile arsenal of pass rushing skills, will sometimes use a spin move, but mostly sticks to a swim or bull rush, which is effective due to the massive strength in his lower body.
He’s a strong tackler and usually a strong finisher at the point of attack, which makes him effective even in goal line situations.
Could be an asset on an NFL roster, if not right away then within the first two years, though he has a relatively low ceiling to other prospects available in his range.
Technique: 3 out of 5
Lacks a versatile arsenal of pass rushing moves to go along with his bendability, functional strength, speed, and tackling technique.
Effectiveness: 4 out of 5
The sack numbers (12.5 in 15 games) are plenty impressive as a full-time starter on the edge who constantly sees chips and double teams, he’s a relentless effort guy that makes plays in the backfield more often than not.
Potential: 3 out of 5
Even if he can shore up the pass-rushing technique, he doesn’t possess the explosiveness or first-step quickness of the elite rushers in the NFL and will have a hard time competing against premiere left tackles at the pro level for sacks.
Technique: 3 out of 5
Lawson does a great job in play recognition, but can sometimes fail to set the edge, getting caught up in the backfield and opening lanes for runners.
Effectiveness: 3 out of 5
The 24.5 tackles for loss in 2015 shows Lawson’s strength: he lives in opponents’ backfields. It is also reveals his weakness as he often runs himself right out of plays rather than relying on sound technique to set the edge and hook the runner. His 59 tackles this season were due more to effort and motor than effectiveness in stopping the run.
Potential: 4 out of 5
The good news is, Lawson has all of the functional strength to be an above-average edge setter at the pro level, he just needs to be coached up. I would hesitate to project him as a premiere run stopper unless he puts on a little more weight, since I think he may get bullied by some of the bigger road graders in the NFL like Phil Loadholt, but he should find a nice niche on an NFL roster in this regard as his career progresses.
TOTAL PROSPECT RATING: 20/30
NFL Comparison: Jeremy Mincey, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Like Mincey, Lawson thrives as a pass rusher, but possesses the dimensions and leg strength to be an effective edge-setter. They’ll never set the world on fire with their sack numbers but can be a very effective part of nearly any 4-3 defensive rotation.
Projection: Top-15 pick