SI50: Shaq Lawson, DE
0:56 | NFL
SI50: Shaq Lawson, DE
Friday April 29th, 2016

The Buffalo Bills select Clemson DE Shaq Lawson with the No. 19 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.


Don't call Lawson a one-year wonder. It was tough for him to find starting space because Clemson's line has been so deep. He amassed 35 solo tackles, 12.5 sacks, and 24.5 tackles for loss in 2015, and he combined the edge speed to beat tackles outside with the power to move guards inside. He's not the same type of player as Mario Williams, but he may give similar pressure numbers over time. He needs a little technique work, but where better to get that than in a Rex Ryan defense?

• 2016 NFL draft tracker: Follow every team’s pick

Strengths: Generates power and push out of two- and three-point stances. Can play outside and at five-tech. At the snap, Lawson consistently uses his hands and arms. Has a nice spin move that he uses to shoot up in the pocket, past blockers to their inside shoulder. Very strong upper body for his size—when he gets low off the snap, Lawson can tie up tackles and guards, bending them back and getting a good push. Challenges tackles through the arc. An aggressive, controlled run defender who eyes gaps skillfully and closes to the ballcarrier quickly. Can slip gaps against slide protection. Very persistent in the backfield: will work through multiple blocks and is able to keep his eyes on the ball. Uses his strength effectively against double teams. Has the feet and backpedal to work in short coverage, sticking with tight ends on crossing routes and running backs on screens. Occasionally uses a basic inside counter with an arm-over move to great effect. Does a nice job of mush-rushing at the line to keep mobile quarterbacks in check. Outstanding run defender who wrap-tackles quickly and ends plays in the backfield as well as any defender in this draft class. Closes to the quarterback in a flash. Displays the ability to punch blockers out of the way and move past them to the quarterback.Sideline-to-sideline chase defender. Very hard to fool on fakes and quarterback motion—Lawson is highly aware, and that shows up on tape over and over again. Truly a scheme-versatile player.

Weaknesses: Lawson has edge potential in the NFL, but he’s not a traditional arc-bender; he doesn’t have the flexibility to dip-and-rip. Could stand to be more explosive out of the gate, as he’s often too hesitant with his first step. Leans into blocks too often when he has the strength to stack and shed. Has an occasional penchant for jumping quickly and lining up in the neutral zone to offset speed disadvantage. Tends to wear out in high-rep games. Lawson will need to develop more and better pass-rush moves. At this point, he’s got a couple of basic steps, but he’s not going to be able to bull his way through NFL tackles for the most part. He needs to be more opportunistic with his power, especially to and around the edge.

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