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2016 NFL Draft Profile: Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson

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With Wallace Gilberry gone and Margus Hunt not showing improvement, should the Bengals look to Clemson’s Shaq Lawson for depth and as an eventual starter at defensive end?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have a pair of solid defensive ends with Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, but Johnson has never been a great pass rusher. Could Shaq Lawson of Clemson be a potential target to rotate with Johnson, and provide depth with the loss of Wallace Gilberry, and the apparent lack of improvement from Margus Hunt? Lawson had a great junior year for the Clemson Tigers, helping them reach the championship game. Maybe he can help the Bengals reach a championship next, if he falls that far in the NFL Draft.

Shaq Lawson

Height: 6’3"

Weight: 269 lbs

Class: Junior

40-Yard Dash: 4.70 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.21 seconds

Vertical Jump: 33.0"

Broad Jump: 120"

3-Cone Drill: 7.16 seconds

NFL comparisons:

College Stats:

Year Games Tackles TFL’s Sacks
2013 13 30 9.5 4
2014 12 34 11.5 3.5
2015 15 59 24.5 12.5
Career 40 123 45.5 20

Important Notes:

  • Top rated high school player
  • Only started one year at Clemson

Scouting Report Consensus - What to like:

  • Had a very good game against potential first round pick Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame
  • Tough player with strong hands who can set the edge against offensive linemen
  • Finished second in the nation with 17 stuffs against offensive linemen
  • Projects well as an outside run stopper in the NFL
  • Good initial quickness and makes plays due to a high level of effort

Scouting Report Consensus - What to not like:

  • Does not have the natural athleticism or flexibility to be a great pass rusher at the NFL level
  • Lacks idea height or length to play on the edge
  • Can take plays off when they are on the other side of the field
  • Wears down as game progresses

Projected Round:

Mid to late first round

Conclusion:

Lawson was unable to win a starting spot until his junior season, which does raise the question of how well he will be able to perform at the NFL level if he struggled to get playing time at the college level, although, one of the players he was behind on the depth chart was former first round pick Vic Beasley. His size projects him as more of a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 defensive end, and his athleticism projects him as more an effective run stopper than great pass rusher. He should likely become a contributor and eventual NFL starter who would be best suited on a team running a 3-4 defense that already has an edge rusher.

From a Bengals’ fan perspective, Beasley may not be as high on their draft boards as he would fit in better on a team playing a 3-4 defense. This become even more apparent when you consider he is not as tall as the Bengals prefer for their defensive ends. If he falls to the Bengals, he would likely not be the pick, since he is unlikely to be the BPA in their minds.