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Q&A with College and Magnolia: Forecasting Carl Lawson’s future with Bengals

To get a full review of Carl Lawson, the Bengals’ Round 4 draft pick, we spoke with Walt Austin, who runs College and Magnolia, SB Nation’s Auburn blog. Austin has followed Carl Lawson’s career from college to the pros and offered some great insight into the player the Bengals are rostering.

What are the Cincinnati Bengals receiving in Round 4 draft pick Carl Lawson? We spoke with Walt Austin, who runs College and Magnolia, SB Nation’s Auburn blog, to get the answer to that question and many more.

Lawson was a defensive end at Auburn, but the Bengals are planning to use him at both defensive end and outside linebacker this offseason to determine his best fit in the NFL. Austin weighed in on that and more as we better get to know the Auburn product.

Cincy Jungle: Were you expecting Lawson to fall so far? Many have said the Bengals got a Round 1 talent in Round 4, would you agree?

Walt Austin: I was not expecting him to fall that far. I figured second or third round at the absolute worse. As long as he stays healthy, you definitely picked up first round talent with a fourth round pick. I don't think his health should be an issue, though. The two injuries were a knee and a hip. He didn't show any signs of slowing up this season in his first full year since his freshman campaign.

CJ: What were his biggest strengths in college?

WA: I think his biggest strength is his work ethic and the fact that he doesn't take plays off. During his year off for the knee, he was constantly in the film room studying great pass rushers and trying to improve his technique. He's got a high motor and is always fighting on every play. He's the type of player who can make everyone around him better. You don't have to look any further than the statistics of Auburn's defense with him and without him over the last 3 seasons.

CJ: How about weaknesses?

WA: This ties directly back to what I said above: If there's any knock on that, it's that it led to more off-sides penalties than we cared for.

CJ: Do you think he fits in well with a 4-3 defense? The Bengals have him listed at linebacker on the roster, do you think he can thrive there?

WA: Carl spent his first two seasons (one not playing) as a defensive end in a 4-3. His last two seasons were at the "Buck" position, which is a bit of a hybrid between a 3-4 pass-rushing OLB and and a traditional defensive end. I think Carl can thrive in any system you put him in as long as you're playing him somewhere that he can get after the passer. Having him come off the edge as a pass rushing linebacker in a 4-3 when the OL is focused on the DL could yield some fantastic results.

CJ: Any fun facts/stories from his time at Auburn?

WA: I really wish I could think of some. This is going to be one of those things where as soon as this is published I will suddenly remember tons of them. I can tell you that Carl is a very friendly guy who plays very mean on the field.

CJ: I know he had some pretty significant injuries during his time in college. What do you know about them and how they impacted his play?

WA: I don't think he's suffered any long-term issues from the injuries. He was slowed down in 2015 as he slowly worked his way back from the hip injury, but I don't think the knee is any worry at all. In the first half against Louisville in 2015 in his first game back from the knee, he didn't look to be missing a step and was absolutely dominant. Neither the hip nor the knee looked to have affected him in 2016. He finished not far shy of Auburn's single-season sack record.

CJ: Anything else you think Bengals fans would want to know?

WA: I would just reiterate you're getting top-level talent at a bargain price. Not just because of his ability but because he really is someone who raises the level of all those around him. He may start out as a pass-rushing specialist early on, but he's going to make Bengals fans very happy.