There was a time when Carl Lawson was seen as the No. 1 football recruit in the country. That was after a very productive high school career caught the eyes of plenty of college programs across the nation before he committed to Auburn in 2013. Unfortunately, multiple injuries during his time in college stifled the ultra talented pass rusher and halted his development to the point he was seen as an average draft prospect by the end of his senior year. However, that isn’t stopping him from achieving his dreams at the NFL level. If anything, it’s motivation to prove himself again after the Bengals selected him in Round 4 of this year’s NFL Draft.
“I felt like I got totally disrespected in the draft,” Lawson told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I watch everyone else. I know how good I was. Even as better as I’ve gotten, there’s still no reason I feel … a player … should have got drafted over me. My whole career and time God blesses with me I’m going to go out there and try to prove it. About 20 people drafted ahead of me were pass rushers. You’ve got to feel disrespected. If you don’t then that means you don’t really have pride as a football player.”
It has to be hard. To have so much raw talent and understanding of the position, and then having to battle through injuries and seeing your draft stock fall as a result. But at the same time, it has lit a fire in a player as competitive as Lawson. Luckily, he has Marvin Lewis to help keep his passion in check and to stay focused on the end result.
“The difficult thing about Carl is that he’s a million miles an hour. He needs to understand how we have to continually practice here,” Lewis said. “He’s going to get unleashed. That’s what I told him again in the team meeting. It’s a hard thing. He’s trying to be impressive. Well, he’s impressed me enough.”
At this point, most would agree the Bengals have found a very talented young player in Lawson. All he has done since arriving in Cincinnati is show his passion on the practice field. Now, he’s focused on becoming the best player he can be and so far, he seems to already be making plenty of progress in that direction.
“He’s doing a great job. It’s funny, he and Jordan Willis are conscientious in the same way. They don’t ever want to be wrong,” Lewis said. “I keep telling them, ‘Give me a little of Dunlap. A little Carlos. Just a pinch, and you’ll be fine.’”
Passion on the field has always been Lawson’s style. In fact, during the scouting process, he was always noted as an aggressive edge setter, with a good motor and desirable work ethic. Teams like the Bengals were likely drooling over his explosion off the snap. It is simply impossible to deny the value of Lawson’s love for playing defense, a trait that can not be taught.
“You have to be reckless to play this game on defense effectively,” Lewis said. “You have to have a little bit of that, because on defense, if you think you’re going to coach this game based on numbers, you’re going to get your butt beat.”
Although the Bengals don’t necessarily need more reckless behavior on defense, Lewis makes a great point. Lawson might be behind from a technique standpoint, compared to where he would be without the injuries. But, he certainly has the right mindset for moving past those issues and proving wrong everyone who passed on him through the first 115 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft.