Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at wide receiver, tight end, and perhaps right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once the “official visits” start to leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
#55 - Carl Lawson - Defensive End - Auburn - 6-2, 261
Games Watched: Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi St., Texas A&M
Pros: Extremely explosive off the edge with an impressive first step, very good speed with burst/suddenness. Excellent closing speed once he’s captured the edge. Shows a good motor to work back to the quarterback if his initial pass rush is stopped. Converts speed to power on occasion but needs to do so more consistently. Uses his hands well to bat away/neutralize the hands of the offensive tackle, shows an impressive rip move. Good bend and balance around the edge to flatten to the quarterback once he’s beaten tackles to their outside shoulder. Shows the ability to “get small” and dip his shoulder to get around linemen on the edge. Does a decent job of setting the edge in the run game relative to his his size, he was too much for tight ends to handle in college. Has experience standing up and with his hand down.
Cons: Significant injury concerns, missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL and several games in 2015 with a hip injury. Stiff hips with limited change of direction, struggles to regain momentum if he is knocked off balance or his initial momentum is stopped. Not particularly fluid or agile moving side-to-side. Very “straight-line” type of speed/athlete, needs to develop secondary/counter pass-rush moves off of his speed in order to succeed in the NFL. Lacks length with just 31.5 inch arms, and it shows at times in games. Struggles to stack and shed when engaged with linemen in the run game, although considering his size you’d expect some of that. Only one year of high-level production due to a variety of reasons (injuries, etc.).
Conclusion: Should not be a candidate at 28 due to injury concerns, a lack of size/length, as well as a lack of agility and change of direction. With that said, in many ways Lawson is your prototypical “LEO” type of undersized 4-3 weak-side defensive end who brings great speed and explosiveness off the edge. As such, I believe he would be a fantastic pick at 60 if he were to make it that far, and a strong candidate if the Cowboys were to trade down into the top half of the second round.
There are definite holes in his game but he could immediately bring a speed element off the edge that the Cowboys lack as a part of the defensive line rotation. He will have to become a more complete player against the run, not to mention stay healthy in order to be a full-time starter in the NFL, but he has double-digit sack potential under the right circumstances given his speed, first step, and burst.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect. I started this odd fascination of mine in 2011 when I sent my breakdown and links to videos of Tyron Smith at USC to the excellent Cowboys blogger Bob Sturm (April 28, 2011 - Even More Tyron Smith Tape). Since then I’ve continued watching prospects closely, but I’ve never taken the initiative to actually formally write my thoughts until I became a writer for BTB. I hope that I can provide an interesting, and accurate perspective on prospects from a Cowboys-centric point of view.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.