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2016 Atlanta Falcons Draft Pick Profile: EDGE Shaq Lawson

A closer look at Lawson, an intriguing player who would fit a need for Atlanta.

Shaq Lawson sacks Jacob Coker during the National Championship
Shaq Lawson sacks Jacob Coker during the National Championship
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Shaq Lawson is the best edge defender in the 2016 NFL draft. He can play multiple roles for the Falcons and should be someone who gives them an instant impact as a run defender in base sets, as he develops into an ideal pass rushing complement to Vic Beasley. Atlanta has shown interest in him throughout the offseason with visits at the Combine and at the Clemson pro day last month.

Shaq Lawson

LEO Defender

Clemson University

Combine/Pro Day Measurements

Height: 6'2-5/8" Weight: 269 pounds

Arm Length: 32-3/4" Hand Measurement: 10"

40 yard dash: 4.70 sec. 10 yard split: 1.63 sec.

20 yard shuttle: 4.21 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.16 sec.

Vertical Jump: 33.0" Broad Jump: 10'0"

Closest Athletic Comparisons: Derrick Morgan and Charles Johnson

This is definitely a good thing. Morgan and Johnson have both had productive NFL careers, have shown the ability to play well against the run and can rush the passer effectively. The fact that he's so close of a comparison to Morgan makes it interesting because of how much the Falcons wanted Morgan prior to the 2015 draft. Lawson definitely has the ability to impact at the next level and would rank within the top 20 percent athletically of all edge players since 1999.

Stats (From CFB Stats)

2015: 15 Games Played, 60 Tackles, 25.5 Tackles for Loss, 12.5 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced

2014: 13 Games Played, 34 Tackles, 11.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 1 Blocked Kick

2013: 13 Games Played, 30 Tackles, 10.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Pass Deflection

Scouting Report


Shaq Lawson is an exceptional run defender for his frame. He sets the edge effectively and can force plays back to the inside of the defense. He disengages from blocks well and has great athleticism for the position. Lawson can stand up or put his hand in the dirt and be equally as effective depending on the down. If he's used primarily as a weak-side end, he'll be at his best as he can dip around left tackles using his quickness off the ball.

He also is a good pass rusher and understands how to adjust his pass rushing strategies to get to the quarterback. Lawson is unique in that he can be effective in the 5-technique or in any of the techniques Atlanta plays their LEO in. He could play the same role that Michael Bennett played in Seattle and be effective at it. Additionally, his overall athleticism and build are almost prototype for the position, outside of height.


There are times when Lawson has issues with his hand usage trying to rush the passer and disengage off of blocks. He needs more counter moves attacking the passer and has issues keeping his pads low. There are also times that he completely missed out on sacks despite being the main cause for pressure. This allowed Kevin Dodd to clean up on them. He also had times when he would loaf on running plays away from his side, but that could be fixed with better conditioning.

How does he fit the Comrade Filter?

The Comrade Filter emphasizes captaincy and good behavior off the field as well as high motor on the field. Lawson is known as a hard worker off the field, and it shows in his motor on the field. He's never been arrested nor has he ever been suspended. He was never a captain for the Tigers, but that's not that big of a deal with Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett in Atlanta. They were the captains and leaders during their time with Clemson.


Lawson might be one of the most complete pass rushers in the draft, and would help any team that he ends up on. He can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 as a pure pass rushing weapon and could end up being one of the best players in the draft when all is said and done.

If a team would bring Lawson in and already have a primary pass rusher, he would be one of the best complementary guys in the NFL and could really give that defense an ideal one-two punch up front. Atlanta in general would  be wise to try and bring in Clemson's pass rusher because his impact on the defense would allow them to mask lesser athletes at linebacker and safety for a season until those classes get better talent in the future.

How he would fit into the Falcons' plans

The Falcons would have to hope for him to fall to their pick in the first round at 17. It's unlikely that he would be someone that they would trade up in the draft for, nor should the Falcons trade up in the draft with just five picks at their disposal. They should jump at the chance should Lawson fall to them, though. He's a perfect fit for the Falcons' scheme as a defensive end and could play either the strong-side defensive end, the LEO or a hybrid role among multiple spots.

Atlanta would have versatility with Lawson similar to what Quinn had in Seattle with Michael Bennett, though he's closer as a player to Charles Johnson from Carolina. Atlanta would be able to use him as a pass rushing contributor in both the base and nickel alignments and by continuing to build as many pass rushing assets as possible, they should be able to help mask some of the other deficiencies in the defense—specifically at linebacker and strong safety.