Welcome to today’s Falcoholic Scouting Report. Join us as we take a look at one of the top EDGE players in the 2017 draft class: Auburn’s Carl Lawson.
Lawson is a interesting prospect for many reasons. He’s a bit undersized (6’2, 261), but is very well-proportioned for his frame, and routinely uses that to his advantage. Still, he’s not necessarily your “prototypical” edge rusher. That has led to draft analysts having a wide variety of grades on him, from top-15 to mid-to-late second round.
Let’s take a closer look at Lawson’s game, and decide for ourselves.
EDGE Carl Lawson
Lawson's physicality and aggressiveness immediately stand out. He possesses a muscular, well-defined frame with excellent strength (35 BP reps). He pairs that physical ability with a relentless motor and a knack for being around the ball. Lawson displays good hand technique, always fighting with offensive linemen and showing an ability to rip and club. He has a good understanding of pass rush technique and sets up his opponent with a variety of rushes and moves.
Lawson is a plus player against the run. He has an excellent understanding of run fits and is very disciplined in his gap. His strength is an asset in this area as he can set the edge with authority and tackles well. Lawson has also showcased some versatility, rushing from a variety of positions including standing up as a LB and as a more traditional DE. Auburn used him often on stunts and twists to varying degrees of success.
While Lawson possesses good straight line speed and explosiveness, he's merely an average athlete overall. He lacks plus ability to bend the edge and looks a bit stiff-hipped at times. Lawson sometimes struggles to finish if the QB avoids his initial burst, and he has difficulty in pursuit. After beating the tackle, Lawson too easily gets tripped up or caught on blocks by the TE or RB and ends up getting washed out of the play.
His lack of ideal length is a blessing and a curse. It helps with his pad level and leverage, but it can sometimes lead to bigger OTs locking him out. He needs better awareness in the passing game, with no batted passes in his career at Auburn.
--INJURY: Lawson missed the entire 2014 season with an ACL tear, and then half of the 2015 season with a hip injury. Although he remained healthy during the 2016 season, the risk and injury history is there.
Grade: 1.5 (late 1st-early 2nd)
Lawson immediately stands out as a high-effort EDGE player with the ability to stay on the field for all three downs. He’s not going to be an elite pass rusher in the mold of say, Vic Beasley, but he certainly possesses the ability to be a #2 guy producing 8-10 sacks per year.
His ability against the run makes him an asset early in his career, as he can contribute in base packages while a coaching staff continues to refine his pass rushing repertoire. Lawson already has a good understanding of how to “set up” offensive tackles, he simply needs to inject a little more variety into his rushes.
With his physicality, aggressiveness, and pass rushing ability, he seems like the type of player Dan Quinn would covet. He could play the LEO, although his best fit is likely as a traditional hand-in-the-dirt DE, and could also rotate with Beasley at the other DE spot. The only thing that gives me pause is Lawson’s injury history, which could contribute to him falling to Atlanta’s 31st pick.
What do you think of Lawson? Would you like his fit as Atlanta’s #2 pass rusher next to Beasley? Who are some other EDGE prospects you’d like to see in the red and black?