Everywhere you look in the 2017 NFL Draft it seems as though another talented pass rusher catches your eye. Auburn’s Carl Lawson is a bit of a curious case who has at once been widely discussed, but also just a bit forgotten as the process has wore on.
A highly sought-after recruit, Auburn couldn’t wait to get Lawson on the field, and he paid immediate dividends. However a pair of injuries (a torn ACL in 2014 and a “cracked” hip in 2015) kept him from following up on a strong freshman campaign. He was expected to tear up the field once he was finally healthy in 2016, but while he was a clear factor on the field, his production never seemed to match his promise.
So while he might have been a highly regarded prospect -- and in some ways he still is -- could he fall to the New York Giants, who might be on the look-out for another edge rusher to complement Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, as well as push Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Romeo Okwara, and Kerry Wynn?
- A true “EDGE” player (by my reckoning, anyway), Lawson can play both defensive end and rush linebacker.
- Played all over the Auburn front. Left side, right side, defensive end, and even defensive
- Very good first step. He can be past an unwary offensive tackle before they know it.
- Shows good hand usage to fight off blockers.
- Has solid play strength and uses good leverage.
- Impacted far more plays than his box score suggests. Drew double teams and forced teams to play away from him
- Has a significant injury history.
- Production doesn’t match his physical potential.
- “Tweener” build might turn some teams off.
- Occasionally too aggressive, opening up scrambling lanes for quarterbacks or taking himself out of plays.
Does He Fit With The Giants?
While Lawson primarily played as a stand-up rusher in a 3-4 at Auburn, he did put his hand on the ground, so he is capable of playing in the Giants’ defense. His athleticism, strength, and technique aren’t really questions either.
The biggest question regarding Lawson is his durability, and whether or not the Giants are interested in rolling the dice on him. John Mara laid down the law with a “No Red Flags” edict in 2016, ordering Jerry Reese to avoid players with medical or character concerns. And while Lawson’s character is not in question (coaches reportedly raved about his passion in rehabbing from his injuries), we have no way of knowing if it is still in effect or if it will keep the Giants from drafting Lawson.
Big Board Rankings
Big Blue View - 45th overall
CBS Sports - 40th overall
Draft Countdown - 58th overall
Draft Tek - 38th overall
Ultimately, I think there are two things that will determine how someone feels about Carl Lawson. The first is whether or not you have an appetite for his potential medical risks. If not, he very well could slide much further than anticipated in the draft.
The second is whether or not they have a plan to incorporate a “tweener” in their defense. Lawson is a natural fit as a 3-4 rush linebacker, but he could be a fit in any “Under” or hybrid defense. There’s no doubt that Lawson has the raw tools. Instead, teams have to decide whether or not he will be able to put those tools to use for them, or whether his body will hold up to put them to use at all.