Contributed By Cole Little
Losing junior defensive end Shaq Lawson to the 2016 NFL Draft was a foregone conclusion for the Clemson Tigers after an impeccable 2015 campaign. The 6-3, 270-pound pass rusher is taking his talents to the next level and leaves as perhaps the best one-year starter in Clemson’s history. Due to the plethora of talent at the defensive end position that the Tigers have boasted in recent years, Lawson, who is incredibly talented himself, was unable to break into the starting lineup until his junior year. However, his reputation as an athletic, tenacious pass rusher that he garnered at Daniel High School and Hargrave Military Academy was proven to be true this past fall, as Lawson made a major statement in his one and only season as a collegiate starter.
Arguably the most physically gifted pass rusher in this year’s draft class, Lawson led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss this past season and accrued an impressive 12.5 sacks as well.
Lawson’s attributes include an impressive motor and exceptional agility for a man of his stature. Lawson consistently proved this past season that he is a force to be reckoned with, as he made his presence felt in the backfield quite often. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Pro Bowl defensive ends Chandler Jones and Cameron Wake, Lawson has all of the tools necessary to becoming an All-Pro defensive end.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper slated Lawson as the Miami Dolphins’ first-round pick at eighth overall in a recent mock draft, which would see him team up with the aforementioned Wake, as well as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. However, there is a noticeable lack of consistency in regard to Lawson’s draft stock, with most pundits disagreeing to a high degree on where he will be picked. Coming off of a year in which he led the vaunted Clemson defense from start to finish and was named a consensus All-American as a result, it is hard to imagine Lawson falling past the first round. But, of course, the draft is still over two months away, meaning the mock drafts will change an innumerable amount of times between now and then.
Lawson will look to make an impression at the NFL Combine on Sunday, February 28, when defensive linemen and linebackers perform on-field workouts. Just what type of impression he makes could very well determine whether or not he will hear his name called on the opening night of the draft.
Another distinct first-round possibility for Lawson is being selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 17th overall pick, meaning a Clemson pass rushing tandem of Beasley and Lawson would grace the NFL stage.
The draft process is long and arduous, and Lawson still has work to do in order to ensure himself of being a high draft choice. While he has no glaring weaknesses, if Lawson’s tenure as a Tiger proved anything, it’s that an exceptional work ethic is definitely one of his strengths. Regardless of which team Lawson suits up for in the future, expect major accomplishments from this young man at the next level.
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