Chicago Bears First-Round Prospect: OLB Shaw Lawson

A detailed scouting report on Clemson outside linebacker Shaq Lawson, who is one of the top defensive options for the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Chicago Bears have added plenty of beef to the defensive line over the past two seasons, yet there's one player in this draft who could bring even more grown-man power to the outside linebacker position. 

With that in mind, I broke down extensive game film of Clemson DE/OLB Shaq Lawson, a potential pick for the Bears at 11th overall. 

Shaq Lawson, Clemson (6-3, 269) Junior, Age: 21

Accomplishments

Lawson was a backup for the Tigers his first two seasons, yet he still managed to rack up double digit tackles for loss in both seasons (10 in 2013, 11 in 2014). He became the full-time starter last year and went on a tear, tallying 25.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. He was named first-team All-SEC and a consensus All-American. 

Combine Results

40-yard dash: 4.70
Vertical jump: 33.0 inches
Broad jump: 10-0
3-cone drill: 7.16
20-yard shuttle: 4.21

His 40-yard dash and his short shuttle were Top 10 at the combine among defensive ends. 

Positives

-Has an NFL-ready frame. Thick legs and a barrel chest. 
-Consistent tackler who drops ball carriers once he gets his hands on them. Brings pop. Downhill player.
-His upper-body strength makes him hard to move off his spot. 
-Shocking hand punch, which he uses to throw blockers on their heels before extending his arms. When he creates separation, he can easily shed blocks. 
-Impressive bull rush. When he gains leverage, he can drive offensive tackles into the quarterback. 
-Uses active hands to swat away blocks. Strong rip move. Powers through arm blocks once he's on a blocker's hip. 
-Legit spin move that can make blockers look silly. 
-Experience working in both 2- and 4-point stance. Can line up at 5-technique if needed. 
-Limited experience in coverage.

Negatives

-Doesn't explode off the ball. Lacks ideal quickness and change-of-direction ability.
-Doesn't show great game speed. 
-While he shows good awareness in coverage, he's not quick enough to make plays when the ball is in the air. 
-Lacks ideal lateral agility.
-Despite his power, he doesn't explode into blockers on pulls and leads, choosing instead to work around the block and avoid contact. 
-Takes plays off, especially those run away from him. 
-Can be dropped by cut blocks. Does not use hands well enough to keep his balance. 
-Played exclusively on the right side in 2015. 

Is Lawson worth the 11th overall pick in the draft? 

Lawson's collegiate numbers are very impressive. As a rotational player his first two years at Clemson, he managed 21 tackles for loss. He then eclipsed that total (25.5) his junior year. 

When Lawson gains leverage or is able to maneuver around a block, he can be an extremely disruptive force in opposing backfields. He doesn't miss tackles, so when he locks onto running backs, they go down. 

His best attribute is his spin move, which is nearly unblockable. One has to wonder why he didn't use it more often. 

In a 3-4 defense like the Bears run, Lawson brings considerable positional versatility. He can line up at OLB and be an every-down player, or he can slide inside to 5-technique on run downs, as he's capable of eating up double teams. 

While Lawson is a grow-ass man who posted ridiculous numbers in college, there are some substantial concerns in terms of how he projects at the next level. 

First, he doesn't give full effort on every play and he wears down dramatically as games progress. For those reasons, he'll best fit in a rotation, and part-time players aren't ideal at 11th overall. 

Second, he lacks burst and quickness. He lumbers at times and doesn't have the natural bend to turn the corner as an edge rusher. He also lacks ideal flexibility. 

Third, while he's powerful, he doesn't always show it and he's shockingly easy to block sometimes. 

In terms of size and power, Lawson brings it all and his game compares favorably with those of Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston. But that's the problem, the Bears already have two players with similar skill sets. On film, he looks much better suited as a 4-3 defensive end, who will likely have more value against the run than he will on passing downs. 

Lawson is going to be a good football player but it's doubtful he'll have enough all-around impact to justify using the 11th overall pick on him. 


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