It’s no secret that the New Orleans Saints have desperately needed pass rush help for some time now. With free agency all but finished, the Saints will most likely need to fill their pressure-creating hole via the draft if they intend on fielding a significantly more competent defense in 2017. Luckily for the Saints and their fans, the draft happens to be very deep at the EDGE position; deep enough that the Saints could find a potential starter at any of their first three picks.
In comes Carl Lawson from Auburn: after having injury-marred seasons in 2014 (ACL) and 2015 (hip), he finally kept himself on the field for all of 2016 to the tune of 8.5 sacks in 13 games. Given that it was his first year back from consecutive serious injuries, that’s good production in a very good SEC conference. As long as we assume that his injury history is behind us, something we can’t know without being in the medical room for his evaluations, it’s fair to predict that he’s just beginning to blossom into the productive, physical force he is capable of becoming.
Measurables and Combine Results
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 261 LBS
- Arm Length: 31 1/2”
- 40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds
- 10-yard split: 1.6 seconds
- Vertical: 33 inches
- Bench Press: 35 reps
- Broad Jump: 114 inches
- 3-cone Drill: 7.46 seconds
- 20-yard Shuttle: 4.19 seconds
Carl Lawson is a strong, powerful pass rusher with the ability to pressure the quarterback from a variety of stances all over the line of scrimmage. At Auburn, you would often see him line up as a stand-up rusher on the edge of either side of the line of scrimmage. On late, long downs he was capable of moving inside to 3-tech defensive tackle and rushing on the interior versus offensive guards.
He has strong, heavy hands with an explosive punch. Despite having relatively short arms for an EDGE prospect, Lawson utilizes his wide array of pass rush moves, including long-arm, dip-and-rip, studder-and-swim, a snatch move, and a straight-up power bull rush, to consistently disengage from offensive tackles in the passing game. He also possesses a very quick first step for a man of his build, and perhaps most importantly, he appears to be a mentally well-composed young man that’s prepared for the workload and lifestyle of an NFL player.
Carl Lawson falls short in some key areas, which is why he’s not considered a top 10 prospect. Despite his strength, relentless effort, and powerful hands, he can sometimes struggle to locate in the run game, although for the most part he’s a plus run defender. Additionally, Lawson is lacking in hip flexibility and agility, which often shows up when a quarterback sharply steps up in the pocket in an evasion attempt. He wins with his hands, not a pure ability to bend with balance around the corner and through the top of the rush arc. Lastly, his medicals are a real question and any team that selects him must be confident that he’s completely removed from his lengthy injury history.
This combination of strengths and weaknesses from Carl Lawson is what will likely land him somewhere in the back of the first round or top half of the second round. The Saints can go for best-player-available with pick No. 11, or fill another need somewhere on their roster, and feel comfortable that a pass rusher of Lawson’s caliber can be acquired with pick No. 32 or pick No. 42.