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2016 NFL Draft Player Breakdown: Shaq Lawson

With the 13th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select; Shaq Lawson, defensive end, Clemson.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Who is Shaq Lawson?

Shaq Lawson is one of the best defensive prospects in this year’s draft.  The Central, South Carolina native was a standout at D.W Daniel High School.  Over the course of his junior and senior year, Lawson combined for 199 tackles and 22 sacks.   He was a four-star recruit according to, ultimately committing to the University of Clemson.  Prior to joining Clemson, Lawson spent a season at Hargrave Military Academy.  He was named the #1 prep school prospect in the nation before joining the Tigers in 2013.

As a freshman at Clemson, Lawson recorded 30 tackles and 4 sacks in a limited role.   In 2014, he recorded 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks.  Even though Lawson sat behind former Atlanta Falcons’ first-round draft pick Vic Beasley, Lawson contributed to one of the best defenses in the country.  After Beasley left for the NFL, it was Shaq Lawson’s turn to feast on ACC quarterbacks.  During his first full season as a starter, Lawson combined for 55 tackles and 10.5 sacks, playing a significant role in Clemson’s #1 ranked defense.  He was atop the country in tackles for loss and sacks. His impressive 2015 campaign earned him first-team All-American and ACC honors.  Lawson decided to forego his senior year and enter the draft early.

The Good

There’s a lot to love about defensive end, Shaq Lawson.  For starters, the guy is a physical specimen.  Lawson has a massive upper body and uses his brute strength to fend off blockers.  During his time at Clemson, Lawson showed the ability to move lineman with relative ease.

Lawson is quick off the snap and has the ability to beat you with speed, in addition to his spin and swim moves.  In this clip, Lawson bursts off the line, sidesteps the pulling guard, and sacks the opposing quarterback.

Again, Lawson times the snap perfect, spins around the left tackle and stuffs the running back for a short gain.  This is something you see often when watching Shaq Lawson play football.

Shaq Lawson's hand quickness is second to none.  In this clip, he shoots off the line, swats away the lineman’s hands and attacks the quarterback. This is something he does very well and should only improve with time.

No one can question his toughness, Lawson played during the National Championship Game despite nursing a knee injury.  Although it was apparent he was hurt,  Lawson was still able to make an impact.

Lawson isn’t limited to a specific defensive scheme.  Throughout his college career, Lawson showed the ability to play as a 5-technique, as well as standing up as an outside linebacker.  The transition from college to pros should be seamless, allowing the future first round pick to make an immediate impact wherever he lands.

The Bad

The biggest concern with Shaq Lawson is how his skill-set translates to the next level.  His large frame makes it difficult for him to bend and dip around the edge.  He relies heavily on his strength to get to the quarterback and will have to find other ways to have similar success at the next level.

Another minor issue with Lawson is his lack of experience.  Although he made an impact throughout his entire collegiate career, he was only a full-time starter for one season.  He is still a young player with plenty of room for improvement.  This is something many NFL general managers and coaches will like, as he has yet to reach his full potential.  Others may view him as a work in progress and could opt for a more proven starter.

Finally, there were times when watching film where it looked as though Lawson was more concerned with the lineman in front of him, rather than getting to the quarterback.  When the play would go away from Lawson, he would seem to get lost among the offensive line.  Fatigue may also be an issue, as Lawson was notably slower later in games.

In the end, most of these concerns are minor and shouldn't be an issue moving forward.

The Skinny

Shaq Lawson is a quarterback's worst nightmare.  His massive frame and exceptional pass rushing skills, will make him one of the first defensive players selected in April's draft.  Lawson can play in either defensive scheme,whether it be as a defensive end in a 4-3, or an outside linebacker in a 3-4.  He is exceptionally fast for his large frame, being timed as the fasted defensive end in the draft.  Lawson is a team leader, who eats, sleeps and breathes football.  Although it is unlikely Shaq Lawson will be available when the Dolphins select at 13, Lawson would be exactly what the Dolphins need at defensive end.

All clips were taken from

This article was written by Josh Houtz.  Follow him on Twitter!