2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Clemson DE Shaq Lawson

Shaq Lawson

With the offseason now in full swing, we have turned our attention to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the college prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in but we will also include several top-rated players as well who might not necessarily be fits for them specifically.

Today, we will have a look at Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.

#90 Shaq Lawson/DE Clemson: 6’3″ 275

The Good:

– Large man in a compact frame
– Raw, natural strength
– Agile for his size and uses legs well
– Played down and standing up
– Heavy hands
– Adequate ball awareness and strong against the run
– Reliable tackler
– Was asked to drop a little
– Will play through injuries
– Good character
– Fared well against quality competition

The Bad:

– Inconsistent get-off
– Not a “true” speed rusher
– Relies heavily on inside spin move
– Needs to fight harder after initial losses at line
– Not quick-twitched
– Needs to pursue better on runs away from his side
– Might be right-side only player
– One-year starter


– 2015 Preseason first-team All-ACC selection by a vote of the league’s media
– 2015 Named one of six finalists for the Ted Hendricks Award
– 2015 finalist for the Nagurski Award
– 2015 College All-American
– Led nation with 25.5 tackles for loss in 2015
– 6 sacks, 16 pressures against top 50 teams
– Declared as underclassman
– Only 21

Tape Breakdown:

When he gets off the snap on time, Lawson can be a force as an edge rusher when lined up outside the tackle. additionally, he loves to set tackles up for his inside spin move. While he doesn’t get the sack on this particular play, he certainly gets adequate pressure and forces the quarterback out of the pocket away from his side. He really loves this move.

Another clean get-off here followed by another spin inside results in two Notre Dame offensive linemen being forced to tackle him. He can be so disruptive when it comes to that gap.

While he’s a tad late off of the ball on this run play below, Lawson easily controls the tight end with his eyes locked into the backfield. He quickly disengages for one of his many run stops.

Unfortunately when it comes to Lawson, you will see him late off of the snap more times than you would like.


Late off the snap here allows the Alabama right guard enough time to pull and seal Lawson off to the inside. He has to improve on his get-off at the next level.

This time Lawson uses his inside spin move against Florida State to easily register a run stop.

Even though Lawson is standing up inside the tight end on this play, he’s still able to cross the face of his blocker to not only force the ball-carrier back inside, but also get one of his arms in on the tackle. This was a 4th and 1 play that came up short.

Bad MCL and all, Lawson shows some agility here on this play in the National Championship game against Alabama and it results in a sack. He definitely is light on his feet for a player with his size and build when coming forward. However, he’s not as graceful when moving backwards off the line.

Summary: Lawson was a fun player to watch and is the ultimate tweener, in my opinion. In other words, every team will take a look at him because of his size, abilities and production at the college level. Some will view him as a base 4-3 defensive end, while a few might see if he can add more weight and play inside as 3-tech defensive tackle.

For teams who might consider Lawson to be a 3-4 outside linebacker, they might have to see if he could potentially drop a little weight while still maintaining his strength. With that said, Pernell McPhee, who has similar measurables as Lawson, has shown that he can play the position at the NFL level. However, using Lawson to drop into coverage would certainly be a win for whatever offense he faces. As far as Lawson possibly being a 3-4 defensive end, his lack of length might hurt him there and once again, he might need to add some weight.

Lawson is very disruptive and powerful player against the run. Against the pass, however, while productive, it takes time for him in some instances to win the edge when asked to do so and it doesn’t help that he’s known to be late off of the snap on a consistent basis. While Lawson does exhibit a better than average arsenal of counter moves as a pass rusher, along with him being a good hand fighter, he relies on his inside spin move a bit too much for my liking. Also, when asked to stunt inside, it takes him a while to get there as he has wasted motion.

All and all, Lawson is disruptive player and his success against better than average left tackles bodes well for his future success. With that said, his success in the NFL might rely totally on the position he’s asked to play and the scheme he’s asked to play in. While I don’t view Lawson as a top 15 player in this year’s draft, he’s definitely a top 25 player, in my opinion.

As far as the Steelers go, I definitely think they will show some interest in Lawson as potentially an outside linebacker who can also probably stay on the field as an interior pass rusher in sub packages because of his uniqueness. in other words, an elephant kind of player.

Projection: 1st Round

Games Watched: vs Notre Dame, vs Florida State, vs Alabama (Championship Game)

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn BellMichael Caputo
Andrew BillingsMackensie AlexanderTyler ErvinAustin BlytheChris Jones
Sheldon RankinsNoah SpenceJordan JenkinsYannick NgakoueDarian Thompson
Bryce WilliamsCre’von LeblancHenry Krieger-CobleLeonard FloydJosh Garnett
Kevin HoganCorey Coleman

  • Garrett Hunt

    As a Clemson grad and fan, I have watched a ton of this guy and think he is going to be special. My number one player in this entire draft. If he falls to the Steelers I will be shocked and incredibly happy.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I would be fine with him as a first round pick.. 6’3 275… With Dupree at 6’4 270.. That would be a big OLB core… I like it.. I liked that kid from Maryland they previewed the other day also Yannick Ngakoue

  • PittsburghSports

    He reminds me of Tamba Hali, almost exactly. I thought for sure he’d be gone by 25, but considering the lack of things you mentioned, like not being a speed rusher, having a quick-twitch, or a consistent get-off, I’m starting to think he just may be available. I really like seeing the first gif where he rips and then counters with the spin. Probably a liability in coverage, but I’m more concerned with finding someone with his ability to disrupt the play and get after the QB. Definitely one of my favorite players, and I’m running to the podium if he’s available.

  • harding36

    I don’t see him as the athlete that Dupree is, but I’d be elated with this pick at 1.25. He dominated Ronnie Stanley, who’s probably going to be a top 20-30 pick. Lawson actually reminds me a little bit of Lamar Woodley (who was also limited in space), but Lawson’s game seems more polished than Woodley’s was coming out of Michigan. A month ago, I wouldn’t have thought that he’d be available, but I’m starting to wonder if the late season injury, combined with having less raw athletic ability than guys like Spence/Lee/Floyd, might cause him to slip a little.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I have a lot of concern with this guys get off…what tape I saw showed him being the last guy to move off the snap very often…do not like that at all.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Clemson fan also. Agree with everything you said. Really interesting play to watch

  • PittsburghSports

    Well, he did lead the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss. Maybe he does it on purpose.

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    Talk about being physically imposing on the edge if we end up with a pair of him and Dupree

  • PittsburghSports

    For real. Just let them and Heyward/Tuitt rush the passer and have Timmons and Shazier worry about coverage. No more manufacturing pressure.

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    That is a lot of ass coming haha.

  • RMSteeler

    Maybe he’s just got the patience of LeVeon Bell. Wait for the hole, then spin through. lol

  • Frank Cordaro

    I like Lawson and it would be a good pick.

  • Xclewsive

    Anthony Chickillo was asked to drop weight and he did. I’m sure losing 10 lbs or so is not going to be hard for Shaq Lawson. One of my favorite players in this draft. If it comes down to BPA he should be the pick.

  • Ike Evans

    You can see the flashes on tape……hes sooooooooo strong…i dont think i saw him get pushed back one time….you know how rare that is….i dont think i saw him, ogbah, or dodd get pushed back in any game i watched and lawson has the frame to get even stronger…..i dont know if this kid will put it all together tho….kinda reminds me of a little less athletic Quentin coples….but boy did he flash a few times

  • Michael James

    Really like him and think he will be a special player, but I don’t think he fits our defensive scheme. Right now I can only imagine him as a 4-3 DE.

  • Steve

    Coming out of College Shade Tree had the same issue and coach Mitchell is very good working on players watching the ball snap to get them quicker off the snap.

  • NonnaYourbiz

    the more I think about it, the more I could see and like us using him to complete a switch to ‘base’ 4-3
    but at the same time, I see a problem with it since we run SO much nickel (at least right now)

    Dupree Tuitt Heyward Lawson*
    Timmons Shazier Cravens*
    Gay Mitchell Grant (Cockrell or who goes here?)

    then in the Nickel

    say you sub out slow man Timmons (unless he cuts 20 # this offseason) that’s a waste of the $ you are paying him to be around unless you push Cravens down to S. And you’re counting on Golson to be great in his first real year @ nickel CB.

    that’s awfully wasteful of some great and high-drafted talent, unless in the Nickel you push Grant back to CB and drop Cravens down to S.

    If it could work, it would be great. Getting consistent pressure with 4 leaves an extra guy to cover, and we need all the help with that that we can.

  • Gluebucket

    I watched Clemson games a few times this year and the thing that really stood out to me about Lawson was how slow he got off the line. I noticed one game that one of Clemson’s D-lineman was very slow off a snap, like 1 second late. I started paying more attention and realized that it was Lawson and that he was pretty consistently slow off the snap. He really needs to work on that, because he’ll never get any pressure if the offensive lineman has a chance to set up before he even moves.

  • PittsburghSports

    lol could be

  • Brian Miller

    I concur, although I am really starting to get on board with Jenkins from Georgia and/or Correa from Boise State too.

  • Brian Miller

    Definitely like the ability to potentially be an elephant that stays on the field a lot. You would think of all the things to be able to improve on with training and coaching that a slow starting step would be easier than most other things, but I could be wrong.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I like Jenkins measurables but I wonder about his lack of production at least as a pass rusher… If he wasn’t producing at GA, then how is he supposed to be expected to produce at the NFL? His spin move was really nice in that one gif though.. Reminded me a little of Freeney’s spin.

  • PaeperCup

    Looks good to me. But wow, those are some pretty late get offs. Even so he still manages to be in the play, amazing.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I don’t understand guys who are constantly late off the snap. Can they not see the ball being snapped?, everybody else manages.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    there is a guy currently on the roster that had great college stats as well by the name of Jarvis Jones….college stats mean almost nothing in the pro game.

  • PittsburghSports

    lol have you watched tape on Lawson? If you have you’d never bring up a Jarvis Jones comparison. Lawson has moves and counter moves.

  • LucasY59

    BPA could be interesting, seems like even if they trade back they would still be able to pick from a couple of good players (that seem like reaches at #25)

    I like the Idea of considering guys they wouldnt normally consider, I think Lawson (or his college teammate Dodd) couuld be useful in sub packages, or even in the base (dont drop him in coverage very often, but he would do well against the run and rushing the passer as a OLB so thats fine in a rotation)

  • LucasY59

    no need to “switch” the base D, they already sub out into a scheme that is very similar to the one you described.

    Having Players that can perform in both schemes is important now (and keeping the base D a 3-4 might seem like a waste, but it can be useful in certain situations also)

    I think possibly picking guys (like Lawson and Cravens) makes the team more multidimensional, and getting guys that are able to contribute in multiple different ways is valuable

  • LucasY59

    Jenkins and Correa are two I really like, and I think they could be available at a value pick in the 3rd (filling holes that are a little more urgent with the top 2 picks)

  • jsteeler

    Lawson played behind Vic Beasley last year the #8 person to picked in the 1st round of the 2015 draft. Speed off the edge but a little light for NFL type LT’s. Lawson doesn’t have the speed but has the power to make it in NFL backfields. He would be great as a NFL OLB for the Steelers

  • HiVul

    I’d love this pick for us in the 1st, wonder who’d they take if Billings and Lawson are both there.

  • jsteeler

    ClemsonTigers Stand Up! If Shaq is gone Dodd would be great too. Didn’t get all the fanfare Lawson received but it just as reliable and better in coverage! I went to Clemson with a guy who played for the Steelers and he reminds me of him: LeVon Kirkland. Size, Power, smarts and classy dude. Never gets in trouble and EVERYBODY loved him! This would be Awesome!
    Class of 91″

  • jsteeler

    Power, Technique, and in game smarts are the best remedies for the lack of quickness off the ball. Shaq has that and some. He alone has knocked RB’s and QB’s out of the game. How do you lead the NCAA’s in TFL and slow off the ball? Power. You can tell he is a student of the game. Each OT he faced was going to give up something during the game. He avg about a sack every game and a 2 TFL per contest including the playoff game 1 sack 1 TFL and the National championship game 2 TFL and a sack with a sprained MCL. He only suffered 1 injury in his WHOLE COLLEGE CAREER AND STILL PLAYED! C’mon man this dude is only going to get better! If My dude: SHAQ LAWSON is their at #25. He won’t be there long!

  • jsteeler

    The next New and Improved Polished Lamarr Woodley without the injury bug concerns. If you have ever witnessed a Clemson game their was a Shaq Lawson Signing. Either in the backfield or on a sack! your going to get one, the other or both! He can only get better!