Name: Justin Lawler
Position: Defensive End
School: Southern Methodist
Lawler has adequate height and weight for a 4-3 end, though he may lack the length to ever be a consistent pass rush threat. Scouts, coaches and teammates speak glowingly of his work ethic. As such, he is strong throughout his frame and can bully weaker tackles. However, he also appears to have maxed out his effective mass.
Lawler has quick get-off, but he lacks quick twitch and overall speed. He ran just a 5.02 at SMU’s pro day. Lawler does not change directions fluidly so if he does not beat his man off the snap, he is generally neutralized. Simply put, Lawler wins his battles more with strength and activity than with quickness or athleticism.
NFL pass rushing requires moves and counters. Lawler does not really have either. He put up good sack numbers at SMU, but virtually all of his pressure came one of two ways. He either fired off quick and sank to get around a slow tackle or he threw a slap and tried to bully his man to collapse the pocket. They were effective in college, but with his lack of athleticism, they will not translate. Lawler’s best chance to get pressure at the next level will be finding a way to string some of his power moves together as to develop effective counters. His go-to initial moves simply will not be enough to get consistent pressure.
Lawler plays more like a defensive tackle than an end. He plays along the line with the archetypal “high motor,” always looking to make plays. He has the farmer’s strength to set the edge, discard and get his hands dirty on the interior. His solid burst also allows him to get into the backfield quickly to disrupt plays. With Lawler, plays are never over, so he gets a lot of tackles from the backside. Essentially, if he could find a way to add 30 pounds without losing any quickness, Lawler could have a future as a run-stopping three-technique or a 3-4 end. As is, his demand is not particularly high, given that teams want more pass rush potential from their edge guys.
Lawler is a compelling late day three prospect. He was one of the more productive all-around ends in college football last year, yet scouts believe he lacks the physical traits to excel at the next level. He did not get a combine invite so he did not get the chance to enhance the perception of his athleticism to a national audience. Lawler’s numbers at his pro day, however, seemed to back up the narrative.
Still, the tape shows one thing: Lawler stays involved on every single snap. His motor and desire to disrupt go a long way, even if he does not have the speed to be a consistent pass rusher. He should find a place in the league for a few years at least, even if it is only as a special teamer and short yardage end. While not the sexiest of roles, every team can use grinders like Lawler, and the Vikings are no exception.
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