Draft 2018 – Pick #11: Justin Lawler, DL, SMU

While only ranked as a two-star prospect from Texas, Lawler's first-team all-state selection (124 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 13 sacks; 44 catches, 719 yards, 11 touchdowns receiving) portended a good career at SMU. The former high school powerlifter was ready to play right away, earning time in all 12 games as a true freshman (23 tackles) and getting some time on offense (three-yard touchdown, two-point conversion). Lawler earned the starting job as a sophomore, lining up for every game and leading the Mustangs with 64 tackles, nine for loss while compiling five sacks. His break-out season came in 2016, garnering first-team All-American Athletic Conference accolades, racking up 65 stops and leading the team with 15 tackles for loss and six sacks. Lawler received first-team all-conference recognition as a senior, as well, racking up 74 tackles, 15.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and three blocked kicks for the Mustangs.
Highly productive three-year starter who has used his strength and motor to whip inferior competition across from him in the American Conference. Lawler doesn't have enough size to fit into an odd front and he lacks athletic rush traits teams want from 4-3 defensive ends. Lawler's football character and production will get him a look, but he may lack the physical talent and athletic ability to last in the league.
  • Scouts say he has desired football makeup and character
  • Weight room junkie who works hard to get into optimal shape
  • Flashes upper body power to shed blockers and makes tackles behind the line of scrimmage
  • Relentless effort has lead to huge performances against inferior competition
  • Hung four tackles for loss and four sacks on Connecticut this season
  • Gets upfield with solid initial quickness
  • Uses forward lean at top of his rush as a tool for momentum
  • Keeps feet churning to work hips around the corner as rusher
  • Finishes the job once he gets into the pocket
  • Lacks length on the edge
  • Plays with too much stiffness at point of attack
  • Can be widened off the edge by strong run blocking tackles
  • Marginal athlete with subpar change of direction in space
  • Lacks play speed and functional tackle range
  • Will struggle to close out NFL running backs looking to turn the corner
  • May not have a clean position fit
  • Hands are more aggressive than skilled
  • Needs to add a go-to rush move and a workable counter
  • Appears to be maxed out physically
Lance Zierlin (NFL.COM)

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