5 Things to know about first-round pick Shaq Lawson - The Buffalo News
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5 Things to know about first-round pick Shaq Lawson

Rex Ryan walked to the podium with a Clemson helmet on before the Bills played the New York Jets last season. The head coach knows this program as well as any coach in the NFL with his son, Seth, on the team.

Now, he hopes a disruptive pass rusher in Shaq Lawson wreaks havoc here in Western New York.

Here are five things to know about the Bills' 19th overall pick...

1. He absolutely dominated in college. There's no denying Lawson's production. In 2015, he finished with 25.5 tackles for loss, including 12.5 sacks. He single-handedly took over games, recording at least one sack in Clemson's final four games. What does GM Doug Whaley like most about Lawson as a pass rusher? His "speed to power." He can mix up his pass-rushing moves.

And Whaley made it clear moments after the pick that Lawson would start immediately... over the other Lawson.

"He walks in, Day 1, as the starter opposite Jerry Hughes," Whaley said. "So he can set the edge from the outside, he can rush speed to power and that gives us two nice rushers off the edge. And then you've got the push in the middle with our defensive tackles. I think this is again, a guy who has the versatile, when we go nickel or sub, he can go inside and use his quickness on the interior offensive linemen.

"First day, coming off the bus, he's starting."

Whaley added that Rex Ryan's "mind is going crazy on the ways he can use him."

That'd mean that Manny Lawson won't be starting at outside linebacker. Possibly he'd move inside where moves inside, but Shaq Lawson is the guy opposite Hughes and could play the 5-technique on passing downs.

So while he wouldn't comment on Paxton Lynch being available, Whaley insisted there was no debate in the war room.

"I'm telling you, he was our top-rated guy and he was sticking out there like a sore thumb," he said. "We never even thought we'd have a chance to sniff the guy. So when it got there, we fielded a couple calls but said it's not worth it and he immediately upgrades our defense."

2. The shoulder concern. There is a red flag here. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that after next season, Lawson would need shoulder surgery that'd sideline him "4-6 months" at some point. The Bills aren't concerned. Whaley said that the team's medical staff cleared Lawson and that they aren't worried at all. "It's nothing that we're really worried about," the GM said, "or we wouldn't have taken him." Buffalo must keep an eye on it, of course.

Lawson said the shoulder is something he had since his freshman year, yet he didn't know anything about it until his medical check this off-season. It's never given him problems.

"I feel great, Lawson said. "I feel 100 percent."

Lawson added that ESPN felt like they "had to put something out there."

"If I didn't need surgery my freshman year," he said, "why would I need surgery now? ... Surgery is not even a question right now."

3. The Clemson connection. Rex Ryan admitted he stole his team's 2016 slogan "All In" from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. He's been on campus quite a bit. Lawson has seen his new coach around often. And the Clemson connection actually runs much deeper. Buffalo has drafted six Clemson players since 2010, including three first-rounders (C.J. Spiller, Sammy Watkins, Shaq Lawson)

"They were in the national championship for a reason," Whaley said.

Lawson has had several conversations with Ryan himself, and said his Bills pre-draft meeting was the best he had. Rex's son Seth? He had the same major as Lawson in college --- parks, recreation and tourism. They took several classes together.

"Buffalo felt like home to me," Lawson. "I just feel like I'm at home with them. They use the same 'All In' like we did at Clemson, same meetings and everything, I'm just happy."

4. Shaq Lawson draws comparisons to Shaun Ellis. That's how his coach at Clemson sees him. Defensive line coach Marion Hobby said the 6-foot-3, 269-pounder has an Ellis-like game even though Ellis brings more size. There's a brute strength to his push up front. Hobby also described Lawson as the more complete, polished player than his bookend, Kevin Dodd.

"I think he still has a major upside ahead of him," Hobby said. "Shaq just turned 21.”

Lawson has experience standing up on the edge, citing action in high school and college. He'll be doing more of that in the pros in Ryan's 3-4.

Said Lawson, "I can bring anything to the table. Whatever the team needs me to do, I'll be able to do it."

5. Lawson's been through a tragedy. His father died in a car accident when he was 16 years old. All but decided on Tennessee, Lawson switched gears to Clemson to live closer to his siblings. After a detour at Hargrave Military Academy to get his grades up, Lawson became a Tiger.

Being the man of the family at such a young age forced Lawson to grow up quickly.

"I didn't care what I had to do," Lawson said. "I was going to be that man and lead by example. Lead for those guys."

Told that he'd be replacing Mario Williams, released after a lackluster 2015 season, Lawson said he's "going to come in every day and do my job."

 

 

 

 

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