(Editor's Note: With two weeks until the start of the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, the staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of possible Cowboys draft picks – from the top of the first round to the bottom of the talent pool. Today's featured player is Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.)
Name: Shaq Lawson
Position: Defensive End
Honors: Consensus All-American and first-team All-ACC selection in 2015; voted a second-team Freshman All-American by various media outlets.
Key Stat: Lawson didn't become a starter until his third and final college season in 2015, and he emerged as one of the nation's best defenders with an NCAA-best 25.5 tackles for loss as Clemson went undefeated in the regular season and reached the national championship game.
Where He's Projected: With pass rush such a premium skill around the league, most mock drafts project Lawson as a first-rounder quite possibly selected somewhere in the top 10 – similar to Ohio State's Joey Bosa and Oregon's DeForest Buckner, two other elite defensive end prospects. Some outside draft observers don't consider Lawson a dynamic pass rusher, but he has the frame and strength to hold up against the run and he showed the ability to reach the quarterback in college – he had 12.5 sacks in 15 games last year.
How He Helps the Cowboys: The Dallas defense tied for 25th with 31 sacks in 2015 and has tallied 59 the last two seasons. Sacks aren't the sole indicator of a solid pass rush, but it's clear the Cowboys want more pressure players. Signing restricted free agent Benson Mayowa and re-signing Jack Crawford both should help the defensive end rotation, particularly with Randy Gregory set to miss the first four regular-season games due to NFL suspension. Lawson is the type of penetrating defensive lineman who can make a difference on whichever team drafts him.
Scout's Take: Some initial quickness. Swat-rip rusher. Will work down the line to chase the ball. Arm over swim. Can work back to the ball. Can dip the shoulder. Plays off blocks. Sees his share of double teams. Can break a blocker down. Played the low block well. Takes on the trap block. Spin move to free. Plays with his hands. Will shed blockers. Will hold his position. Has to be careful how deep he rushes. Some power in his hands when bull rushes. Will stand up on edge. Works to try and free himself. Effort is good. – Bryan Broaddus