Shaq Lawson has declared for the 2016 NFL Draft. Here are the Clemson star’s five best fits.
Picture a 6-foot-3, 270-pound nightmare for offensive linemen. He goes by the name Shaq Lawson, and he’s officially leaving the friendly confines of Clemson University to pursue a career in the NFL.
Lawson declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday with a personalized message on Twitter, thanking Clemson and everyone who helped him reach this point.
The Tigers were unable to deliver a national championship to their fans, falling to Alabama, 45-40, in the title game. But their 2015 run, which Lawson had a big part in, was still incredibly impressive.
The redshirt-junior defensive end put up 123 total tackles and 20 sacks in his 40 games for Clemson. Now, he’ll get ready for the draft process.
But where is Lawson going start his NFL career? Below are the five best team fits for the Clemson defensive end.
5. San Francisco 49ers – 7th overall pick
The problem here is San Francisco needs a quarterback more than a fish needs water. Colin Kaepernick’s days are numbered, and the 49ers are looking for a signal caller to build around.
But adding Lawson would definitely be a solid addition. San Francisco cut ties with Aldon Smith last season, and the defensive end-outside linebacker hybrid is now making plays for the Oakland Raiders. The 49ers watched three of their best defensive players call it quits at the end of the 2014 season. Chris Borland, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith all retired. Adding Lawson to the up-and-coming Aaron Lynch wouldn’t be a bad way to go if San Francisco looks to get a quarterback elsewhere.
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4. Jacksonville Jaguars – 5th overall pick
Just like with the 49ers, the Jaguars have other needs that are more pressing than their need for a defensive end, but don’t believe Jacksonville wouldn’t love to add someone like Lawson to its defensive front.
Gus Bradley has the image of the Seattle Seahawks defense he left behind stuck in his head, and having an influx of defensive linemen to rotate in and out is a huge part of that. Jared Odrick just got a big deal from the Jaguars, and he’s under contract through the 2019 season. After taking Dante Fowler Jr. with the third-overall pick last season, it’s unlikely Jacksonville spends this year’s pick on a defensive end. But it would be a lot of fun to see Fowler and Lawson terrorize the AFC South.
3. New York Giants – 10th overall pick
In addition to trying to find the right replacement for Tom Coughlin, the New York Giants have quite a few holes to fill on their defense.
The Giants compiled just 23 sacks as a team, and nine of those were made by Robert Ayers, who will be a free agent. Jason Pierre-Paul’s future with the team is also up in the air. New York needs playmakers on the line, and Lawson would be a great addition.
2. Atlanta Falcons – 17th overall pick
Wouldn’t Clemson fans absolutely love to see Lawson end up starting his professional career with the closest NFL team to their beloved Tigers? Dan Quinn is going into year two as head coach of Atlanta, and he’s definitely trying to instill a defensive mindset.
The Falcons spent their first-round pick in last year’s draft on another Clemson Tiger: Vic Beasley. He had quiet a rookie season for Atlanta with 20 total tackles and four sacks. How much fun would it be to pair him with his old teammate? Lawson and Beasley could be Quinn’s first two building blocks of a potentially intimidating defense in the near future.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 9th overall pick
If the Falcons aren’t going to take Lawson, the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers will gladly snatch him up. Gerald McCoy led the Bucs with 8.5 sacks this past season as a defensive tackle. Imagine the kind of one-on-one opportunities Lawson would get having one of the league’s best defensive tackles next to him.
William Gholston will be an unrestricted free agent and Howard Jones will be an exclusive rights free agent after the 2016 season, so it would make sense to stock up on as many talented defensive linemen as possible for Tampa Bay. A defense anchored by McCoy, Lawson, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander would have the Bucs eating up running backs across the NFL.