Clemson Tigers defensive end Shaq Lawson announced Wednesday he will skip his senior season and declare for the 2016 NFL draft:
The 6'3", 275-pound junior is No. 14 on Matt Miller of Bleacher Report's big board and the No. 2 overall defensive end prospect.
Lawson's compact frame and power make him equally effective against the run and the pass, where he shows surprising initial quickness and agility as well as a terrific motor. He has quick, strong hands to create push with his upper-body strength, showing the fluid lower body to drive his legs and smoothly change directions based on his reads.
Lawson is terrific leveraging blocks off the edge, using an iron shoulder and natural body flexibility to dictate his path and beat single blocks. Does a nice job setting the edge and playing contain, working off his blocks to the outside and finishing in space.
Lawson, a 2015 consensus All-America selection, had a combined 7.5 sacks his first two years before registering 12.5 this season as Clemson made it to the final of the College Football Playoff, where it lost to Alabama.
Lawson battled a knee injury during the latter stages of the campaign. At one point, he listed the pain from the ailment at an eight on a 10-point scale, per College Football 24/7. He fought through the issue to register four tackles and two sacks in the team's loss to the Crimson Tide in the national title game.
NFL teams will surely want to take a look at the medical information during the draft process to see if there's any reason for long-term concern stemming from the knee problem.
He's got a terrific opportunity to land in the first half of Round 1, and potentially even inside the top 10, if there are no lingering health issues. His combination of size, power and small-space quickness makes him an ideal edge-rusher in today's NFL.
Lawson must continue to improve against the run, and he'll likely need to add some more moves to his arsenal in order to make a consistent pass-rushing impact at the next level. Those are not uncommon areas of concern for an incoming rookie, though.
The more important thing is his skill set, which is highly impressive. He's capable of stepping right into the lineup on Day 1 and steadily developing into a force off the edge over the next few years.