Speed seems to be a running theme for the Bengals in this draft. Lawson ran a 4.67-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which ranked eighth among all defensive linemen. The Bengals’ third-round pick, Jordan Willis, ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, while first-round wideout John Ross ran a 4.22, which set a combine record. Lawson likely slid in the draft due to injuries (hip and ACL) and inconsistency, but after taking a medical redshirt in 2014, he had the best season of his career in 2016. Lawson had 24 quarterback hurries and nine sacks in his final season. Considering the Bengals were lacking in their pass rush, they have made great strides to fix that particular category.
How he fits: Lawson projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. The Bengals run a base 4-3 defense, so Lawson will likely join the defensive line rotation along with Willis, sliding in as a backup behind Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap and perhaps being used as a situational pass-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, Lawson had at least three pressures in all games but one during the 2016 season. This could be a totally new look on the Bengals’ defensive line, as Andrew Billings projects to replace Domata Peko at nose tackle.
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