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Justin Lawler-SMU

The NFL draft is just days away, and by this point each player has been analyzed, scrutinized, and romanticized by every NFL guru from Kalamazoo to Calcutta. We here at turn once again to our director of scouting Nathan Cooper to help us look deeper into the draft at some guys from the group of five that may be a real steal on draft day!

Justin Lawler College: SMU

Position: Edge Rusher

Year: 5SR

Jersey: #99

Hometown: Pottsboro, TX

Games Scouted: 2017 #3 @ TCU, #5 @ UConn, #10 @ Navy (Live), #11 @ Memphis 2017 Stats: 13 GP, 74 Tackles (42 Solo), 15.5 TFL, 9.5 Sacks, 2 FF, 3 Blocks Career Stats: 49 GP, 226 Tackles (142 Solo), 39.5 TFL, 20.5 Sacks, 3 FF, 1 FR, 6 Blocks All-Star Game: East-West Shrine Game


  • 2x First Team All-AAC (2016 & 2017 – Coaches)

  • Major is Sport Management

  • 2-Star Composite in 2013 (247Sports)

  • Lettered in basketball, baseball, powerlifting and track in high school

Character – A

  • Takes part in visits to the children’s hospital and serves as a mystery reader at Children’s Health

  • Participates in Relay for Life and other community events

  • 3x Team Captain (2015, 2016, 2017)

Medical – A

  • No concerns


  • Good pass rush repertoire

  • Strong hands

  • Plays with good leverage and pad level

  • Competes and fights through blockers

  • ST Value blocking kicks


  • Doesn’t have great speed or COD skills

  • Struggles to shed against larger blockers

  • Limited coverage ability


Lawler projects best as a 4-3 defensive end/edge rusher at the next level. At SMU, he almost exclusively had his hand in the ground playing mostly 5- and 9-techniques. He shifted down into a 3-tech in some 3rd down situations. He has decent athletic ability, but looks stiff and isn’t a quick-twitch or reactive athlete. He doesn’t have great speed or the best change-of-direction transition skills. He plays with a good motor and competes from down-to-down. He shows good pursuit to the ball carrier, but will slack off on the backside on occasion. He also plays with good strength and toughness. He’s able to make plays against the run with good leverage at the POA. He can squeeze down the LOS, but doesn’t have the greatest lateral quickness. He relies mostly on instinct and strength. He is a good tackler and rarely lets ball carriers out of his grasp. Against the pass, he shows a good pass rush repertoire and does a good job mixing it up. He doesn’t have great bend or quickness, but mixes in speed and power moves. He mostly utilizes speed around the edge, a straight bull rush or a pull-rip move. He is quick off the ball and shows good 1st step explosion. He has very good, strong hands and does a good job latching on a dictating blocks. He plays will a good pad level and is able to get leverage, although, at times he will struggle to shed larger blockers. That, in turn, allows him to lose the edge at the POA on occasion. In the four games scouted, he didn’t drop into coverage at all, and due to him not being extremely athletic or having great COD skills, he doesn’t project to be a great flat coverage defender. Lawler can play on all downs due to his ability against the run and pass. He can come off the edge or slide down inside on 3rd down passing situations. He also shows some special teams value, especially as a rusher on field goal/PAT block. He recorded six blocks in his college career. He could potentially play on a majority of the other teams as well. He needs to bulk up a little more and add some core strength and agility. He should be able to come in and contribute as a rotational end and special teamer early on and then fit in as a solid backup by year two.

NFL Comparison: Cassius Marsh, 49ers Lawler and Marsh are very similar coming out of college, from their body types to their skillset. They both use their hands well at the POA and compete with a high motor. On the other hand, they lack solid speed and can struggle against larger blockers.

Grade: 6.2 (Late 3rd Round)

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