2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Clemson's Dexter Lawrence proving to be more than space-eater
The Tigers' mammoth defensive linemen plays with rare athleticism, refined skill for a 6-foot-4, 350-pounder
Dexter Lawrence has looked ready for the NFL since his true freshman season at Clemson in 2016, and it's time we start taking him more seriously as a top-half-of-the-first-round prospect.
The former No. 2 recruit overall in the nation is a colossal presence on the interior at 6-4 and 350 pounds, but he plays like he's about 6-1, 320. Against Texas A&M, Lawrence could not be blocked, and an argument can be made that he was most effective quickly moving down the line of scrimmage on stretch runs, which is something most 330-plus pounders have trouble doing. The pass-rush moves are there too.
Here's my updated Top 20 prospect list after Week 2 in college football.
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa once again loaded the stat sheet for Ohio State with five solo tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack against Rutgers. He quickly converted speed to power with extended arms into offensive linemen and countered if and when they stymied his initial rush. Like his brother, Bosa is calm and under control during his pass rush, and it allows him to quickly utilize one of his many moves to get to the quarterback. He's always throwing something different at blockers. After dominant performances against Bowling Green and Rutgers, he'll face stronger competition Saturday against TCU.
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Back into the No. 2 spot for Oliver after what was probably the finest pass-rushing performance of his career over the weekend. His insane acceleration made him unstoppable when attacking upfield, and of course he used his hands to get the leverage advantage when needed. While he only registered a half tackle for loss, Oliver took a big step forward in the pass-rushing department against Arizona.
3. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
It was another masterful effort from Williams against Arkansas State. His entire game was more teaching tape. There's a chance some teams see Williams as a guard at the next level because he's listed at 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds, but if Isaiah Wynn can go in the first round as a tackle, so can Williams.
4. Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State
Jones was spectacular against Rutgers, and I'm starting to realize he has the best combination of burst off the snap and hand usage among all interior defensive linemen in the country. Like Bosa, he's extremely polished in the pass-rush move department. Jones demonstrated an effective swim and swipe move along with a powerful bull rush and club when changing directions.
5. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Ferrell was a constant force against Texas A&M, and Clemson clearly needed just about all of those positive snaps from their star outside pass-rusher. He really has a dynamic get-off, from a superb start to sustained speed throughout. Ferrell will seriously test offensive tackles' athleticism. He's quick to engage and lock out with his arms so he's not being controlled by lockers, and he flashed an amazing spin. Ferrell got his strip sack on a lightning-fast swim move. The junior isn't afraid to attack with a swipe back to the inside either. However, his acceleration was more impressive than his bend against the Aggies. I did like his wherewithal to continue his rush while being contacted. Some pass-rushers throttle down when they're battling.
6. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
As expected, Little was solid against a feisty Southern Illinois team. While he's not always able to latch onto his blocks and sustain them for three or four seconds, Little seemingly stuns defensive linemen with his quickness and how fast he strikes their midsection. He's a tremendous athlete.
7. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
What didn't Brown do in Ole Miss' win on Saturday? He had eight receptions, 158 yards and two touchdowns in which his full, wide-ranging skill set was on display. Deceptive downfield speed and ball-tracking skills? Check. Creative yards after the catch? Check. Separation ability on short-to-intermediate routes? Check. I'd just like to see Brown face press more often to see how he handles it. Not that I'm expecting him to be totally overwhelmed by a corner in his face at the line, but he'll see that type of coverage in the NFL.
8. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Harry was held in check for a good portion of Arizona State's upset win over Michigan State ... then he secured the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a vintage contested-catch snag. Like Brown, Harry is a physical specimen who, despite his bigger frame, shouldn't be labeled as "lanky." He looks like a professional No. 1 receiver.
9. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Williams' interception against Southeastern Louisiana came on an in-breaking route he essentially ran for the wide receiver. At 6-3 with smooth athleticism, LSU's star cornerback is going to be loved by many scouts and GMs in the spring.
10. Brian Burns, DE, Florida State
Though it was against Samford's offensive line, Burns was seemingly in the backfield near the quarterback on every third pass-rushing snap. Some of those plays he was -- purposely? -- unblocked, and on others his electric burst off the snap was the reason he was able to wreak havoc. He reminds me a lot of how Clelin Ferrell was a season ago. Ridiculously long and athletic but in need of a stable of pass-rushing moves to rely on throughout a game.
11. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State
Finley diced the Georgia State defense ... after he nearly threw an interception on the opening drive. He doesn't have a big arm but routinely throws with anticipation, especially on the long throws toward the sideline that typically take a while to arrive to the intended target.
12. Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
Simmons was essentially unblockable against Kansas State. He finished the day with four tackles and two tackles for loss, and he generated repeated pressure on both Wildcat quarterbacks all afternoon. His hips aren't as fluid as Dre'Mont Jones, but he's as well-versed with his pass-rush moves. Simmons leans on his bull rush and showed off a slippery swim move to disrupt the backfield on a few occasions. Against the run, he anchored well and displayed the ability to shed against a double team.
13. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame
It was going to be difficult for Tillery to match his production from the Michigan game, but he pieced together a quality outing against a good Ball State team at home. Despite being 6-6, Tillery doesn't play particularly high, and he has powerful hands he uses well with swipe and club moves.
14. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Baker's interception was gift-wrapped. However, he more than held his own against Deebo Samuel, who finished the game with just 33 yards on five receptions. Baker also broke up two passes as the Bulldogs cruised to victory.
15. Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo
Johnson is the MAC's A.J. Brown. In a captivating game against Temple that came the day after his best friend was shot and killed, Johnson, who was also battling the flu, had six catches for 76 yards and a dazzling yards-after-the-catch scamper into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
16. Te'von Coney, LB, Notre Dame
Coney is one of the most methodical linebackers I've watched. He seemingly stalks the ball carrier or quarterback and doesn't appear to be moving very fast to his target, but he's always around the football. He had 14 total tackles (10 solo) with three tackles for loss and a sack against Ball State. Coney got stuck on a few blocks but, in general, he worked well to dispatch offensive linemen.
17. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Here's the deal with Lawrence as it currently stands -- by looking at him, you'd think he's destined for a strict, two-down role at the NFL level. But the Clemson star is much more than a space-eating nose tackle. He moves tremendously well for his size, and he routinely deploys different pass-rushing moves en route to the quarterback or when he's disrupting a run play. His trump card is his bull rush, which almost always puts interior offensive linemen on skates. Lawrence is looking like a serious, well-rounded prospect. He dominated against Texas A&M.
18. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Once again -- and I'm guessing this is going to be a theme with this season -- Gary's athletic talent stands out on just about every snap. He's a twitchy mover for 6-5 and 280-plus pounds. But he's probably playing out of position on the edge and doesn't have a variety of pass-rushing moves to beat blocks if he can't win with his bull rush. Against the run, Gary is outstanding scraping down the line to squeeze any cutback lanes, and he can shed blocks in one-on-one situations. I want to see more beyond a power rush or speed rush to the outside.
Lock stared down a receiver on one play but was bailed out by a drop from the Wyoming cornerback. Other than that, he was impressive Saturday. Quick through his progressions and certainly unafraid to let it rip downfield, Lock is a fun quarterback to watch. He even showcased his athleticism on some runs, one of which resulted in a touchdown.
20. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Thompson didn't have an interception against Arkansas State, yet did put some high-quality run-stopping reps on film. He's a super-springy athlete and has shown quick play-recognition skills early in 2018.
Devin White, LB, LSU, Zach Allen, DE, Boston College, Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State, David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State, Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon, , Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State, T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin, Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford, Damien Harris, RB, Alabama, , Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma, Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
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