Shaq Lawson was the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. And since the Buffalo Bills selected him with that pick, there have been many reports stating that the team may be interested in moving on should he not show some improvement.
In a recent Q&A with The Athletic, Bills GM Brandon Beane said “Shaq is a guy that this franchise put a lot of stock in with a first-round pick [in 2016]…..It’s no secret he hasn’t lived up to that.”
Lawson’s struggles in the NFL have been linked to problems picking up the playbook, issues with weight and a general lack of production. He has six sacks through 21 career games. But after only having seven tackles in 2016, Lawson more than doubled that total last year with 17 tackles. So he has already proven that the production can catch up to his impressive physical profile.
There is a belief that front offices around the league know that they can offer low-ball trades for Lawson, as he may be on his way to being released. While this is fairly routine in the “what have you done for me lately? NFL”, it is important to keep in mind that Lawson is just 23-years old, entering his third season in the league. And again, the talent is clearly there. Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss in 2015, and was a part of some truly special teams in his three years at Clemson.
Positional fit may be the biggest issue for Lawson, who played DE in all three years at Clemson, but played LB in his first year in the NFL, before switching back to DE last season.
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is an elite defensive coach, known to bring the best out of players in his aggressive 3-4 schemes. He has helped transform Chicago’s defense to a respectable unit that already has enough youth to improve into one of the league’s best. Now imagine if Lawson was added to the mix.
Last season under Fangio, the Bears finished in the top 10 in 1st downs, passing TDs and rushing TDs allowed. The Bears also finished in the top 10 in sacks, finishing with 42 on the season. So there is evidence that Fangio may be able to get Lawson back to the level he played at in his three seasons with Clemson. In his junior season in 2015, Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss with 25. He also amassed 12.5 sacks that year, showing that he can be a force off the edge.
With the Bears having so many capable and developing pass rushers, Lawson-provided he is healthy-would be a great option to lineup up opposite of Akiem Hicks, who finished with 8.5 sacks in 2017.
Lawson has stated that he has cut weight to get back to 265 lbs. ,and this means lining him up at LB could give Fangio unlimited options with his impressive defensive front.
The Bears defense has been praised as one that could become the best in the league, and finding a way to acquire the potentially on-his-way-out Lawson could be a buy-low move to put this team over the top.