In the seventh of many Arizona Cardinals NFL draft profiles we look at nose tackle Dexter Lawrence, a run-stuffing extraordinaire out of Clemson.
One of the Arizona Cardinals draft needs is the nose tackle. Although Corey Peters currently holds the position down, he’s 30 years old and has a contract that runs up in 2020. And with Vance Joseph switching the defense back to the 3-4, he will need a player to anchor the defense and eat up blockers to free up his linebackers in the future.
Cue Dexter Lawrence, a natural nose tackle due to his run-stopping acumen.
At 6-4, 342-pounds, Lawrence is a mountain of a man and it shows on the tape. He’s known as a ball-carrier eater as he’s one of the best tacklers in the draft. His excellent gap control and nimble feet that move swiftly help him boast a run-stop rate of 11.2%, per Pro Football Focus, which ranks him sixth among interior linemen in the 2019 draft class.
Not only does Lawrence have quick moving feet he also boasts an extraordinary functional strength, which showed at the combine when he put up 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press drill.
One of Lawrence’s best traits is his unreal competitive drive. When tasked with 1v1 battles in the trenches, you can bet on him winning 9 out of 10 times. When you combine that with his plus athleticism, strength, and size, it’s hard not to project him as an ace as a run-stopper in the NFL. Per PFF, he finished his three-year Clemson career with 78 run-stops.
But Lawrence needs to improve on his pass-rushing. While he has a nice bull-rush, his technique, counters, and poor edge setting will limit him to staying inside. He also has trouble against double-team blocks. But that didn’t stop him from being productive in college.
Per PFF, Lawrence finished fourth amongst interior defensive linemen in pass-rush productivity with a 7.3 grade and racked up 13.0 sacks, 22 quarterback hits, and 64 hurries. However, 7.0 of those sacks came during his redshirt freshman season.
With all that being said, he would fit well in a nose tackle role operating in the middle of the field. He’s a perfect fit in the 3-4 ‘attacking’ defense as a 0-technique and will mostly be relied as a run-stopping monster on first and second downs. If he can develop his pass-rushing game, it’s hard to see how he couldn’t be a good interior pass-rusher as his game is relentless.
In most drafts, Lawrence would be a first-round pick. He’s big, athletic, plays hard, and has a game ready for the NFL. But this isn’t most drafts. In a class stacked with pass-rushing interior defensive linemen, it’s hard to see where a run-stuffing Dexter Lawrence would fit in the first 50 picks. Although, if he’s available past the first 50, he would be a steal for any team.
Final verdict: Depending on how the draft shakes up the Arizona Cardinals would be wise to target Dexter Lawrence with one of their second or even third round (less likely) picks.
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