Carl Lawson doesn't give much thought to mock drafts, but the former Auburn defensive end is confident in his NFL Draft stock after the Tigers' pro day.
Just how confident is Lawson, who declared early for this year's draft? The talented pass-rusher is certain he's a first-round talent, and he wants NFL teams to know it.
"Easily," Lawson said Friday. "If you followed me throughout my career, I watch film all the time and watch NFL film. I'm a guy who could consistently win one-on-ones on the edge, so I definitely feel like I'm a first-round talent."
Lawson only participated in position drills during Auburn's pro day, which included representatives from all 32 NFL teams -- including one head coach in Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the most part, Lawson opted to stand on his performance at last week's NFL Combine, where he garnered a great deal of attention for the numbers he put up in workouts.
At the Combine, Lawson ran a 4.67 40-yard dash, put up 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, had a 33-inch vertical jump, a 114-inch (9 feet, 6 inches) broad jump, 7.46-second three-cone drill and a 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle. Of those drills, Lawson led all defensive linemen in two of them: the bench press and the 20-yard shuttle.
"I felt like I checked off a lot of boxes," Lawson said. "I was No. 1 in two drills, ran a pretty good 40. Certain teams had different times on me, but most important thing for me was making sure they knew I had a really fast 10-yard split, which is pretty much the most important part for rushing the passer."
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While Lawson made a name for himself at Auburn as a pass-rusher -- he led the team with nine sacks last season -- some NFL teams are looking at him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Lawson's main goal on Friday was to prove to teams he's "more than qualified" athletically to play that position at the next level.
"There's no doubt," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "Carl is very versatile. He's able to fit the odd scheme or the even scheme. Bottom line is he can rush the passer. You look at Dee Ford, I think there were a lot of question regarding Dee Ford and I think him and Carl have similar skill sets."
Carl Lawson talks with the media after Auburn's Pro Day
Ford, who was in attendance on Friday, had 10.5 sacks during his senior season at Auburn in 2013 (Lawson's freshman campaign) and parlayed that into becoming a first-round selection with the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 draft. Since then, Ford has developed into a top-tier pass-rusher in the NFL, fishing tied for 15th in the league last season with 10 sacks.
Although Lawson is prepared to prove he's a good fit at outside linebacker, he knows his best asset is as an edge rusher. He spoke with Tomlin during pro day and told the Steelers coach he is comfortable dropping into coverage. Tomlin's response, according to Lawson, was "I need you to rush the passer."
"I was like, OK, that's what I do best," Lawson said.
Lawson will spend the rest of his time leading up to next month's draft training in Boca Raton, Fla., with trainer Tony Villani at XPE Sports. Lawson worked with Villani leading up to the Combine and pro day, and he said his goal now is to get his body into football shape, take meetings with NFL teams and let the chips fall where they may when the draft begins on April 27.
"I think Carl will be drafted high," Malzahn said. "He's earned that, and he's one of the best players in our league. He's just very talented, great person, great moto, great family. He's got everything you look for."
NFL Draft Profile: Carl Lawson