Detroit Lions fans who were hoping for an infusion of new talent into the secondary had to wait until the fourth round of this year’s NFL draft when the Lions selected Utah State’s Nevin Lawson with the 133rd overall pick.
Odds are against a franchise finding a starting corner who can play on the outside so late in the draft and clearly the Lions are rolling the dice with Slay and Houston. Still, with most offenses running 11 personnel (one running back, three receivers) on a regular basis, a quality “nickel” or third corner becomes an important commodity. Nevin Lawson, who jumped out at me when I was scouting other players, may provide the Lions with just that.
After viewing three games (Fresno State, USC, Northern Illinois), I gave Lawson a 6.4 grade (late third/early fourth round).
With the First Pick
Here’s an excerpt from his scouting report:
Nevin Lawson – Cornerback – Utah State
Height: 5094 Weight: 190 40 Time: 4.48
Versatile – has played press/off man and zone. Explosive, sudden athlete with the quick feet to stay in receiver’s hip pocket in and out of breaks. Smooth backpedal with efficient click and close when breaking forward on the ball. Fluid hips with adequate speed to stay in tight coverage on most receivers downfield. Smart and instinctive with excellent read-and-react skills. Zone aware with good route recognition skills. Tracks the ball well vertically – good body position, executes look and lean. Competitive, is physical and doesn’t shy from contact. Productive, durable three-year starter.
Lacks ideal height and strength – will struggle matching up vs. bigger receivers/winning 50-50 jump balls. Tends to clutch and grab downfield. Doesn’t possess the speed to recover if he loses a step in transition vs. elite vertical threats. Press technique needs refinement – allows free release too often. Ball skills need improvement – leaves INTs on the field and needs to finish. Run support is hot and cold and needs to be more consistent.
Lawson, a three-year starter for the Aggies, had 40 career starts with 205 total tackles, six interceptions and 36 passes broken up. Quick-footed and explosive, Lawson has ideal attributes to man the slot where he can utilize his quick twitch movement skills to mirror receivers off the LOS. A heady player who keys and diagnoses very quickly, Lawson also has the route recognition skills to contribute as a zone defender. Though he’ll always lack the size to be a true number one corner, Lawson has the versatility to contribute in nickel packages and the skill set to man-up on the outside in a pinch. Late third/early fourth round, sub package corner with some upside if he can polish his press technique and ball skills.