Bryce Rossler Summarizes His Scouting Report On Nevin Lawson Of The Detroit Lions.
When most people think of the Lions’ secondary, they think of Pro Bowl safety Glover Quin and $50M cornerback Darius Slay. It might be easy to gloss over Nevin Lawson – who stands at just 5’9” and weighs in at 190 lbs – but the Jamaican-born cornerback was quietly a good contributor on an otherwise weak Detroit defense in 2016. While he has yet to record an interception in his three-year career, Lawson has been second on the team in pass breakups the past two years and was fourth on the team in tackles (57) in 2016. Lawson is entering the final year of his rookie deal, so has he earned a payday with Detroit? A deep dive into the film suggests that he does.
Name: Lawson, Nevin
School: Utah State
Experience: 3 years
Position: CB, SCB
DOB: 4/23/1991 (26 yo)
Team: Detroit Lions
Weight: 191 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.48s
10-yard split: 1.63s
Bench press: 16 reps
Games played: 33
Games started: 26
Games won (win percentage): 17 (51.5%)
Team captain: no
Defensive scheme: Lawson has played all three years in DC Teryl Austins base 4-3 scheme, which relies on four-man rushes and stunts/twists to generate pressure and uses a lot of Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4 and off-man to prevent big plays and limit YAC. Predominantly played outside, but occasionally played inside against 3+ WR looks.
2016 – Foot (Wk 8, missed no games)
2015 – Shoulder (Wk 17, missed no games); Concussion (Wk 11, missed no games),
2014 – dislocated toe (left foot) [Wk 3, missed 14 games of 2014 season]
2016 – 57 tackles (4th on team), 9 passes defensed (2nd on team), 0 INTs
2015 – 41 tackles (9th on team) and 7 passes defensed (2nd on team), 0 INTs
Mental processing, competitive toughness, click and close, Man coverage
Worst of: Engaging blockers at point of attack, tackling technique, jamming at the line of scrimmage, height/length
Mental processing: 5/7
Athletic ability: 5/7
Play speed: 5/7
Competitive toughness: 5/7
Play strength: 3/7
Man coverage: 5/7
LOS skills: 3/7
Ball skills: 4/7
Run support: 5/7
Open-field tackling: 4/7
2016: 9/25 at GB, 10/23 vs. WAS, 10/30 at HOU, vs. JAX 11/20, 12/4 at NO
Lawson is a better athlete than given credit for; he has good speed and can change directions and accelerate quickly. His size leaves something to be desired though, as he’s short and has small arms. He’s a smart player that plays with good vision and instincts and he excels at anticipating routes from zone and off coverage. When in zone coverage, he does a solid job of leveraging route-runners to help his defenders. When you combine his mental processing with his foot speed, he can click and close on passes quickly.
Furthermore, Lawson was sneakily good in man coverage in 2016, performing well against the likes of Allen Hurns, Desean Jackson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams. While he won’t be guarding any height-weight-speed freaks – due to his own physical limitations – Lawson is very capable of defending deep threats, quick slot receivers, and generally any receiver that doesn’t dwarf him in size, length, or strength. He makes good use of his hands throughout routes and is adept at the art of hand-fighting.
It’s also worth disputing a widely-held notion that Lawson’s ball skills are poor. While he hasn’t recorded any interceptions yet, he demonstrates the requisite traits that one would expect from an NFL cornerback. He does a solid job of tracking the ball over his shoulder, and makes catch attempts difficult for receivers by playing through them physically or by swatting at their arms or the ball. He also flashes the ability to strip at the ball as the second or third tackler, which is an important skill.
Lawson is also a better run supporter than most corners. He maintains proper contain responsibilities and leverages the ball towards his help well. He’s also a capable tackler and he demonstrates good physicality and aggression to get down ball carriers much bigger than himself. He flashes the ability to disengage blockers using upper body strength and make tackles on ball carriers.
One of the most impressive things about Lawson is his competitive nature. He consistently performed well in clutch situations in 2016, and played much larger, and more aggressively, than his listed size.
However, he’s not without his faults. Lawson’s short arms make it difficult for him to do several things. He struggles to consistently jam longer receivers at the line of scrimmage. Longer, physical receivers can use arm extension to generate separation from him on short, inside patterns. He also must work overtime to get in a position to shed blocks. His height and below average vertical explosion make it difficult for him to high point jump balls. Furthermore, between his smaller stature and below average play strength, he often must concede gap leverage to avoid being devoured by climbing offensive linemen and tight ends coming to block him.
Despite his willingness as tackler, he doesn’t use proper form and often ducks his head into contact and fails to wrap up or get his body across the ball carrier. Due to his size, big running backs can take him for a ride and most WRs can drive him back in the running game.
Lawson’s aggressiveness can be used against him, too. He’s prone to biting on pump fakes and can take overly aggressive angles to the ball. His active hand usage throughout routes also borders dangerously on holding and defensive pass interference. He also has a tendency to open his hips early on outside releases by deep threat WRs.
All in all, Lawson is a good cornerback and should command several suitors next offseason. He can play both outside and inside, and is a good fit in a scheme that calls for a lot of zone and off coverage (i.e. the Lions scheme). After missing fourteen games in his rookie season, Lawson has played just 32 games in the NFL and, at age 26, should continue to improve. He may never be a traditional shutdown corner, but players that that can support the run well and cover receivers like Randall Cobb and Desean Jackson have plenty of value in this league. For those interested in seeing some of these traits in action, I did a GIF thread on Lawson on Twitter.