Just a short time ago, Carl Lawson and Jeff Holland were terrorizing opposing quarterbacks together for Auburn football. Having shared a locker room, Lawson knows what ‘Sensei Mud’ is capable of.
That’s why Lawson wasn’t too stunned or concerned when Holland was skipped over in the 2018 NFL Draft last month and instead signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent.
After all, Lawson was projected to be an early-rounds pick and slipped to the fourth round before the Cincinnati Bengals scooped him up in 2017. Lawson went on to have an All-Rookie year, finishing with 16 tackles and 8.5 sacks, which was the highest sack total among NFL rookies.
“I think the league has a bias against undersized rushers,” Lawson said. “I think that was it. And a lot of people don’t really trust tape. I think that’s what I feel like happened with Jeff, but Jeff is an excellent football player. He dropped, he had guys drafted ahead of him, but it is what it is. I mean, there are measurables that really go into the draft. It’s timing and it’s kind of measurables, it’s about how you test.”
Holland was a first-team All-SEC selection as a junior and ranked second in the conference with 10.0 sacks. He was invited to the NFL Combine, but didn’t exactly impress, posting a 4.79 40-yard dash time that ranked 13th among edge rushers.
From Lawson’s observations, it seems Auburn players who’ve jumped to the pros in recent years haven’t been given enough respect.
“I don’t know what it is,” Lawson said. “Especially after the 2013 season, I don’t think guys from Auburn get a lot of respect, as much as they used to. But I think since then we have tons of guys that have been in the league more recently and have done well. Maybe soon people will start to see the value in Auburn players.”
Regardless, Holland is now a rookie with the Broncos and Lawson knows what his first NFL season will consist of. For Lawson, the biggest adjustment was simply taking on extra responsibilities — something Holland might also be expected to do.
“I think the most difficult part for me was just all the meetings and special teams,” Lawson said. “I never had to do that at Auburn. Being a rookie, special teams is a little bit new to me. That was probably the biggest difference.”