3. Carl Lawson
Why he’s here: In many ways, No. 3 is too low for Lawson.
If not for the unexpected standout seasons by two of his teammates, the Auburn defensive lineman could’ve worked his way to the top spot. As far as NFL draft projections go, Lawson will likely be the first player off the board (operating under the assumption he leaves).
Lawson led the team in sacks, and it wasn’t particularly close, doubling the second-highest total on the team, by Montravius Adams.
All of that success arrived after many doubters questioned whether or not the former 5-star prospect would live up to the billing.
“Carl is obsessive compulsive about the game of football, and that’s a great thing. He’s harder on hisself than any of us could ever be,” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said early in the season. “He thinks that if they throw it 10 times that he ought to have six sacks, and that’s a good thing.”
Lawson, a noted film geek, doesn’t say much when he speaks with the media. Thus, he’s rarely made available during Auburn’s press availability. But he let his play speak for itself, and he finally broke through coming off an injury.
One of Lawson’s biggest moments of the season came in the draining seconds of the LSU game. He sacked LSU quarterback Danny Etling late in the game, which led to the frantic final play.
He had a knack for the big play in 2016. Lawson had a strip-sack in the Mississippi State game that resulted in Adams’ big-man touchdown. That tandem terrorized opposing offensive lines this season.
Auburn’s offensive linemen know exactly the challenge he presents.
“I’ve been playing against Carl Lawson and some other great defensive guys (since I got here),” Austin Golson said. “So that’s honestly — I mean it’s the old saying, ‘Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another.’ That’s exactly what it is.”
LARGE MAN TOUCHDOWN: Carl Lawson beats Rankin with ease, Montravius Adams scoops and scores, and Maurice Swain dusts off the big guy. pic.twitter.com/KeB1xVTiCz
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) October 9, 2016
Season stats: 9 sacks, 28 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 24 QB hurries and 1 forced fumble.
Next season: Nothing is official yet, of course. That will come following the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. But, as Gus Malzahn hinted at last week, Lawson “participated in Senior Day.” Malzahn’s suggestion all but confirms the notion that Lawson will forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. He is the 27th ranked prospect, according to NFLDraftScout.com. Lawson will likely be a first-rounder. With a solid combine and pro day, he could launch into the top half of the first round.
Top 10 Auburn football players
No. 10: Marlon Davidson
No. 9: Kerryon Johnson
No. 8: Sean White
No. 7: Deshaun Davis
No. 6: Alex Kozan
No. 5: Josh Holsey
No. 4: Daniel Carlson
No. 3: Carl Lawson