DeMarcus Lawrence came to Boise State after spending two years at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. The impressive defensive end went from being a JUCO All-American to an impact pass rusher for the Broncos, tallying 21 sacks in 23 games. Lawrence is an impressive athlete but he has really done a good job with his technique, enabling him to be a good run defender and one of the top pass rushers in the Mountain West Conference.
Projecting to the NFL, Lawrence has the athletic ability to be a dynamic edge rusher on the edge with speed and quickness, but pairs that with good pad level and technique that allows him to be a contributor against the run. As a result, while Lawrence is slightly undersized, he looks like he can still play defensive end as a rookie. There will likely be some consideration paid to him as a potential outside linebacker but he looks really effective and at home with his hand on the ground. Lawrence projects as a first round pick because he has athletic upside and should only get better as he fills out his frame, but brings a high level understanding of what the position demands and is able to be effective while playing it honestly, fulfilling his role within the scheme.
Vitals & Build
Lawrence is listed at 6’3” 245lbs with a lean build. He is by no means weak and he maximizes his functional strength consistently, but should only get stronger with time and training. Lawrence is explosive, displays an impressive burst and has good body control as he plays low to the ground and shows great balance. His motor is good and he works hard through the play. Lawrence’s upside is in his ability to get stronger and just adding to what he already possesses as an athlete.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Lawrence does a good job with anticipating the snap. He tends to be right on it and is explosive off of the ball. Lawrence is not remotely afraid to step at his opponent when covered up and has the ability to fly up the field when he is lined up wide.
One of the reasons that Lawrence is so effective with his first step is because all of his motion goes forward and he stays low to the ground. As a result, he maintains his leverage, gains speed and momentum and is able to hit opponents with a rising blow, maximizing his functional strength and power, giving him an advantage against opponents.
At times, Lawrence has displayed an explosive first step. He is able to gain an advantage quickly attacking to the outside but really uses it to gain momentum and increase his power when going into and taking on opponents trying to block him.
Lawrence does a nice job using his hands to beat blocks and keep opponents from getting into his body. He is almost always stacking and shedding an opponent before he goes and chases down a running play or tries to get to the quarterback. Lawrence is comfortable striking the opponent as well as using his hands to knock down the opponents’ hands as they try to reach to grab him as he is sliding past him.
More strength would only help Lawrence get better, but he does a terrific job at this point in his career and should only get better. The sheer amount of experience and amount of success he has in that realm should really help him try to make a quick transition to the NFL.
Lawrence is undersized, but he does not use it as an excuse in defending the run. He takes the action to the opponent, looking to strike them and mitigate their ability to gain momentum. Because of strong hand use, he can get into the opponent and slow them down while working to get into the backfield and make the play.
Lawrence has shown the ability to knife into the backfield or strike out wide and chase down plays. He does a fantastic job of reading plays, finding the football and reacting quickly to make a play.
The other area where Lawrence is excellent is stopping at heel’s depth in the backfield. The times where Lawrence gets beaten because he went too far up the field are rare. When he gets into the backfield, he hesitates to read the play and then explodes to the ball carrier, allowing to make impact tackles in the backfield.
There are times when Lawrence will get beat and is simply overpowered by opposing offensive linemen but he continues to work and keep trying to beat the opponent to make a second effort and still impact a play, working to help his teammates if he cannot make the play himself.
Lawrence’s size could be an issue initially in the NFL but he plays bigger than he is by making the most of his leverage and could take some people by surprise with just how well he can do the job. One of the keys with Lawrence and what could make an extremely attractive player is he does his job in run defense. At times, at the cost of rushing the passer, but he seems to play assignment football first and foremost.
Lawrence is a dynamic pass rushing threat and part of that is due to how effective he is in the running game. He is not afraid to stack and shed, read pass and then rush the quarterback. Lawrence still has the talent, athleticism and speed to get to the passer with a second effort after playing run first. He does a great job taking on and shedding blocks quickly, so he can make a quick impact.
Lawrence is not afraid to attack both inside and outside as a pass rusher. He has the speed to attack up the field, use his arms to protect his flank from pass blockers and work his way around to flatten to the quarterback. He will also turn his shoulders square to the quarterback, use his hands to defeat the opponent and be in position to make the play.
One of the most effective moves Lawrence uses to defeat opponents is an inside swim move. Lawrence does a great job of making opponents believe he will go outside and just swims inside with a straight line to the quarterback when he wins.
Lawrence plays low to the ground and is able to redirect and adjust easily, so when he gets into the backfield and has an opportunity to get the sack, he does not miss often. Part of what makes him effective is that he is able to make his opportunities count.
Lawrence has experience attacking from both sides of the field, playing covered up or uncovered and will react accordingly. He is a handful and a challenge for whoever he is up against and just keeps working to make plays.
Lawrence’s best fit is as a 4-3 defensive end. In many ways, he is a classic speed end that plays on the right side and he could certainly do that, but he is comfortable to rush from both sides of the line. He is a little undersized at this point but plays bigger than he is, so he should be able to grow into the position without too much trouble.
There will certainly be teams interested in what he can do as a 3-4 outside linebacker and he looks like he could certainly perform in that role, but he is a natural when it comes to having his hand on the ground. It would not be terribly stunning if his first season had him start out as a situational pass rusher but he looks like he should be able to earn playing time as he goes and eventually take over as a full time starter during his rookie year. Coaches should love the way he employs technique and have a tough time getting him out of the lineup.
Lawrence’s game is somewhat similar to that of Trent Cole of the Philadelphia Eagles. Cole came out of Cincinnati as an undersized pass rusher but got bigger and stronger in the NFL, combining that with great technique that has allowed him to be a consistently effective pass rusher in the NFL. Cole was smaller than Lawrence is now which is why he went in the 5th round of the 2005 draft, so Lawrence could potentially have more of an instant impact than Cole did.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the result of great athletic ability combined with technique and an understanding of his role as a defensive end. He is slightly undersized but should easily fill out his frame and grow into being a full time end. Lawrence is not only a great pass rusher but he is a willing and effective run defender, who is not afraid to stack and shed, doing the dirty work and his job for the sake of the defense. When opportunities present themselves, Lawrence makes the most of them and makes him plays. Lawrence projects as a first round pick and while he appears to be a better fit as a pure defensive end, but he could certainly get consideration as an outside linebacker.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com