A year after selecting Clemson alum Vic Beasley, Jr. at eighth overall, the Falcons may be in position to take another ex-Tiger on Day 1 of the NFL Draft.
Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson, both of whom played with Beasley in college, are considered first-round talents who excel at pass-rushing: an area Atlanta hopes to improve at in 2016. While their numbers carry a lot of weight—each finished 2015 with 12-plus sacks—the combine can, of course, affect where they begin their pro careers.
Lawson's overall showing in Indianapolis was met with widespread praise. The 6-foot-3, 269-pounder tied for the fastest time among defensive linemen in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.21 seconds; moreover, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.70 seconds, the fourth-best mark among DL.
Those numbers, coupled with his size, led NFL Network to make a flattering comparison.
"I feel like I came out there and showed that (I'm very athletic) today," said Lawson, who is ranked as the third-best edge rusher by Mike Mayock.
Dodd, fifth on Mayock's list, didn't have as good of a weekend as his old teammate. Although he met his goal of finishing with a sub-5 40—his first run was clocked at 4.86 seconds—he injured his hamstring on his last attempt and didn't participate in any other drills on Sunday. Whether or not this damages his stock remains to be seen.
In addition to drafting Beasley in 2015, the Falcons used their fifth round pick on Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, arguably Atlanta's most productive rookie last year. The former Tiger knows lots of mock drafts have Lawson and Dodd going to the Falcons and would love to see one of them get scooped up at 17th overall.
"I feel like they will bring a lot to the NFL," Jarrett said about Dodd and Lawson. "They'll bring versatility, physicality, speed, pass-rush ability. The proof is in the pudding. The numbers that they've put up, being Nos. 1 and 2 in tackles for loss for the entire country. IT's a testament to the coaches and the kind of players they are.
"Just awesome prospects. It was amazing to see both of those guys grow during my time at Clemson. I know they're heading for big NFL careers. Wherever they end up—whether it's first round, second round—they're going to make a major impact and I'm really excited for both of them."