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Top 10 Patriots Draft Fits #4: Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence

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Lawrence is an athletic defensive tackle in the mold of Vince Wilfork who can not only play right away, but also succeed Lawrence Guy as the main DT on the team.

NFL: Combine Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots are mostly set with the DT position as they’ve got 3 solid rotational players in Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, and Adam Butler. Guy and Pennel are more early down run stuffers with moderate pass rush upside whereas Butler is better at pushing the pocket than anchoring against the run. This year’s draft has a handful of solid DT prospects the Patriots should have a chance on, with only Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins, and Jerry Tillery likely being off the board before the Patriots pick at 32. One player that was once considered a Top 10 prospect before the previous college season that could be available is Wilkins’ Clemson teammate in Dexter Lawrence.

Combine Data

Height: 6’4”
Weight: 342
Arm: 34 3/4”
40: 5.05

Strengths

  • Can play almost any interior DL position
  • 1 and 2-gap versatility
  • Freak athlete
  • Strong anchor vs. run
  • Virtually unblockable in 1-on-1 situations
  • Disruptive rusher by collapsing the pocket

Weaknesses

  • Has out-athleted every one to this point, technique will need work
  • More of a disruptor than playmaker
  • Gets a bit lazy at times

Reasons Why the Patriots Will Draft Him

Patriots haven’t had an athlete on their DL like this since taking Vince Wilfork 21st overall in the 2004 draft. Lawrence profiles very similar to Big Vince, who fell out of the top 10 and right into the Patriots laps that year. Lawrence being more of a disruptor than playmaker may allow for some teams to pass on him (their mistake) and the Patriots to target Lawrence in the early to mid 20s as a potential trade up target. Even if Lawrence isn’t going to make enough plays to be a defensive player of the year candidate, his skill set strongly profiles for what the Patriots want in their interior defensive linemen.

Reasons Why the Patriots Will Not Draft Him

Simply not being available is the biggest reason I can think of. If Lawrence is available when the Patriots are on the board, I think they pull the trigger on him regardless of other needs. Another thing to note is also the Patriots don’t necessarily have to prioritize a DT in the first round either given the team is 3-deep at the position although an injury makes the position rather thin as well. Lawrence also was barred from college postseason play in 2018 after testing positive for ostarine, a known PED, although he denies knowingly taking the substance.

Who He Needs to Beat Out: Frank Herron, David Parry, Keionta Davis

There isn’t much competition for Lawrence if we’re talking about the 4th DT in the rotation behind Guy, Pennel, and Butler. Lawrence would already be the most talented player in the room.

Rookie Year Projection

Lawrence would be able to play right away as a major factor in the Patriots DT rotation. Lawrence should also be leaning on Guy and Pennel as two players who were late round picks that had to fight for every opportunity they got and ultimately cashing in with New England. Lawrence should see roughly 30-40% snaps as a rookie barring injuries.

Long Term Projection

Lawrence will eventually work his way to being the top DT in the rotation by the end of Year 2, which is when Guy, Pennel, and Butler are all about to hit free agency. His size and strength would make him a tough guy to double up and beat in the run game.

Grade: 5/5 Day 1 Starter

Round: 1st