To get to know Detroit Lions fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson, a cornerback from Utah State, I sent five questions to Benjamin Phillips from Mountain West Connection, SB Nation's Mountain West Conference blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Lawson:
1. Much has been made of the fact that Lawson is only 5-foot-9. Do you think his size will be an issue in the NFL?
Possibly. Obviously the NFL only takes the best of the best, and the best receivers often have some decent height. As an example, he did much better against Marqise Lee (6'0" -- held to 72 yards on 6 receptions) than against Davante Adams (6'2" -- allowed 168 yards on 9 receptions). Obviously the quarterbacks in play had something to do with it, but the height advantage played a factor. I'm sure jump balls will be a struggle for him.
That being said, he's one of the scrappiest players the MWC had to offer last year, and his sheer effort, combined with his speed and sound technique, should allow him to be a solid playmaker at the next level.
2. In Detroit, the expectation, at least initially, is for Lawson to work as a nickelback rather than an outside corner. How was he used in Utah State's defense?
He was used almost exclusively as an outside CB. His strength and speed should allow him to play in a nickel package just fine, though.
3. What one thing does Lawson need to work on the most as he transitions to being an NFL cornerback?
If I could have him improve his motionless standing vertical, I would. Other than his height, probably the biggest improvement he needs to focus on is securing possible INTs. He had several chances to haul in passes that he was unable to latch on to and ended in pass break-ups. The play was still solid, but could have been more.
He had too many PI calls against him as a junior, but he cleaned that up his senior year.
4. As a rookie, Lawson will likely be expected to contribute on special teams. Did he get any work on the cover units in college?
Yes, he played special teams through his senior year. One of his highlight-reel clips from last year is some impressive coverage on a fake field goal attempt by UNLV.
5. What one play from Lawson's career at Utah State best exemplifies his abilities as a cornerback?
He has several awesome highlights (pick-six against Boise State, INTs against SJSU or UNLV, several great sacks), but my personal favorite is a play against UNLV towards the end of the game last year. Less than a minute left in the game, and the Aggies are up by four points. UNLV has the ball and is going for the win. Caleb Herring throws deep to Marcus Sullivan, but Nevin is covering him like a blanket and bats the ball away in the end zone. Why do I like this specific play more than all the others? It's because of Sullivan's reaction (please excuse the language; you'll probably want to mute it if you have an aversion to hard language):
That reaction exemplifies the feelings of almost everyone he plays against... "$%#* #(@, Lawson!!!!!" He is aggressive, in your face, tough, fast, strong and doesn't ever back down or let up. I love it!