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NFL Draft prospect: Is Kevin Dodd a better fit for Lions than Shaq Lawson?

Shaq Lawson is a popular pick for the Lions, but is his teammate Kevin Dodd a better option?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As we inch closer to draft day, final mock drafts are popping up everywhere. A popular selection for the Detroit Lions with their 16th overall pick has been Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson. It's easy to see why. Lawson is a physical beast of a man who manhandled offensive tackles all through college. Throughout draft season, Lawson has been touted as one of the nation's best defensive end prospects and a potential game-changing player. The Lions absolutely have a need for defensive end, so this appears to be a match made in heaven, right?

Well, hold on there. Because his teammate, Kevin Dodd, is slowly garnering attention in the media and is also considered a first-round prospect by most. Dodd actually landed with the Lions in more mocks in our latest Mock Draft Database than Lawson. Dodd is taking mock drafts by storm after coming out of nowhere in 2015. Though he's been stuck with the "one-year wonder" label, that hasn't seemed to have slowed his momentum toward becoming a first day prospect.

So has Dodd overcome Lawson on draft boards? Is he a better fit in Detroit? Let's take a closer look at the two.

Two different kinds of players

With Lawson and Dodd, you are not getting the same kind of defensive ends. Lawson is a premier pass rusher and uses his gifted physical attributes to beat his opposing lineman into submission. He's also a decent run-stopper, but he will earn his money in the NFL with sacks and quarterback pressures. He's a little smaller than Dodd, but he's also a lot more explosive.

Dodd, on the other hand, has lined up on the left side exclusively in college. He is an excellent gap-shooter and made a living out of disrupting running plays in the backfield. His most notable performance was in the 2015 National Championship game, in which he tallied five tackles for loss and three sacks.

Advantage: Dodd. While you can never have too many pass-rushers, the Lions already have their right defensive end in Ezekiel Ansah. Dodd can take over Jason Jones' role on the left side and give the Lions some much-needed run defense.

Proven production

Though the two players had a similar route to Clemson (both attended Hargrave Military Academy after high school), their careers in college couldn't be more different. Lawson blew up his freshman year, earning second-team freshman All-American honors by, amassing 10 tackles for loss in his first season at Clemson. His production only went up from there, eventually landing on the All-ACC first team in 2015.

Dodd, on the other hand, was completely off the radar until last year. He came into the 2015 season with just 20 total tackles to his name. However, his junior year at Clemson was a monster one. By the season's end, Dodd was second in the nation with 23.5 tackles for loss and ranked fifth in sacks (12).

Advantage: Lawson. Even with Dodd's monster year, Lawson actually beat him on the statsheet, amassing 25.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in 2015. Lawson has been doing it for longer and has shown more consistency. There has to be concern whether Dodd's breakout year was the result of having a dominant defensive line across the board.

Physical gifts

Dodd, at 6-foot-5, 277 pounds, is the bigger prospect of the two (Lawson: 6-foot-3, 269), but it's Lawson who has the more impressive measurables.

Lawson is an impressive athlete. And though he doesn't have the prototypical size of Dodd, his speed and explosiveness puts him in the top tier of defensive ends.

But that isn't to say Dodd doesn't have some of those same aspects. His quickness certainly shows up on tape, but he was blown away by Lawson on the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Unfortunately, Dodd suffered a minor hamstring injury during combine weekend and was not able to participate in all of the drills.

Advantage: Lawson. Shaq's athletic dominance doesn't just show in the numbers, it shows on tape. He's got a nasty club move and an equally-deadly spin move that gave offensive linemen fits all year. While Dodd is no slouch himself, Lawson has the slight edge here.


Perhaps the biggest thing that may tip the scales in Dodd's favor is his upside. Dodd is still a fresh face to most, having played just 101 snaps before his breakout year. Not only that, but Dodd is a high character guy who takes his tape study seriously. In an excellent piece by MMQB, Andy Benoit did a film-study session with both Dodd and Lawson for the National Championship game. Dodd's enthusiasm and observation skills stuck out to me.

DODD: I was slanting to the B-gap and I saw the guard coming towards me so I immediately penetrated. My D-tackle did the same thing. He sees the center so he penetrates, trying to get to the A-gap.

DODD: I feel like the outside linebacker is supposed to keep coming over. I feel like No. 10 is supposed to and No. 44 is supposed to. Their release is just too early. They’re supposed to keep scraping. They’re just trying to make a play. No. 10 was just trying to make a play, right here.

Notice how Dodd isn't just explaining how he saw the game, but how he understands his teammate's roles, as well.

Contrast that with Lawson, who was very brief in his breakdown of the game, and even admitted that was his first time watching film of the game.

Advantage: Dodd. This is what makes Dodd such an intriguing prospect. He strikes me as someone very motivated to improve his game and extremely coachable. I get the sense we've seen Lawson best, but I can't say the same for Dodd.


In the end, Dodd is the more risky pick of the two. With just a year of production under his belt, Dodd could very well be a product of a dominant defense. Lawson has proven himself over three years of solid, consistent production. But if we're projecting long-term, I think Dodd is not only the better fit in Detroit right now, but could eventually become a better player than Lawson.

What do you think?

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