Our 2017 roster review will reexamine the Lions’ roster and how it played out last season. We’ll take a look at expectations, performance and potential role in the future.
Today, we continue our discussion with Detroit Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson.
Expectations before 2017
Entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, Lawson was expected to be the Lions’ starting outside cornerback opposite Darius Slay. Even though the Lions brought in DJ Hayden and drafted Teez Tabor, Lawson was expected to hold them off for the majority, if not the entirety, of the 2017 season.
No cornerback from the 2014 draft class has allowed fewer yards per coverage snap than Lions CB Nevin Lawson.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 8, 2017
Lawson played pretty well in 2016, so the expectation was that he’d be, at the very least, an average cornerback in 2017.
Actual role in 2017
2017 stats: 15 games (15 starts): 47 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 4 passes defended
PFF Grade: 41.7 (112 of 121 cornerbacks)
To say Lawson didn’t meet expectations would be an understatement. In fact, per Pro Football Focus he was one of the worst cornerbacks in the league. The Lions were apparently hip to this from the beginning of the year. He regularly split defensive snaps with DJ Hayden, despite the fact that most believed Hayden was more apt to play the nickel cornerback position.
In the end, Lawson (51.0%) played more defensive snaps than Hayden (44.8%), but it was still a huge decrease from his role in 2016, in which he played in 90.0 percent of defensive snaps.
In Lawson’s four-year career in the NFL, he has yet to record his first interception and has just 20 pass breakups 40 starts and 48 game appearances. By comparison, Darius Slay had 26 passes defended in 2017 alone.
Outlook for 2018
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Nevin Lawson’s future likely depends on where things stand with Teez Tabor. The Lions rookie cornerback finished the year strong, playing in the majority of snaps in the final four games before suffering a somewhat significant injury in the season finale. Tabor is undoubtedly the long-term plan at outside cornerback, but for many, it takes two or three seasons to be fully ready to start.
That leaves the opportunity for Lawson, or possibly Hayden (who is also an unrestricted free agent), to stick around for another year to compete with Tabor and provide depth if the young rookie is ready to assume the role.
Detroit doesn’t currently have a lot of depth at cornerback, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Lawson or Hayden return in 2018, but Matt Patricia may have a player of his own in mind. For what it’s worth, Malcolm Butler will be a free agent after the season ends.
What should the Lions do with Nevin Lawson?
This poll is closed
Re-sign him as competition to start and depth
Let him go