Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Falcons could use Lawrence's swagger
By Vaughn McClure
Atlanta could target a versatile pass-rusher such as Demarcus Lawrence in the draft's second round.
Demarcus Lawrence isn't caught up in rankings or NFL draft projections. He just wants to play ball.
When the Boise State pass-rusher was asked about the possibility of being drafted in the late first round or early second round this week, Lawrence brushed off any significance.
"It really doesn't matter to me," Lawrence said Wednesday. "If they want me, then take me. If they don't want me, then they'll see me later on in my career. And I don't forget that, either. Trust me."
The Atlanta Falcons shouldn't overlook Lawrence if they have an opportunity to scoop him up. General manager Thomas Dimitroff and crew seem destined to target an offensive tackle with the sixth-overall pick in the first round. If such comes to fruition, the Falcons have to think either pass-rusher or safety in the second round.
In terms of the pass-rushers, Lawrence could be in that group, as could Auburn's Dee Ford and BYU's Kyle Van Noy. All three visited the Falcons during the pre-draft process.
In recalling his visit, Lawrence talked about how impressed he was with the Falcons' overall demeanor.
"Atlanta was cool. They've got a little swagger about them," Lawrence said. "It was like it's time for them to ball, and I'm down for the same cause. Hopefully they feel that way about me."
Lawrence immediately felt a connection with new Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox.
"He came out saying, 'We're out here trying to ball. We're out here with a purpose.' And I'm going for the same thing," Lawrence said of Cox's message. "I don't like losing myself. I want to be on a team with a group of guys that feel the same way that I feel.
"Coach Cox, he's a good guy. I want to be in somebody's place that's going to teach me how to ball and also keep it real with me. And that's how Coach Cox does it."
The 6-foot-3, 251-pound Lawrence played in a multiple defensive scheme at Boise State, so he feels comfortable in any type of setup. He actually played the role of undersized defensive end (6-1, 225) in a 3-4-defensive setup as a South Carolina high school player. He refined his pass-rush skills at Butler Community College in Kansas (he was a teammate of current Falcons offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder) after being an academic non-qualifier. He then moved on to Boise State and led the Mountain West conference with 20.5 tackles for loss, to go with 10.5 sacks last season. He then decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft.
Lawrence insists he can play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4.
2014 NFL DRAFT
Round 1: May 8, 8 p.m. ET Rds. 2-3: May 9, 7 p.m. ET Rds. 4-7: May 10, noon ET
Radio City Music Hall
New York City
"It doesn't matter if I'm standing up or have my hand in the dirt: If you tell me to go get that quarterback, I'm going to get him," Lawrence said. "It's just that plain and simple. I have one mission: to get that quarterback. And I'm going to find a way to do it."
Lawrence models his play after a couple of players, including one with the same first name.
Lawrence understands his shortcomings and plans to work on those aspects immediately.
"I'd say my strength and my fundamentals," he said. "Once I get a little more powerful and more juice with my pop, I'll be straight. It will make me more explosive getting off blocks. Being 250 pounds, it's not easy getting off a 320-pound dude.
"Playing at 250, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm going to stay right here as of right now. Depending on what my position is and what they need me to do on the team, I don't mind pumping up a little weight."
Lawrence has another negative to overcome. He had multiple suspensions at Boise State for rules violations, including being sent home from the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas during the 2012 season. He said he overslept and missed curfew prior to the bowl game while hanging out with a family member at night.
"Everybody makes mistakes in their days, and mine happened in my college days," Lawrence said. "I did it. I learned from it. And it's over with. If they trust me, they'll see I've grown up and I'm mature enough to handle the process. If not, once again, they'll see me on the field."
Lawrence understands why he would face scrutiny from NFL teams over the suspensions.
"They want to make sure they don't have any dirt underneath their toenails," he said.
Lawrence is in Las Vegas now and plans to have a draft party at the Venetian Hotel. The Falcons would be smart to roll the dice on Lawrence if he's still available in the second round.
The Falcons currently own the fifth pick in the second round, or the 37th overall selection. Trading up to the top of the round (the 33rd pick owned by Houston) doesn't seem like a stretch if the Falcons feel they could lose out on a chance to get a coveted pass-rusher.
Last year, San Diego moved up from the 45th overall pick to the 38th by swapping second-round picks with Arizona and also giving the Cardinals a fourth-round pick. The Chargers made the move to select linebacker Manti Te'o.
The Falcons actually have two fourth-round picks this season at No. 103 and No. 139, but the latter is a compensatory pick that cannot be traded.