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Kenny Lawler 2016 NFL Draft scouting notes: Two-look Tuesday

In our Two-look Tuesday series, Dan Lavoie and another Buffalo Rumblings community member break down tape on a 2016 NFL Draft prospect. Today's subject: Cal wide receiver Kenny Lawler.

Welcome back to Two-look Tuesday! Here at Buffalo Rumblings, we like to keep an open mind on 2016 NFL Draft prospects, knowing that there are members of the writing staff and community with different backgrounds and skills to collectively evaluate. That's why we're bringing in guests to help break down prospects for you.

This is a stream-of-consciousness series, where two viewers watch the same cut-up, write notes as we're viewing, and then deliver some short thoughts following the conclusion of the game. Two people may watch the same video and come out with different conclusions - or they may find themselves in total agreement. With the added perspective, we hope you'll join in with your own thoughts on the players we scout.

After an extended hiatus where we covered some relevant Bills-centric news in free agency and the draft realm, we're back with another dive into a 2016 NFL Draft prospect. This week Grif joins me as we look at Cal receiver Kenny Lawler against Utah. Lawler was the favorite target of Jared Goff this year, but does he look like he'll pan out in the NFL? Here's how he measures up.

Lawler's size is what would make him money in the NFL, as a 6'2" receiver with long arms and huge hands. That should give him a big catch radius and the ability to win 50/50 passes. How did he do against Utah's defense? Grifs notes come first, followed by my own.

Grif's notes

  • Nicely boxes out the CB on what appears to be a short slant for a nice 9 yard gain.
  • Lines up in the slot and gets open on a comeback route takes it upfield quickly for a first down.
  • On a well ­run slant route, uses his arms to swat the cornerback away but can't reel in the pass which gets batted up and intercepted. The timing was good, the pass just went right through his hands.
  • On another type of slant route, he brings in a ball that was thrown too far in front of him. Brings in the tough one, drops the easy one.
  • Got good separation off the line on a fade route causing the cornerback to commit PI to prevent the catch. Solid route and great throw by Goff.
  • Fails to get separation on another slant, Goff throws it too far in front again resulting in an interception. In slow motion it looked like Lawler wanted to make a sharper cut but Goff expected a more shallow route and threw the ball too far in front.
  • An out route in the end zone, Lawler runs through some traffic but again can't reel in a well ­thrown pass.
  • Runs a post route anticipating a back shoulder thrown but Lawler doesn't sell it enough and the cornerback breaks up the pass.
  • Follows his blockers well on a screen pass.
  • Didn't gain enough separation on another fade route. I'm questioning his long speed.
  • Gets off the press well on another slant route on third down. Goff threw it too far ahead of him again.

Pros: Good hand usage, can get off press coverage, hands catcher, boxes out well, strong cuts, willing blocker, good acceleration.

Cons: Showed limited route tree, inconsistent hands, questionable long speed.


This game was somewhat inconsistent for Kenny Lawler. On the one hand, the stat sheet is solid at 7 catches for 66 yards but he had several key concentration drops, one of which would have been a touchdown. He also seems to lack true game­breaking speed for the position. Having said that, he did flash some solid ball skills in being able to reel in some of the tougher catches. I think he's a solid possession receiver who can be a number two option for a team, especially in a west coast offense. Expect him to be taken in the third or fourth round.

Dan's notes

  • First play, I can't see his route, but he extends for a catch with a corner draped over him. Nice catch.
  • Watching him release at 12:17 in the first, not a particularly explosive movement after his first few stutter steps. It was a run blocking play.
  • Nice swim move to come off the corner's press. Then he lets the pass bounce off his hands and it goes straight into a Utah defender's arms. Bad drop.
  • At least he ran down the player after screwing up.
  • Lawler definitely has a big catch radius. Just extended for another tough grab.
  • Tries to go up for a one hander on the sideline but can't corral it. Good process.
  • Thrown at but was not open on an in-breaking route against the boundary corner. The corner had inside position and managed to snag an interception.
  • Watching the replay in slow motion, I think this is partially on Lawler. He flattened out his route instead of continuing to stretch it downfield another two yards. That gave the CB room to make the play.
  • It's hard to say, though, because I can't see the start of Lawler's route.
  • Lawler should try to sell his shorter routes as deep ones to earn him room against corners. At 13:25 second quarter, he starts taking medium to smaller steps early in his route and that suggests no threat of a deep ball.
  • Lawler did a little lurking behind defenders in the end zone and Goff tried to lead him to the middle of the field, but it looks like they weren't on the same page. Lawler tries to bring the pass in but drops another one.
  • Another mediocre release in the end zone. He's not really selling anything with his hips, arms, or feet, the corner is able to watch the QB and sees the pass coming. He knows where the ball's going before Lawler has his head turned.
  • The combination of the ball placement, the route run, and the defender's readiness is bad all around for that play. Lawler's facing the center of the field, the defender is facing the sideline, and the ball is toward the sideline. Lawler tries turning around and fading back to catch the ball, but the corner just has to jump forward and swat it.
  • Now down 24-10, Lawler is pressed and backs off to collect a screen. Decent job following his blockers for 9 yards.
  • Lawler likes to bend his routes back towards the line of scrimmage to get open sometimes.
  • More goalline action right before halftime. Lawler is ignored on the first pass and used to screen out the receiver who catches the TD on the second.
  • I haven't seen a lot of Lawler run blocking on this tape. Mostly him running out a route and hoping the corner goes away from him.
  • Here's a decent run block, though he seems more interested in checking if the play is over than in blocking his guy to the ground.
  • Another run block where he acted like he was running a deep route to clear out the defender.
  • Outside that one swim move, Lawler has struggled to disengage from press coverage tonight.
  • Goff tosses Lawler a 50/50 ball on the sideline, but it's too far out of bounds.
  • Another great swim move, and this time Lawler added another thing I've seen him do a couple times tonight - tempo adjustment. He started with a slow leg movement and then quickly planted his feet. Got him open, but no throw his way.
  • Lawler definitely looks like he has value on screen plays. Catches the ball away from his body and does it in stride to give him room to work.
  • Goff was not playing great in the second half. Struggled with ball placement, rarely had his first read open.
  • Speaking of: Goff is pressured at 7:30 in the 4th, throws to Lawler. Miscommunication on the route or something, because Goff throws it shorter and Lawler hadn't broken off his route, and it goes straight into the arms of the cornerback. Ugly play.
  • Lawler does a good job of getting five yards on a 3rd and four short route, with two minutes to go and down by 6.
  • Another nice hookup on third down between Goff and Lawler. Lawler gets his hands up for the catch.
  • On this third down Lawler was smothered in press coverage, but not the intended target regardless.
  • 4th and five, Lawler tries his swim move but it doesn't work. The ball is thrown to someone else and it's incomplete. Game over.

Lawler did not impress me all that much on this tape. He was directly responsible for two interceptions, in my opinion, and another was thrown while targeting him because the receiver and quarterback weren't on the same page. He didn't seem to separate from cornerbacks very often, and his hands were inconsistent. The good: When he varied the tempo in his routes, Lawler found the separation he needed. He also flashed the appropriate hand technique to fend off a standard pressing defender. And he showed off impressive body control in making a few tough catches look easy. That said, right now he's too predictable, and that's what holds him back for the NFL.