CFB Player Bracket: Carl Lawson vs. Tim Williams
A 32-player bracket could probably be created from SEC edge rushers alone, and it may not fair to see Auburn’s Carl Lawson and Alabama’s Tim Williams matching up in the first round. But the Iron Bowl adds a summer flair to the rivalry as Lawson and Williams are two of the nation’s best edge rushers, but only one can advance.
The key to the head-to-head comparison is Lawson’s every-down ability compared to the one-dimensional nature of Williams’ game. Williams has played only 256 total snaps the last two years with only 47 of those coming against the run. While Alabama has been loaded with run-stopping outside linebackers, Williams’ inability to see the field on early downs does hurt his overall production. As for Lawson, he saw the field quite a bit as a true freshman in 2013 before missing all of 2014 due to injury and being limited to only 416 snaps a year ago, so there’s some projection to his game as well.
Here’s a breakdown of this mid-June Iron Bowl matchup:
To view the entire bracket and every Round 1 matchup, click here.
The case for Carl Lawson
Lawson is among the plethora of edge rushers, many residing in the SEC, vying for a potential spot in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft. A healthy season is crucial, but if he stays on the field, he should be among the nation’s top players. Lawson combines explosiveness with strong hands, allowing him to do damage both on the edge and on the interior of the defense. Though he’s listed at only 261 pounds, he played a healthy dosage of snaps in between the tackles (87 of 416), so he brought some versatility to Auburn’s defense.
As a pass rusher, Lawson notched three sacks, two QB hits, and 23 hurries on his 196 rushes, doing most of his damage when rushing off the left edge of the defense. While is raw pass rushing numbers do not stack up to Williams,’ playing in an every-down role hurt the down-to-down production though the added value came in Lawson’s ability to play the run from multiple spots along the defensive line. In perhaps Lawson’s two healthiest games – Week 1 against Louisville and the bowl game against Memphis – he showed how dominant he can be with a combined +11.5 overall grade including a +9.4 mark as a pass rusher. Those bookend strong performances encapsulate Lawson’s potential and a healthy season should see him put up even more “crooked” numbers from start to finish.
The case for Tim Williams
No pass rusher in the nation has been as efficient on a down-to-down basis as Tim Williams the last two years. Among rushers with at least 100 rushes last season, Williams’ pass rush productivity (PRP) of 28.4 dwarfed the competition. His breakout did not catch us off guard as Williams produced as a similar rate on a small sample size in 2014, notching pressure on 13 of his 46 rushes, good for a PRP 21.7 that led all rushers with at least 40 attempts. In the preseason, we noted that Alabama may have their most explosive pass rushers in years, and that proved true as Williams led the charge in must-pass situations.
As for the numbers, Williams picked up pressure on a ridiculous 52 of his 157 rushes (11 sacks, eight QB hits, 33 hurries). His burst off the line of scrimmage is exceptional, and he complements it with the ability to convert to bull rush power after he threatens the edge on overmatched right tackles. That’s wherein lies some of the caveats to Williams’ incredible numbers as he rushes mostly from a wide alignment with little to no concern about the running game. Beating up on right tackles is certainly valuable, but also the cause for slight inflation in Williams’ production. If he gets an opportunity to play against the run on early downs, he has a chance to increase his value and potential draft stock, but for now, he’s a one-dimensional pass rusher – though that one dimension is as good as any in the nation.
The Verdict: Carl Lawson advances
This one comes down to versatility and a little projection for a healthy Lawson. Williams’ production is unmatched, though he’s rushing in favorable conditions – must-pass, with a lead off the right side with a wide alignment – and Lawson’s ability to produce up and down the defensive line gives him the nod in this matchup. Lawson’s numbers rushing from a wide alignment off the edge are also comparable to Williams’ so having similar opportunities could bear out similar production. The real key is Lawson’s health, and we’ve seen a dominant every-down presence when he’s at full strength, so if he can make it through the 2016 season, he should be the better all-around player.
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