Draft analysts are already salivating over Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson.
Lawson is listed as a first-rounder in early projections with the potential to be one of the top picks in the 2017 draft if he can stay healthy this fall.
CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang has Lawson as the No. 9 ranked underclassman.
“Possessing a compact, powerful frame and an explosive burst off the edge, Lawson is an NFL-ready defensive end right now,” Rang said.
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ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. saw Lawson as NFL ready as well when he previewed the draft back in January, but the network’s longtime analyst agreed with Lawson’s decision to stay another season.
Kiper has Lawson ranked No. 22 on his “Big Board” for the 2017 Draft.
"This is a big season for Lawson, who was working his way back from injury in 2015," Kiper said. “The pass-rush potential is there, but so far, he's better at pushing with power and controlling the blocker."
Kiper’s fellow ESPN draft insider Todd McShay didn’t have Lawson in his first 2017 mock draft, but included the lineman in a small group of players that fell just outside his top 32.
Rotoworld posted a 2017 mock draft in early May using Super Bowl odds for draft order and had Lawson going at No. 4 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, the site’s first mock draft for the 2016 draft included 14 players that ended up drafted in the first round.
The 6-foot-2, 257-pounder still could have made a jump into the NFL after back-to-back injury plagued seasons, but wasn’t quite ready to leave Auburn behind.
During spring practice, Lawson admitted he wasn’t 100 percent when he returned midway through the season from a cracked hip. He finished the season with 17 tackles (five solo), three for a loss and 11 quarterbacks hits.
“I need to get better as a football player, that's pretty much it,” Lawson said. “And I've got a lot to prove, a lot to prove to myself, nobody else. I still have a lot of stuff I want to accomplish. That's pretty much it. I just need to become a better football player.”