While Cal quarterback Jared Goff is getting plenty of attention from NFL teams and draftniks, his favorite receiver is being largely ignored in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Of course, I’m referring to Kenny Lawler, the 6’2”, 203-pound receiver who has become known for his “my ball” mentality when facing defensive backs. It’s that slight 203-pound frame that has been one of the key concerns for evaluators with the worry that Lawler might not be big enough or fast enough to be a key contributor in the NFL.
Lawler had an impressive true freshman season in 2013, putting himself on the map amongst dynasty players. He followed that up with an even better sophomore campaign as he led the Bears in most receiving categories even though he missed a game. All of that makes what transpired in Lawler’s final season at Cal even more confusing. With senior receivers Bryce Treggs and Trevor Davis stepping up and showing improvement, Lawler’s role in the offense regressed. He was just third on the team in yardage, even though he led the squad in receptions. Those numbers support the analysts tabbing him strictly a possession receiver.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
Let’s dig in a little deeper to Lawler’s measurables and comparable players thanks to MockDraftable.com.
The first thing you notice is Lawler’s huge hands and long arms as compared to other receivers. These are great to have and make sense with Lawler’s reputation as a “hands catcher,” but these characteristics are certainly not enough to set a player apart. We see Lawler near the bottom of most speed and agility drills, including the 40-yard dash and all jumps.
Outside of former Cal receiver Keenan Allen, the comparable players are nothing to get excited about either. Fellow incoming rookie Rashard Higgins, another slight of build receiver, does make sense as a comp considering he blew up during his sophomore season before taking a step back during his junior season.
Next, let’s see what Lawler’s numbers look like from PlayerProfiler.com.
Here’s another player comp that is a little depressing as former Ravens’ receiver Tandon Doss never developed into a fantasy factor. I mentioned Lawler was able to burst onto the scene early in his college career and that is somewhat evident with his breakout age of 20.2 years old, putting him in the 56th percentile among receivers. Unfortunately, Lawler is in the bottom third of all other metrics here, including a pitiful burst score placing him in the third percentile. This tells me Lawler could have some major trouble gaining separation from NFL cornerbacks.
Finally, let’s take a look for ourselves what Lawler can do in the clip of California’s game against Utah this past season.
This was a rough game for Lawler as he dropped a sure touchdown catch and another ball flew off his hands, turning into one of many Goff interceptions. I expect to see Lawler manning the slot for any team that chooses to draft him, just as he was for much of this game. This could be good news as he’ll be facing smaller defensive backs, which he should be able to take advantage of on a routine basis. Despite his 6’2” build, he plays more like a slot receiver, lacking game breaking speed and running primarily short routes. Speaking of route running, that is said to be Lawler’s biggest weakness, so if he wants to see playing time early in his career, he must improve on that skill.
I mentioned earlier that Lawler was being overlooked and that is certainly true in the dynasty community, based on our data. In the latest rookie ADP, compiled by Scott Fish, Lawler is the thirty-second player off the board, putting him in the mid-third round of rookie drafts. That is consistently where he has been falling in our monthly rookie mock draft series. I’ve seen some projections placing Lawler in the second round of the NFL Draft and he will need a surprise like that to get back on the radar of dynasty players. For now, he’s essentially being treated as an afterthought and that might be fair, considering it could take him two or three years to improve his route running and challenge for substantial playing time. In the recently released Rookie Scouting Portfolio, Matt Waldman deemed Lawler a waiver wire player in dynasty leagues. Unless there is a surprise and Lawler is a second round pick, or lands in the ideal spot, he will continue to be a third round rookie pick and, in the end, likely prove Waldman correct as he lands on dynasty waiver wires.