Taking their quarterback in Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall, all signs were pointing to the Giants going after a defensive asset. Though an edge rusher was an obvious need and players like Montez Sweat were still on the draft board, the Giants decided to go with a big defensive force in Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence at No. 17.
To call Lawrence a force up the middle is an understatement. At 6-foot-4, 342 pounds, Lawrence was one of the top performers on the Tigers’ dangerous defensive front that also featured players like Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, and Austin Bryant.
So how will Lawrence fit in with the Giants? Just picture Damon “Snacks” Harrison 2.0.
“It might not be the edge rusher they need, but in defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, they get a massive body for the middle of their defensive line,” SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano said. “At 6-4, 340 pounds, what he is for them is what Damon “Snacks” Harrison used to be in the Giants’ defense. [He’s] just a big space eater who can eat up blockers, and in theory, open up a lot for the edge rushers. Hopefully that will be enough for the Giants’ pass rush going.”
Lawrence burst onto the scene in the SEC as a freshman with 62 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and 6.5 sacks on his way to being named a Freshman All-American. He didn’t have the same success in 2017, but his junior season in 2018 was much improved with 36 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The Wake Forest, NC native did have a hiccup last season, though, as he was suspended for taking the banned substance, ostarine. He denies any knowledge of how it got into his system to this day, but the Giants clearly didn’t find that to be an issue.
Now solidified with Big Blue, Lawrence will likely jump right into the 3-4 scheme for defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Working alongside B.J. Hill — a standpoint rookie last season — and Dalvin Tomlinson, Lawrence will likely be featured as the team’s nosetackle as his massive frame will really clog up the middle.
The comparison to Harrison is uncanny because of Lawrence’s stout ability to stop the run. Despite his size, he ran a 5.05 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, showing off his athleticism. He disengaged from blocks with ease at Clemson, and he simply created such a distraction for offensive lines that his teammates trying to get into the backfield had an easier road.
That is what the Giants likely envision Lawrence doing in his rookie season: Clog up the middle and create holes for the edge rushers and linebackers to exploit in what is hoped to be a much-improved pass rush that was ranked 30th in the NFL a year ago.