Buffalo Bills: Revisiting the underwhelming 2016 NFL Draft class
By Daniel Bruce
Taking a look at the last draft class for the Buffalo Bills by Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley.
The 2016 Buffalo Bills draft class was a group that underwhelmed significantly and was one of the final straws for the Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley regime.
Buffalo held seven picks in the 2016 draft and were looking to mold their new draft picks into Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense. Some players the year prior were stuck in a tough position in a defense which didn’t fit their playing style, a syste, they played well with under head coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. This draft was the opportunity for Whaley and Ryan to find players to primarily repair their defense.
Round 1, 19th Overall: Shaq Lawson, DE (Clemson)
A popular pick at the time of the draft, Buffalo got a new pass rushing threat opposite of Jerry Hughes to replace the disgruntled Mario Williams, who fled to Miami. They wanted the Clemson pass rusher to play outside linebacker in the Rex Ryan defense. Lawson never had a ton of speed in his play at Clemson, playing as more of a power rusher as a 5-tech. He was strong in the run game, but he played without the twitchy trait teams love as a pass rushing linebacker.
Lawson NFL career was delayed as shoulder surgery in the offseason put Lawson out for six games in the 2016 season. He started only one game and he was disappointing, finishing with only two sacks on the year. Outside linebacker was never a fit for the rookie who fit more as a base end in a 4-3.
Thankfully for Lawson, and the whole Bills organization to be frank, Ryan and Whaley were both gone before the following season. In came Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, where a new 4-3 defense was brought in and was sure to perk up the second year player. Here Lawson uses his power to force the tackle backwards and open up a path to the quarterback:
Lawson enjoyed three solid years with the Buffalo Bills under McDermott from 2017-2019, compiling 14.5 sacks in the three seasons, along with a 6.5 sack season in his contract year in 2019. Lawson looked much more comfortable in the 4-3 defense than with Ryan in his 3-4.
Lawson is now with Miami after agreeing to a lucrative 3-year, $30 million contract.