Shaq Lawson: I'm the best defensive end in the NFL Draft

Shaq Lawson isn't lacking confidence.

That became evident when the Clemson standout was asked Tuesday how he stacks against the top pass-rushing prospects in the 2016 draft class after his strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"I feel like I'm the best (defensive) end in this class," Lawson told co-host Vic Carucci and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "The tape shows it all."

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The video of Lawson's 2015 season at Clemson shows a disruptive player who tallied 12.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles on a team that reached the national championship game.

Lawson's combine results were as encouraging. His times in the 20-yard shuttle (4.21 seconds) and 40-yard dash (4.7 seconds) were among the best of all participating defensive ends and showcased his nimbleness at 6-foot-3 and 269 pounds, which is a key asset in harassing the quarterback.

Lawson's shuttle time matched that of Ohio State's Joey Bosa, who ran slower (4.86) in the 40. Lawson doesn't carry the off-field baggage of Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence, who transferred from Ohio State following two failed drug tests.

This may not be enough to elevate Lawson into becoming the first edge-rusher selected in April ahead of Bosa, Spence and other aspiring NFL sack-masters. Lawson, though, has doing everything he can to get into that conversation.

"I was happy with my performance," Lawson said of the Combine. "Every day I trained I got better. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to show teams how explosive I was."

Lawson said "a lot of teams" including Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Cleveland asked him during Combine interviews about the possibility of switching to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

"I feel like half of my sacks this (past) year came standing up and half with my hand in the dirt," Lawson said. "I feel comfortable with it. I felt comfortable with it when I was doing it during the linebacker drills at the Combine."

Lawson had the chance to come into his own this year after Vic Beasley left for the NFL. Lawson would like to follow in his footsteps as a Top 10 pick after Beasley was taken at No. 8 overall last season by Atlanta.

Although both were Clemson standouts, Lawson's game is much different than Beasley's because of their size. Lawson played at about 30 pounds heavier in college than the 6-2 Beasley.

"Vic was more of a speed guy and made plays off of how fast he was," Lawson said. "I can play against the run because I'm a lot heavier than Vic. But I don't take anything away from Vic because I learned a lot from him in the pass-rush game."

One of the things that Lawson said he learned on his own was an inside spin move that is currently atop his repertoire of pass-rush moves. The excitement raised in Lawson's baritone voice when asked about it.

"I like it because it's hard to stop," Lawson said. "A guy like me, I like to bring power. But when they see that spin move come out, they're shocked because they don't really believe I can do it like that.

"I practiced that move all summer. When I finally got a chance to do it, I was like, 'This is going to work, man.' It was great."

If his name isn't called early, one club that could make sense for Lawson is Buffalo with the No. 19 overall pick. Bills head coach Rex Ryan pays close attention to Clemson because his son Seth is a Tigers wide receiver. Buffalo also is in need of another edge-rusher now that defensive end Mario Williams was released.

Lawson said he had a "great conversation" with Ryan at the Combine.

"I was vibing with him," Lawson said.

Just getting to the NFL will be an impressive accomplishment considering what Lawson had to overcome. His father was killed in a car accident while Lawson was attending high school. That prompted Lawson to stop pursuing plans to attend the University of Tennessee so he could stay closer to home and help his family.

Lawson then needed to attend military school to become eligible to attend a major college football program. When he finally arrived at Clemson, Lawson was a reserve his first two seasons because of the veteran defensive talent the Tigers had compiled.

Such perseverance is paying dividends.

"I play this game for my father," said Lawson, who left Clemson as an underclassman. "I fell in love with the game of football. I've been dreaming of this moment since I was a little boy when I would watch the draft."

The next big moment for Lawson: Hearing exactly when his name is called while living that dream