At the end of the July, the Buffalo Bills will embark upon something they haven’t gone for in quite some time — as they’ll attempt to make it to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. With head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane at the helm, the team is almost completely different than what it was two years ago.
As the Bills maneuver through the offseason workouts, 7ABC will take a look at the team on the field — and more specifically, the top talent that exists on the roster that can help the Bills get back to the postseason. You’ll be introduced to the Bills’ ‘Top 20 Talents’ for the upcoming season in 2018
It's a bit of a different 'most talented' list because it also takes other factors into consideration. The countdown criteria:
- Overall skill-level
- On-the-field performance
- Projection based on film study over the past several years
- Age, and improving/declining ability
With that written, on to the countdown:
No. 18 - DE Shaq Lawson
Age: 23 (DOB: 6/17/1994)
Why he’s here:
- Although his career has started with a season defined by an early injury, and then another year which was well below the expectations of a first-round pick, Shaq Lawson is still someone that has value for his physical ability that can eventually come to the surface on the field if the light goes on. Though to this point, Lawson has been a bit of a disappointment considering his draft standing. It hasn't been entirely his fault, because his first season was in a defense that didn't fit his skill-set and his second year was back in his natural defensive scheme, but he played on the left side, which was foreign to him. However, the Bills made a statement about Lawson's immediate future with their franchise by going out and spending valuable salary cap room on a pass rusher in Trent Murphy, which means Lawson likely shifts to the background. With Lawson, you certainly see flashes of a player that can be a good run defender off the edge, with the occasional ability to get after the passer -- though that part of his game is less refined at the moment. The upcoming season is crucial for the definition of his career in Buffalo.
- The Bills still have Jerry Hughes as the starting defensive end on the right side, and now with Trent Murphy on the roster, there isn't room for Lawson in the starting lineup unless there is an injury. Instead, the former first-round selection will likely become a rotational piece along the defensive line -- and considering he didn't entirely look comfortable at the left defensive end spot, a switch back to his more natural right side would make the most sense. There, he would be the primary backup to Hughes and in a position that would put him in a better spot to succeed in 2018. If he shows well in the preseason, the Bills could choose to trade Lawson ahead of the regular season -- who is one of the final holdovers remaining on the roster from the Doug Whaley draft classes. If they keep him, they can evaluate him on the right side and see if he can either be someone the Bills depend on for the long-term or if they'd be better off by moving on. The importance of 2018 for Lawson's Bills career is evident for all parties.