The Seattle Seahawks have selected Cal receiver Kenny Lawler with the first of their two 7th round picks, 225th overall in the NFL Draft.
Lawler played a very singular and important role for Cal -- scoring touchdowns. The 6'2 pass catcher caught 22 touchdowns over the past two years for the Golden Bears, and Pete Carroll has mentioned several times over the years that he values "touchdown makers" and guys that can make big plays. Think Jermaine Kearse.
As A.W. Johnston said over at California Golden Blogs,
Kenny Lawler made a name for himself early and often in his Cal career with acrobatic catches. He has some of the best hands I have ever seen at the position and is one of the hardest players in the country to defend near the goal line. Kenny's hands are huge which makes him an easy target for an accurate quarterback, it just so happened that Kenny had number one pick Jared Goff at the helm which made for a lethal combination.
Here's a scouting report from NFL.com's Lance Zeirlein.
STRENGTHS Touchdown maker at Cal scoring once every 5.3 receptions. Uses tight, sharp footwork getting in and out of his breaks. Has a feel for finding opening against zone. Runs routes with consistent play speed. Able to get to top speed early. Sinks into comeback routes and works aggressively back to the throw. Snatches the ball away from his body with impressive hand strength. Hands and body control to make the "wow" catch up top or down low.
WEAKNESSES String-bean body type. Play strength will always be a concern depending upon individual matchup. Will need to tighten up release against NFL press corners. Inconsistent route runner. Scouts question how he will run at combine. Tape doesn't show cushion-eating speed to inspire fear in NFL corners. Average ability to create after the catch. Concentration drops have crept into his play at times.
DRAFT PROJECTION Rounds 4 or 5
BOTTOM LINE Tall, but thin possession receiver who produced impressive touchdown totals in Cal's "Bear Raid" offense. While Lawler's footwork gets him in and out of his breaks quickly, he will find that NFL cornerbacks will try and suffocate him underneath without fear of deep ball retribution. Lawler's short-area quickness and ability to snare the difficult catch could be an intriguing pairing from the slot where he could find the size matchups more to his liking.
Here's what scouts at NFLDraftScout.com had to say.
#Seahawks get a steal in the 7th round: WR Kenny Lawler— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 30, 2016
STRENGTHS: Among the more gifted pass-catchers of the 2016 draft, boasting an exciting blend of body control, hand-eye coordination, long arms and strong hands to make the spectacular grab, including several one-handed touchdowns over his career. Tracks the ball well and can contort his frame in the air to win contested passes despite his lack of ideal bulk. Despite a relatively slim frame, Lawler doesn't shirk from contact, using his long arms to push free of defensive backs during his route running and after the catch.
He remains a bit inconsistent as a route-runner but possesses the athleticism to ultimately excel in this regard, showing good initial quickness off the ball, the fluidity to change directions smoothly and enough top-end speed to challenge vertically. He possesses good vision and athleticism to generate yardage after the catch, including the stop-start quickness to elude in tight quarters and is a quick accelerator.
WEAKNESSES: While tall, Lawler sports a spindly frame (including narrow limbs) which could lead to questions about his ability to remain durable in the NFL. Looks like a stiff breeze could knock him down and lacks the strength to run though even arm tackles. Usually going down to first contact, though he does fight for additional yardage. He's light on his feet, eluding well and accelerating quickly but tops out quickly, as well, and may lack the top-end speed to ever be a true vertical threat. Drops an occasional easy one, typically because he's looking to make a defender miss before securing the catch.
IN OUR VIEW: If he can handle the jump in physicality, Lawler has the ball-skills to be a star. There are few receivers in the 2016 draft who can match his highlights. The list of thin receivers with limited top-end speed starring in the NFL, however, is a short one, giving scouts reason to be cautious.
Here's what Tony Pauline said in his report.
Positive: Part-time starter the past 3 seasons. Career totals of 54 receptions, 701 yards and 9 TDs came during his redshirt sophomore season. Tall, possession receiver with consistent hands. Quickly releases off the line, uses his hands to separate from defenders or settles into the open spot in underneath coverage. Tracks the ball in the air, gets vertical and effectively times his pass receptions. Catches the ball with his hands, keeps the play in bounds running after the catch and works hard in all areas.
Negative: Looks more like a one speed receiver. Has a thin frame, not strong and loses out in battles.
Analysis: Lawler was a solid college receiver yet lacks great size and speed for the next level. He must improve his playing strength to have any real chance of making a roster at the next level.
Here's some tape:
The Seahawks have 10 selections total in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Round 1, Pick 26 (31): Germain Ifedi, OL Texas A&M
Round 2, Pick 18 (49): Jarran Reed, DL Alabama
Round 3, Pick 27 (90): C.J. Prosise, RB Notre Dame
Round 3, Pick 31 (94): Nick Vannett, TE Ohio State
Round 3, Pick 35 (97) (Comp pick): Rees Odhiambo, OL Boise State
Round 5, Pick 8 (147) (From Patriots): Quinton Jefferson, DL Maryland
Round 5, Pick 34 (171) (Comp pick): Alex Collins, RB Arkansas
Round 6, Pick 40 (215) (Comp pick): Joey Hunt, C TCU
Round 7, Pick 4 (243) (From Patriots): Kenny Lawler, WR Cal
Round 7, Pick 26 (247):