The Seahawks drafted Cal receiver Kenny Lawler with the first of their two 7th Round picks, No. 243 overall, and to get some insight on the player that looks to have a decent shot at making the Seattle roster, I talked to a couple of writers that have watched him very closely the last few years. Here's a quick Q&A with LeonPowe and boomtho, writers from SB Nation's Cal Blog, California Golden Blogs.
My questions in bold/italic, their responses follow.
1. What do Seahawks fans need to know about Kenny Lawler? What are his biggest strengths?
LeonPowe: Two words: catch radius. Two more words: giant hands. Dude catches a lot. Makes the most difficult catches look easy. In the first half of the season (before some nagging injuries), the Jared Goff-to-Lawler back-shoulder throw was the most sure six points in college football. He can get up and go and get the ball. Serious red-zone weapon.
boomtho: Like LeonPowe said, his biggest strength is his catch radius. To add to that, he uses his strength very well to make contested, tough catches with CBs draped all over him.
He's also get excellent hair (that counts, right?)--seriously, Google him.
2. Were you surprised to see him selected in the 7th Round? Why or why not?
LeonPowe: Slightly, but he had some nagging injuries for the back half of the season and to be really honest, after Utah demonstrated the way to beat Goff-to-Lawler (disguised coverages while being super physical with Kenny off the line), his production declined until the last two games of the season. He also didn't test out particularly well at the Combine, but he was never a burner anyways.
Also, Cal had a lot of receivers last year--with Trevor Davis, Bryce Treggs, Stephen Anderson, Darius Powe, Maruice Harris all getting pro looks--plus a couple of receivers who are still at Cal, and three backs out of the backfield who also contributed some catches, so there was a little bit of stat dilution.
boomtho: Not really, to be honest. NFL teams often place a premium on Combine measurables and Lawler was never going to excel in that environment. Like LeonPowe said, he also played in an offense with a ton of very good WRs--it's almost a little scary to think about how many TDs he could have scored as a true #1 weapon.
3. What skills do you see translating to the pros? Any major weaknesses that could hold him back?
LeonPowe: He made all the difficult catches. One-handers. Back-shoulder fades. Leaping catches between safeties and corners. He had a nose for the ball and made a lot of spectacular catches. Weaknesses? I think pro coaches and time working against the Seahawks secondary should fix them--he had some easy drops that were head-scratching. I personally believe that it was due to the injuries in the middle of the season, not because he's not reliable, because in his first two years, he barely dropped anything. Secondly, as I mentioned, Utah was able to beat him up at the line a bit, so I think he'll need to get stronger.
boomtho: I expect his great hands to translate very well to the NFL. He's also a decently good route runner, so I think you can move him around the field a bit.
On the weaknesses side, there are sadly a few more. He doesn't have great speed or agility, and struggled a bit during some press coverage. (The cynical Cal fan me would say if he could create better separation, he wouldn't have to make circus catches.)
4. Are there are pro players that you'd compare him to, stylistically or skill-set wise?
boomtho: I'm struggling to think if a good comparison. I mean the holy grail, gold standard would be a guy like Anquan Boldin, who used his tremendous strength, hands, and route running to overcome limited speed and agility. But Lawler is not there on the strength and route running side, so the comparison definitely falls flat. Sorry!
5. What kind of guy is Lawler off the field?
LeonPowe: He made spectacular catches, but he wasn't a normal diva-type of loud, trash-talking wide receiver. Quiet dude who let his game do the talking.
boomtho: By all accounts, he's a good guy--though I can't say I heard a ton about him. Compared to the Cal locker room toward the end of the Tedford era, this year's team had a super cohesive locker room and a tight-knit culture. Lawler was one of the offensive leaders, so I imagine he contributed positively to that.
Big thanks to the writers over at California Golden Blogs for giving us a scouting report on Lawler. He's a player to watch as OTAs and training camp kick off later in the summer.