In Hindsight: DeMarcus Lawrence’s Value Still in Question


Much of the true worthiness of the Dallas Cowboys’ 2014 draft, hinges on one man – DeMarcus Lawrence. Now entering his second season, expectations are high, but his value is still in question.

It’s difficult to grade a draft only one year removed. Outside of the top 30 or so picks, it often takes time for players to impact a team at the NFL level. As we looked at on Friday, Zack Martin made a huge impact as the Cowboys’ 1st round pick. Expectations for him are now through the roof since earning All-Pro status in his rookie year.

But the same can’t be said for DeMarcus Lawrence…

Breaking his foot early in training camp last season, Lawrence was placed on short-term injured reserve, allowing him to return after the eight week point of the regular season. After a lengthy recovery period, that obviously stunted his development, Lawrence returned to action Week 9 against AZ. He showed great burst and effort while contributing 28 snaps to the DE rotation that game.

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As the weeks went on, DeMarcus Lawrence had his ups and downs, not unlike any other rookie would endure. In my weekly film-reviews and breakdowns (aka Monday Game Notes and Observations), I noted he became more hesitant later in the regular season. He was clearly trying to incorporate new moves, diagnose his opposition, and it slowed him down as a result.

His hesitancy and learning curve last season is very natural for rookie linemen trying to develop. But as we know, things started to click for DeMarcus Lawrence in the playoffs. Lawrence started to play more instinctually and was able to beat the edge multiple times, collecting hurries and sacks at very critical points.

The way DeMarcus Lawrence ended the season gives reason for optimism around Cowboys Nation. But with such a small sample size, and the naturally slow learning curve for pass-rushers in the NFL, we must temper our enthusiasm just a bit.

DeMarcus Lawrence is a difficult player to grade in a year’s hindsight for a couple reasons:

  • Obviously his limited games, and minimal regular season impact, coupled with his progression in the playoffs, and his big-impact plays postseason, all confuse the grading. He appears to be trending up in a big way, but we have to see more before we can feel confident in that conclusion
  • The biggest hindrance in calling him a successful draft pick, is what he cost the Dallas Cowboys to attain. The Cowboys traded up in the 2nd round 13 spots to select the Boise State DE. In doing so, they gave up their 3rd round pick. In a draft loaded with DL depth, the Cowboys essentially traded away 2 starters (2nd and 3rd round players) for 1 player they saw as a star.

At face value, that move is a a good one to take, but for that to officially be considered successful, DeMarcus Lawrence must actually become a star player. I loved DeMarcus Lawrence coming out of college and mocked him to the Cowboys every chance I could get. Lawrence has the body-lean and athleticism needed to dominate the RDE position. I wasn’t alone in my thinking either. had this to say about Lawrence:

"“Highly athletic. Fluid, flexible and rangy. Terrific balance and body control. Has quick, coordinated hands and feet to slingshot off blocks. Has natural pass-rush ability — shows burst, bend and closing speed to hunt down quarterbacks. Dips inside suddenly. Terrific knee and ankle flexion — flattens efficiently and redirects and accelerates smoothly”"

An important thing to track on Lawrence is not only his play over the next few years, but the play of the men the Cowboys would have drafted, had they not moved up for Lawrence. Stephen Jones quietly revealed those players to the Dallas Morning News last season.

The 2nd round pick would have been Kony Ealy and the 3rd rounder would have been guard Trai Turner the DMN once reported. At this point, with the benefit of hindsight, I still like the pick. Lawrence has a special set of skills that are very hard to find. The trade up was risky considering what they gave up, but the ceiling of a player like DeMarcus Lawrence, is too good to pass up.

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Next: Is Zack Martin the Next Larry Allen?

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