ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson landing in the Buffalo Bills' lap at No. 19 overall was a match made in heaven. Bills coach Rex Ryan is a defensive-minded coach and among the most ardent of Clemson supporters, and the Bills had a glaring need along their defensive front seven. It was just too perfect.
My take: The Bills hit on this one. They both addressed a need and got great value in a player who wasn't expected to fall as far as No. 19. General manager Doug Whaley said Lawson will be an immediate starter opposite Jerry Hughes in what Whaley previously said this offseason will be more of a true 3-4 defense. Lawson is considered an excellent run-defender who has room for growth as a pass-rusher. The Bills could use help in both categories after receiving lackluster play last season from Mario Williams, who is now with the Miami Dolphins.
First 18 picks shook out perfectly for Buffalo: Some mock drafts projected Lawson to be selected as high as the early teens. Many mocks had him off the board by No. 11, which was held by the Chicago Bears until they traded up Thursday night to No. 9 for Leonard Floyd. That trade and the resulting nine picks, including some surprises such as Corey Coleman to Cleveland at No. 15 and Keanu Neal to Atlanta at No. 17, helped pave the way for Lawson to land in Buffalo. The Bills had a surprising pick of front-seven players at No. 19, and they left two top-ranked linebackers -- UCLA's Myles Jack and Ohio State's Darron Lee -- on the board to pick Lawson.
Lawson's shoulder a potential issue: After the Bills' selection, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Lawson will need shoulder surgery that will sideline him for four to six months, although Lawson will "probably" put off the surgery until after the coming season. Lawson revealed later it was his right shoulder but that despite having the injury since his freshman year, it hasn't been an issue for him and he denied that he will need surgery. Whaley said, "The medical staff cleared him, said he could play. Now if something happens, it's gonna happen. But it's nothing that we're really worried about, or we wouldn't take him. We have complete faith in our medical staff and they signed off on him, so we're happy to have him."
The Clemson connection: It's been hard to miss Rex Ryan's love for Clemson. His son, Seth, is a walk-on for the school's football team. Rob Ryan, Rex's twin brother and now the Bills' assistant head coach/defense, will have his son, Matthew, joining Clemson this fall as a preferred walk-on. Rex Ryan has worn a Clemson helmet at a Bills news conference and adopted Dabo Swinney's motto of "all in" for the Bills this offseason. Rex probably has as much orange in his closet as he does Bills blue and red. Lawson said Thursday night that Buffalo "feels like home" to him.
What’s next: The Bills addressed one of their top needs in the first round. They still could use help at defensive tackle and linebacker in the second or third rounds Friday night. The second night of the draft could also be a sweet spot to select a quarterback. The Bills own picks No. 49 (second round) and No. 80 (third round).