Career Recap: During the spring when NFL advance scouts are putting together their watch lists for the next season, some young players jump out and start to build some interest in their ability to grow. Lamar was one of those players after flashing as a sophomore. Team sources have told me that Lamar has a ton of potential and athletic upside. That came across in 2017 when he had 50 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. He was the best linebacker on Clemson's tough defense and was a physical presence in the tackle box.
2018 Season Outlook: Lamar has the benefit of playing behind an all-star defensive line. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins all are projected to be first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. The fourth member of the starting line, defensive end Austin Bryant, could go on Day 2. Thus, Lamar is going to have a lot of great looks this season as offensive lines are going to have their hands full blocking at the point of attack. Lamar could run free often and make a lot of plays for the Tigers.
Skill-Set Summary: The inside linebacker position has changed a lot in the NFL. Thirty years ago, being a run-stuffing force was the priority for linebackers. As the league has evolved, inside linebackers need to be versatile athletes who have the speed and athleticism to cover in the passing game while still being solid run defenders. Thus, linebackers like Lamar are going to be in demand. He is a versatile athlete with a good skill set and the physical ability to become a three-down starter at the next level.
Given the passing-driven nature of the modern NFL, Lamar is going to have to display the ability to cover in order to be a first-round pick. He has good size, quickness, and fluid athleticism to cover. Lamar needs to develop his ability to drop and cover tight ends or running backs in man. Clemson hasn't used Lamar a lot like that, so it is not his fault that he needs more development here. The Tigers have had Lamar rush off the edge, blitz on pass plays, spy the quarterback, and put his hand in the ground as a defensive end on some plays.
Lamar is a solid defender in the ground game. He doesn't hesitate to take on blocks and doesn't try to run around them. Lamar reads his keys quickly and flows to the ball. Lamar possesses nice pursuit speed and is adept at working his way through trash to get in on plays. He is a good tackler who has the strength to wrap up ball-carriers and get them to the ground. Lamar is an attacking linebacker who comes downhill, and his tackles set up a lot of good down-and-distance situations. He is not a linebacker who racks up cheap tackles downfield. In 2018, Lamar could stand to improve his ability to stay on his feet and not get fall to the ground on cut blocks.
For the NFL, Lamar should fit any defense. He could be an inside linebacker in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. According to the preseason watch list for NFL teams, Lamar checks in at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds. He has 32.5-inch arms, 9.5-inch hands, and a wing span of 78 inches as well. Those are excellent measureables for an NFL starting linebacker.
2019 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2018 season, team sources say that Lamar projects to being an early-rounder in the 2019 NFL Draft. He has first-round potential, and if doesn't go in the first round, sources think he could turn into a second-day pick.