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January 31, 2013

NFL comparisons: Lawson, Smith

MORE: Countdown to Signing Day
PART 1: NFL comparisons: Ramsey, Fuller
PART 2: NFL comparisons: Green, Browne | PART 3: NFL comparisons: Bigelow, Treadwell

The close of the evaluation period for the Class of 2013 produced few changes at the top of the Rivals100, but as the players jockeyed for position, the Rivals.com team of analysts saw the highlights and lowlights of each prospect.

Generally, the most difficult aspect of ranking players is making comparisons and projections, but it is the task most asked of analysts. With just days left until National Signing Day, the Rivals.com team will break down the best of the best by comparing them to players on the NFL level.

Each day, there will be a breakdown of two players from the Top 10 of the Rivals100.

No. 4 Carl Lawson, defensive end, Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton

Carl Lawson
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 253
High school: Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton
Carl Lawson videos
Attributes: 6-foot-2, 253 pounds, 4.7 40

Top Schools: Committed to Auburn

NFL comparison: Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

Tale of the Tape: Lawson is listed one inch shorter and five pounds lighter than Wake, but the sawed-off defensive end has a relentless motor and quick hands and feet. The comparison four years ago likely would have been to Dwight Freeney because all three had similar attributes and size with the speed to blow off the ball and get to the quarterback.

When we last saw him: At the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla., Lawson didn't record a tackle and was held in check after an excellent week in practice. The Auburn commit was credited with a quarterback hurry but was a nonfactor in the contest. The expectations were much higher for him, but it didn't hurt his final standing because his performance all year outweighed one game.

Analyst's take: "Lawson is a little bigger than Freeney and a little smaller than Wake, but I think his game is a model of both as he is a pure pass rusher. It is guys like Freeney, though, who paved the way for undersized guys with high motors to get this kind of shot and show that, if all of the other skills are there, height can be a marginalized measurement. His array of moves and his desire to be a great football player more than compensate for the lone negative in his game." -- Woody Wommack, Rivals.com Southeast analyst.

No. 3 Jaylon Smith, outside linebacker, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers

Jaylon Smith
Position: Outside linebacker
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 212
High school: Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers
Jaylon Smith videos
Attributes: 6-foot-3, 212 pounds,

Top schools: Commmitted to Notre Dame

NFL comparison: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Tale of the tape: Aldon Smith has about 40 pounds of development on Jaylon, but both are at the 6-foot-3 measurement and incredibly fast and active. Jaylon has a frame very similar to Aldon's, and adding the mass can be easily done when he gets into the Notre Dame strength program. He will likely not lose his speed.

When we last saw him: Jaylon Smith had a quiet week in practice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but he got a pass for that because linebackers are tough to evaluate during workouts because they don't do much. The five-star Notre Dame commit proved himself in the game, and that's what matters. He played with his hand down and was successful on blitzes, and he dropped into coverage and made plays. The rare thing about Smith is that he can cover so much ground that he can be an asset all over the defense. He's smart, fast and productive, and he was arguably the best defensive player on either side.<

Analyst's take: "Physically, he reminds me of Aldon when he was a prospect because he wasn't the biggest kid but he had a frame to build on. His game is very similar as well, because he is very good in space and he can rush the edge exceptionally well. Both players are able to get skinny when they need to, and that is a major part of the game for Jaylon. His flexibility to be in space and as a pass rusher makes him very versatile. Mostly the comparison here is based on projection. I look at Jaylon, and I can see him becoming Aldon." -- Mike Farrell, Rivals.com national analyst.

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