There wasn’t a defensive player that saw his stock drop more than Paul Dawson in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, the Cincinnati Bengals got a guy who could start immediately.
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected two tackles in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft who may not make an impact until the 2016 season, it was crucial for the Bengals to find quality talent in the middle rounds. While the Combine and other showing events usually help draft prospects, they can also derail a prospect’s draft stock.
Because of a poor 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine, Dawson’s stock took a big hit. He went from possibly a late first-round pick to a middle-round pick. Here’s what Mike Mayock had to say about Dawson and his draft stock after his poor 40-time:
"“This was the guy I thought was the best 4-3 will linebacker in the draft, and he ran a 4.9, which stunned me. But his instincts and quickness, I mean, he was just phenomenal on tape,” Mayock said. “If you watch his tape against Minnesota, it’s as good a linebacker tape as I’ve seen in years.”"
Dawson heard the complaints about his speed so much that he tweeted about his critics. In this tweet, he also said that he was the best linebacker on this draft class:
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Even if he isn’t the fastest guy in the world, Dawson has great football instincts and he’s a sure tackler. In the third round, the Bengals could get possibly the best linebacker in this draft class. By drafting Dawson, the Bengals now have a guy who can finally replace Rey Maualuga at the middle linebacker position.
Vontaze Burfict has flourished each season in the weakside linebacker position and Emmanuel Lamur was actually solid at the strongside linebacker position last year. Maualuga, on the other hand, has been holding this group back in the past few seasons. An upgrade was needed and it was made by drafting Dawson.
At 6-foot, 235 pounds, Dawson doesn’t have the best size. With an NFL conditioning program and an NFL weight room, Dawson will have the ability to put on around 10-15 pounds of muscle. Dawson covers ground across the football gridiron extremely well and he isn’t afraid to make plays against the pass as well.
The main problem with Dawson is his attitude. Despite displaying a tough demeanor and having a good work ethic, there have been complaints over his character and over his willingness to improve as a football player. However, the Bengals took on the risk of Burfict a few years ago. Similarly, Burfict had numerous concerns on and off the field in terms of character and improvement. But in Cincinnati, Burfict has become one of the best weakside linebackers in the NFL.
While there will be some competition in training camp between Maualuga and Dawson, it shouldn’t take time before the Bengals realize that Dawson is the better option. Maualuga is really only a decent two-down options. Dawson shows more ability in both the running and passing games. That being said, I expect Dawson to be the starting middle linebacker in Week 1.
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