2015 NFL Draft Scouting Report – Paul Dawson, LB TCU

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Paul Dawson has developed into one of the Big XII’s best linebackers.  After spending two years at Trinity Community College, Dawson transfered to TCU.  The past two seasons in Forth Worth, Dawson has been a player that has done a little bit of everything for Horned Frog defense and while he was a productive player his junior season, he has improved almost across the board in his final season.

TCU runs a base 4-3 defense but often times it is in the form of playing in an over look where he is lined up behind one of his defensive tackles.  As a result, Dawson is responsible for covering a great deal of ground in the middle of the field as well as filling on an entire side of the line.  Occasionally, Dawson is playing from the outside and either coming on the blitz or dropped into coverage, giving him the opportunity to do just about everything in Gary Patterson’s defensive scheme.

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Vitals & Build

  • Date of birth not listed
  • 6’2″ 230lbs (listed)

Dawson is slightly undersized, but he is explosive and fluid for the most part; his hips are not great.  He has good speed and quickness for the position with excellent body control in the direction his hips are facing.  Dawson gives relentless effort through the whistle and has a nonstop motor.  He appears to have the frame to continue to add weight but one of his focuses needs to be improving his hips.

Tackling

Dawson is a consistent tackler that does a nice job of employing technique.  Probably in part due to his size or lackthereof, he makes the most of leverage and keeps his legs going through tackles.  As a result, he is powerful as a tackler with the ability to drive opposing ball carriers backward.

Dawson also does an excellent job when it comes to his hands.  He wraps up on contact, but he also does his best of trying to attack the football when he has the opportunity, so he is someone that is a threat to force fumbles.

When he is chasing down tackles from the side or behind, he does a decent job of attacking the inside hip and does not miss many tackles with good effective range.  His tackles are not always pretty but he gets the job done.

  • Sinks his hips, wraps up and drives his legs through contact; perfect, form tackle.

Run Support

Dawson is a smart, instinctive linebacker that is rarely caught by surprise by what opponents are doing.  He not only understands what he needs to do for his job, but does his homework and processes information quickly on the fly.  Dawson reads plays well and is decisive.

He plays fast and is an extremely aggressive backer that can knife into the backfield to make tackles for losses as well as come across the field and help on plays going away from him.

  • Dawson comes downhill to fill, gets to the ball carrier and drags him down, also managing to rip the football out in the process.

Dawson is not a player who is going to knock an opposing blocker into the backfield too often.  Some of this might be due to a lack of power, but mostly it comes down to the fact that Dawson would rather not waste his time on the blocker.  He does an excellent job of using his quickness and agility to slip past blockers without contact as well as using his arms to keep blockers out of his body and allow him to keep flying to the football.  The most important part of this is that Dawson gets past blockers quickly and is able to get to the ball carrier.

  • Dawson gets doubled team here at the second level but manages to get out of it and help finish the tackle.  This just comes down to hard work and effort.

Coverage

Dawson has some skills that enable him to be effective in coverage but this is not really a strong suit.  The best situation for Dawson is when he can play facing the line of scrimmage and react quickly.  When he can play downhill, facing the quarterback, he can do a nice job in man coverage.  Dawson gets his hands on the opponent quickly and redirects with the speed to close.

Dawson has far more trouble when he has to flip his hips and stay with receivers down the field.  He can be stiff but he is simply uncomfortable a lot of the time and gets beaten as a result.  The effort is there but the results are mediocre.  He still gets his hands on and redirects but then can get lost in coverage.

Dawson is able to help in zone coverage and does a nice job of tackling the pass.  He is at his best in really short zone where he can read the quarterback’s eyes and try to jump up and knock the pass down, but the further he gets out, the less effective he becomes.  With more experience and work, he should be able to get better and more instinctive in this part of the game.

  • After initially showing blitz, Dawson reads Trevor Knight’s eyes and positions himself to get in the way of the pass, but manages to come down with it and take it to the house.

In pass coverage, Dawson is a work in progress.  He has a lot of traits that suggest he can be effective and just needs to continue improving.  Nevertheless, he will make the occasional great play that can change a game.  The more experience and time he has to improve, the more often these plays can happen.  As a rookie, he may not be ready to step in and be trusted in obvious passing situations but he has the tools to get there.

Pass Rush & Blitz Ability

Dawson has the explosiveness and speed to help on the rush.  He is best suited to try to attack a gap that opens up or come off the edge as he is not great when it comes to defeating a block to get to the quarterback.  Dawson has shown the ability to disguise his intent and wait to blitz until late with the acceleration to get up to speed in no time.  Not only can Dawson help in terms of enhancing a pass rush, but can drop into coverage if needed.

System Fit

  • 4-3 Middle Linebacker

Dawson’s speed, range and ability to play the run make him a good fit in a 4-3 scheme.  He needs to continue to get stronger but based on what he does well, this is his best fit in the long term.

  • 3-4 Weak Inside Linebacker

Dawson is able to shed blocks so he can operate inside in a 3-4.  His speed inside is also effective for teams that like to send multiple blitzers in the A gap.

  • 4-3 Weak Side Linebacker

In terms of his size, this is the best fit for Dawson.  He is fast and can cover a ton of ground, but it is important for him to get more consistent in pass coverage and be more comfortable turning his back to the play.

Draft Projection

Paul Dawson warrants being picked right around the Top 100 pick mark.  He is a talented run defender that can make plays and should continue to improve in coverage that should make him a good value in the third or fourth round.

The clips were provided by DraftBreakdown.com