I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Paul Dawson, LB, TCU - 6'2, 230 - Senior
Some positions are premium in the draft, but that means others contain very good players that simply are not valued at the same level of currency in the modern NFL. Non-pass rushing linebackers are certainly in the latter category (but, then again so are guards and centers and the Cowboys have selected one of each in the last 2 1st rounds and they seem quite pleased with the results). Dawson is another from the defensive football factory in Fort Worth where Gary Patterson employs a 4-2-5 defense and has his 2 linebackers running around destroying everything and being prepared for the NFL in the process. Dawson was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and grew into a spot where he became the talk of the draft as the Bowl season developed. For his profile, I looked at Oklahoma State, Texas, and Ole Miss to see what he was all about.
What I liked: Pop on one of his games and it becomes clear very quickly that he runs very well and has no problem in space against running backs in routes. To play the position he was asked to play, he has to pick through traffic and seek and destroy guys in the open field, and he does it with great explosiveness. Maybe his best attribute is how he can take on blockers and still make the stop. Pulling guards or lead full backs have a heck of a time keeping their ball carrier clean with Dawson flying around them with his athleticism and still racking up another tackle for loss. His closing speed is amazing and panic inducing to a QB who is trying to find a solution to this on the fly. He shoots gaps so well and has a real knack for blitzing off the edge when it is called for. He really plays linebacker like a safety with his fluid ability and his heat-seeking missile style.
What I did not like: Sometimes, he gets going a bit too fast and will over-run plays and miss an opportunity. I am sure he is taught to err on the side of going too fast, but you don't want to leave plays unmade out there. He also has pretty much just 2014 of production as he was a JUCO transfer and a wide receiver out of high school. What you have to ask yourself is how much do you invest in a player like this who appears to be a perfect "Will" Linebacker candidate in Rod Marinelli's 4-3.
Summary: This is absolutely the type of player that would fit wonderfully into the Cowboys' plans, but there are many mitigating circumstances to consider. The biggest is that they really only have Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens under contract in 2015, while Justin Durant, Bruce Carter, and Rolando McClain are all free. Surely, those decisions are tied together. But, also, Dawson was the type of kid that just 60 days ago seemed like a reasonable 2nd or 3rd round idea, and now he may, with a great spring, be the type of guy to work his way into the 1st round if a team wants this type of talent. He is very good, the question is whether a team like the Cowboys should allocate resources here when they really want to address the sack issue and the potential replacement for DeMarco Murray. Complicated, but Dawson is exceptional at what he does, which is to cause major chaos on a regular basis.