FROM THE FILM:
On his best days -- such as the 2014 Peach Bowl against Mississippi or a 31-30 win over West Virginia -- he looks like a plug-and-play weak-side linebacker who can handle all facets of the position. In the WVU game, he racked up 12 total tackles, a sack and an interception, and was as effective dropping into coverage as attacking off the snap.
But at 230 pounds, he needs help from his defensive linemen to be able to roam; if he ends up having to engage with an offensive lineman or a blocking tight end, he runs the risk of being taken out of the play. But at the same time, he plays with so much quickness that he eludes the linemen, and is adept at reading a developing run play through a thicket of players.
Dawson plays with such speed and explosion that his Combine was shocking -- particularly a 40-yard dash time of 4.93 seconds which was what you might expect of someone 50 pounds heavier. The film shows a fast, agile player. The Combine showed a linebacker among the bottom four of all players at his position in the speed and agility drills.
His March 27 Pro Day workout merits close examination. "Trust-the-film" 4-3 teams won't be deterred by one shaky workout, but a second could give even those clubs pause.
In a pre-Combine diary filed to USA Today, Dawson noted his positive drug test, saying that it was for Adderall, and that he subsequently obtained a prescription for it. He also addressed his penchant for being late for weight-room sessions or practice, adding at the Combine, "It was all fixed. No more tardiness."
The character concerns and his Combine workout lead to a wide variance in draft projection. As the cliche' goes, all it takes is one team to fall in love with you, but if teams aren't convinced that he has re-made himself -- and he struggles in his Pro Day workout -- he could tumble deep into the second day. The projection that follows reflects this wide variance.
Arm:31 1/2 inches (T-25th among 34 Combine LBs)
Hand:9 1/2 inches (T-18th among 34 Combine LBs)
Bench Press:21 repetitions (16th among 29 Combine LBs)
40-yard dash:4.93 seconds (26th among 29 Combine LBs)
Vertical jump:28 inches (28th among 28 Combine LBs)
Broad jump:9 feet, 1 inch (26th among 28 Combine LBs)
Short shuttle:4.49 seconds (20th among 23 Combine LBs)