(SportsNetwork.com) - The video says former TCU linebacker Paul Dawson can play, but the stopwatch is causing some NFL personnel people to question their own eyesight.
No prospect underwhelmed in Indianapolis more than Dawson, perhaps the most instinctive linebacker in this year's draft class.
When you watch the tape, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Dawson looks like a first- round pick, a downhill player who keys and diagnoses like a natural, and can chase from sideline-to-sideline. He rarely takes a false step and is virtually never caught up in the trash, with some projecting a move inside in a 4-3 defense for the Dallas native because he almost senses what is happening on the field.
"It doesn't matter (if it's a 3-4 or 4-3)," Dawson said at the combine. "I'm playing football. Football is football. I'm going to be to the ball regardless."
On the second level at TCU, Dawson was almost a nightmare for offensive linemen attempting to engage thanks to his exceptional lateral movement, along with the ability to change direction on a dime. In coverage, Dawson flashed the ability to mirror running backs and allowed less than 36 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed.
"Just using my quickness, mostly my instincts," Dawson said when describing his skills. "It comes with that just watching film, knowing what's about to happen. With my quickness, watching film and my instincts, I'm going to be the first one to the ball. That's my strengths."
So what are the weaknesses?
"Just my technique," Dawson claimed. "I feel like I'm capable of doing everything, so just getting better at what I do. It's just working on my technique, because that's what it's about in the NFL. So just working on my techniques."
You can now add pure athleticism after his workouts in the Hoosier State.
You could have timed Dawson with an hour glass in Indy. He registered a stunningly slow 4.93 seconds in the 40-yard dash and was even worse in the vertical jump (a key for scouts in measuring explosion), managing just a 28- inch leap, the worst among all linebackers at the combine and 2 1/2 inches south of massive, 340-pound nose tackle Danny Shelton of Washington.
"I'm an awesome football player," Dawson tweeted after his poor performance. "The best/most productive linebacker in this draft. Not a track star."
The other major issue with Dawson involves some off-the-field concerns.
"He's an early round player without any question, but you don't have to dig around very deep or very long to realize that his personal character is going to be a major issue for some teams," an AFC West scout told NFL.com. "My grade will be two rounds later than just the talent grade. It has to be factored in."
Dawson also reacted to that criticism in a draft diary for USA Today.
"Now I'm reading that I've got 'character concerns.' My sophomore year when I got there (to TCU), I failed one drug test for Adderall, and I got a prescription for it a couple months later," Dawson claimed. "I never failed another drug test, never got in any trouble, never suspended. I was tardy a lot. I'd probably be a couple minutes late to that meeting or a weight-room session. But everybody loved me. I got along with everybody."
That didn't stop interested teams from querying Dawson on his prior peccadilloes.
"Every team has asked me about it," Dawson admitted.
"I'm not mad," he continued. "It was just mistakes I made, small mistakes that I corrected in my senior year. Yeah, I was pretty upset that it was brought up. I've made many changes in my life. I've matured a lot. I've matured and don't make those mistakes anymore. I don't plan on making them in my future. I plan on being in this league a long time. Those mistakes can't happen."
In the words of one general manager, "There is a big difference between immaturity and being a bad guy."
Dawson is trying to prove he was the former and he's not the latter.
"(It's about) realizing that this is my life," he said. "I've got to make the best of what I can do, especially to provide for my daughter. She's 2 years old. Just having the best life for her, like my parents tried to have for me."
Dawson will certainly get his chance, but unless he improves his raw athletic numbers drastically at TCU's pro day next month, the first round may now be out of reach.
"I'm a first-round pick. I feel like I am the best linebacker in this draft," Dawson said. "It's all about what teams need and want. I won't be upset. I know I'll be gone in the second if I'm not in the first. So it's all good."