Oct 4, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Paul Dawson (47) celebrates in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The Horned frogs beat the Sooners 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into the 2015 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals found themselves in need of another linebacker to ensure the unit’s future. Injuries to Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga left the unit lacking in past years, so adding some youth was a clear goal for the team.
In the third round of this year’s draft, the Bengals finally found their man in former Texas Christian linebacker Paul Dawson. Many Bengals fans expressed their interest in Dawson prior to the draft, so his selection likely put a smile on countless fans’ faces.
Upon being selected with the 99th selection, Paul Dawson was labeled as one of the biggest steals of the draft according to Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner.
"“Dawson is the ultimate case study of production versus measurables. As you can see from the graphic courtesy of Mockdraftable.com, Dawson is one of the worst athletes to go through the combine at the linebacker positions. We’ve already chronicled his production which is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from his athleticism.None of the five linebackers drafted before Dawson could hold a candle to him in on field performance last season. The interesting thing about Dawson going to the Bengals is that he joins a player that also had atrocious measurables who turned out alright in Vontaze Burfict.”"
Since this time, the acclaim for Paul Dawson has continued to grow. He’s drawn numerous comparisons to fellow Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, even from his new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
When Cincinnati’s rookie mini camp concluded, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jim Owczarski noted that Dawson displayed an ability to drop back into coverage (something some fans were concerned about) and his ability to quickly read plays. To the surprise of few, Guenther said that Dawson was “doing a good job of understanding what we’re trying to put in” with regards to the defenses they were implementing. It’s a testament to Dawson’s high football I.Q.
Now, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso has given Paul Dawson maybe the highest praise he could’ve received to this point in his career. In a recent article, Trapasso suggested Dawson could grow into the mold of All-Pro Luke Kuechly who, in the eyes of many, is the best linebacker in football. Trapasso says that Dawson has the necessary “play recognition and reaction” to become a prototype linebacker in the NFL (such as Kuechly).
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Paul Dawson is exactly the kind of defensive player the Bengals are missing in the middle of the field, and especially when Burfict was injured. Dawson provides the team with insurance against Burfict’s potential absence heading into the 2015 season while. If Burfict is healthy, the two could form an impressive playmaking duo in the middle of the field.
Although Trapasso isn’t saying Dawson is Kuechly at this point in time, it’s still rather encouraging reading that someone feels Dawson has enough talent to grow into the Kuechly mold. Whether or not he makes it to this level remains to be seen; there’s tons of work to do before an actual comparison could ever be justified. But with that said, Paul Dawson should prove to be an effective player in the coming season(s) and, maybe one day, grow into a Luke Kuechly type of player.