TCU linebacker Paul Dawson was one of the most discussed prospects at the NFL combine for all the wrong reasons.
The narrative written about Dawson has completely changed in recent weeks.
Two months ago, he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a Walter Camp All-American after finishing his senior season with 136 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss, six sacks and four interceptions.
At that time, Dawson was considered an instinctual linebacker who worked his way through traffic deftly and flew to the football. The former high school wide receiver was arguably the top weak-side linebacker in this year's class.
Everything then started to change for the TCU product.
It started with an unflattering assessment of him as a person, courtesy of an anonymous scout.
"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's Lance Zierlein. "My grade will be two rounds later than just the talent grade. It has to be factored in."
Dawson fired back after reading the negative commentary. He wrote a draft diary, via USA Today's Tom Pelissero, to publicly address the supposed issues:
Now I'm reading that I've got 'character concerns.' My sophomore year when I got there, I failed one drug test for Adderall, and I got a prescription for it a couple months later. 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—all the coaches, all the offensive coaches. We made jokes throughout the facility all day. On Saturdays, they knew that I was going to go big, do my thing.
When I see stuff like my team doesn't like me, that's hurtful. I guarantee if you call Coach P right now, the only thing he'd say is I'm a knucklehead. But he would also say that everybody should coach a guy like Paul Dawson—a dude who has a lot of potential, who has the drive, who has the capability to go far and is very eager. He's the type of coach that's going to get in your face, cuss you out, just to see how you're going to react. I finally figured that out my junior year. I'd be a smartass, but he liked that. He'd always tell me, 'I see good things in your eyes. I see that you really want it.' And he believed in me.
The linebacker may have answered those particular questions during interviews with teams, but he certainly didn't help his cause once he was asked to perform at the NFL combine.
As a former skill-position player, Dawson was expected to run relatively well. He didn't have to post the fastest 40-yard dash time, but he played fast when scouts viewed his TCU games.
None of those things translated during his workout.
Instead, Dawson ran a severely disappointing 40-yard dash, as NFL.com's Bryan Fisher noted:
Dawson's time was tied for the second worst among all linebackers. In fact, 22 defensive linemen ran faster official times.
It's nothing short of disappointing.
The poor workout invoked a comparison to another highly touted linebacker who tore up the collegiate ranks but fell flat when he was asked to perform in front of teams, per Rotoworld's Josh Norris:
The Cincinnati Bengals' Vontaze Burfict wasn't drafted due to a poor workout and character concerns.
Dawson's result shouldn't be as severe, but he also shouldn't be considered a top prospect at this point in process. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein summed up exactly how teams will view such a poor performance:
Some, like Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko, won't overlook the months of work done prior to one bad day:
And it was an overall bad day.
Dawson didn't exactly impress in drills either. Bleacher Report's Dan Hope felt the TCU linebacker even struggled when asked to do position-specific movements, while his contemporaries excelled:
During his media session at the combine, Dawson (6'0", 235 lbs) compared his style of play to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Lavonte David.
The two are considered undersized but instinctual players perfectly suited as weak-side linebackers behind a four-man front. That's where the comparison stops, though.
|Combine performances: Paul Dawson vs. Lavonte David|
|Player||40-yard dash||Bench||Vertical||Broad Jump|
The incoming linebacker simply isn't the same type of athlete as the current Buccaneer.
Dawson is a fine football player, and he still has a legitimate opportunity to develop into a very good linebacker at the next level. There are, however, as many questions about him as a player and person now than there were originally. Those problems cannot be overlooked.
Overall, Dawson's workout will be considered one of the most concerning for any prospect who competed in Indianapolis.
Scouts and coaches will undoubtedly go back to their facilities and recheck the tape to see if they missed something. What they see during a second or third viewing will eventually determine where the linebacker is selected in the 2015 NFL draft. But one thing is almost certain—it won't be in the first round.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.