Point of Veau: Paul Dawson's Combine Workout Calls Dedication into Question

The TCU linebacker ran one of the slowest 40 times and had the lowest vertical jump among players at his position. Add in off-the-field concerns, and Dawson may no longer be first-round material.

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson—Trevor Ruszkowski, USA TODAY Sports.

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson—Trevor Ruszkowski, USA TODAY Sports.

INDIANAPOLIS—As one of the top inside linebackers in this year's draft class, Paul Dawson's name has been predictably and understandably linked to the Green Bay Packers, perhaps as high as the 30th overall selection in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft.

After the TCU product's workout at the recently-completed NFL Combine, however, his dedication to football can be called into question despite what he may say to the contrary.

"Just realizing that this is my life," said Dawson at the Combine. "I’ve got to make the best of what I can do, especially to provide for my daughter. She’s two years old. Just having the best life for her, like my parents tried to have for me."

You'd think having a young daughter would motivate Dawson to dedicate himself to his craft and make good decisions, but thus far through the process, Dawson's committment to football is becoming increasingly hard to believe.

Dawson's workout at the NFL Combine raises the latest but not the first red flag. His 40-yard dash time of 4.93 seconds ranked 30th out of 34 linebackers that ran at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And it wasn't just Dawson's 40 time that raised an eyebrow. His 28-inch vertical jump was last among linebackers, 33rd out of 33 that took part. His 109-inch broad jump, 31st of 33. His 20-yard shuttle time of 4.49 seconds ranked 23rd out of 27. He didn't even take part in the three-cone drill or 60-yard shuttle.

It's a situation not unlike that encountered by Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis a year ago. Many analysts thought he would be a Day 2 draft choice, but he put up four repetitions on the bench press at the Combine, the lowest of hundreds of players regardless of position.

Abbrederis ended up being selected in the fifth round, and in retrospect, few should be surprised. Four bench press reps, really? Kickers and punters can do more. High school kids can do more.

Minnesota linebacker Damien Wilson, a late-round prospect, made a valid point when he described his training regimen for the Combine.

"You can have the most spectacular season and mess up in the 40 and they’re going to look at you sideways," said Wilson. "So the last past month I’ve been a track guy. I’ve been Usain Bolt."

Observers are most definitely looking at Dawson sideways now, and more than anything, it's because his performance at the Combine doesn't match what's on film.

Turn on one of TCU's games from this past season and it certainly doesn't look as if Dawson is one of the slowest linebackers in this year's class. In fact, he stands out. He all but jumps off the film, grabbing you by the collar and demanding your attention. He looks like a first-round talent, a playmaker.

That's what makes Dawson's Combine performance so puzzling.

No one is expecting him to break records like UConn's Byron Jones did in the broad jump on Monday, but this is a player ranked as the No. 1 linebacker by Mike Mayock of the NFL Network.

Interested parties most assuredly wanted to see a player that looked passionate and earnest about his preparation, especially if they're going to invest a first-round pick and millions of dollars into him, and especially for a player that has some off-field issues as well.

Prior to the Combine, Dawson already discussed his off-field concerns in a first-person piece published by USA Today. He was open about being late to team meetings .

"Time management mostly, just making the wrong choices," said Dawson at the Combine. "Sometimes being around the wrong people at times. So yeah, I made that change by just doing what I need to do. Most of the time I was by myself a lot. I feel like those are the main reasons."

Dawson also admitted to failing a drug test for Aderall. He didn't have a prescription at the time but claimed to get one a couple months later.

At the time Dawson brought these concerns to a public light, they seemed minor when looked at in a vacuum. As long as he was being fully forthcoming about all his issues and their accuracy, they seemed possible to overcome. It's not like Dawson was the first college-aged kid to make a few dumb mistakes.

But taken in conjunction with his forgettable Combine performance, the gravity of Dawson's situation doesn't seem to be setting in.

The interview portion of the Combine, the part the public doesn't get to see, is taking on added importance for the 6' 0", 235 lb. linebacker. But Dawson's situation is so problematic, his draft stock is no longer in his own hands.

Dawson alone can no longer alleviate doubts. Coaches, teachers and those that know him are going to have to vouch for him. Don't doubt for a second the Packers haven't already talked to these acquaintances or will at some point.

It would appear Dawson is approaching the high-risk, high-reward category. He may very well end up being a very good player, but the Packers or any team that would make Dawson a first-round pick is playing Russian roulette.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (10)

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zoellner25's picture

February 24, 2015 at 09:25 am

This guy is going to get crucified for his history and bad combine numbers, but his tape, from what little I"ve seen and read from Zach Kruse, is amazing. Some guys can just play and don't test well.

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@ballark's picture

February 24, 2015 at 10:02 am

Can we please just pick London Fletcher clone Denzel Perryman and be done with it?

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4thand1's picture

February 24, 2015 at 11:22 am

Maybe he was hurt and didn't want to say anything. After all, nothing raises eyebrows like an injury. I always say, look what a guy does on the field. Wait till the pro day.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 24, 2015 at 06:56 pm

Dawson tweeting he was a football player not a track star suggests he might not consider it important to train to the combine testing. Which makes me wonder if he'll see the importance of offseason work. If he doesn't, his game film is irrelevant. He won't be very good. Football is a year round job these days. You can get by on talent alone in college. Not in the NFL.

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MarkinMadison's picture

February 24, 2015 at 08:59 pm

Agreed. Everyone is bigger and faster in the NFL. Still, I think this guy has the skill set the Packers need. Maybe he just made it tougher on TT. Or maybe he just insured that he will be around at 30. Time will tell.

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Imma Fubared's picture

February 25, 2015 at 06:48 am

Hey, when your big concern is taking care of your daughter as in pay me DA money, not the conditioning needed to perform for your team, passing on this guy in the first would be wise! He has to change priorities and understand its job interview time baby! Time to shinel

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4thand1's picture

February 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

So you're saying taking care of his daughter is a bad character issue. Gee, sure wish you were my dad. NOT!!!

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HankScorpio's picture

February 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

I figured I had to be reading that wrong. But yeah, the desire to support his daughter is certainly not any cause for concern with me and I've been banging the drum hard on looking in to Dawson's character red flags.

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ES 1957's picture

February 25, 2015 at 12:43 pm

If a bad combine causes Dawson's stock to drop he could be a steal at #62.

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zoellner25's picture

February 25, 2015 at 03:58 pm

If Dawson interviews well, I'd pick him. He cannot be worse than Hawk and Jones, who we are now free of.

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