Paul Dawson Is the Best Run-Stuffing LB In the Draft (Say the Numbers)


Pro Football Focus has gotten into the college scouting business (finally) and as expected their numbers-crunchers are coming up with some great stuff for us to chew on as we try to guess which players the Vikings might target in the draft.

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One position of particular concern for the Vikings is linebacker. That’s obvious by the sheer number of linebackers they’ve openly scouted this year.

TCU linebacker Paul Dawson may not be at the very top of the Vikings’ list but he is probably near the top. Though Dawson had a bad combine and has shown some things on tape that concern some scouts, his sheer production in college makes him an intriguing prospect who is going to get consideration toward the top of the second round if not late in the first.

The numbers on Dawson really are eye-popping when you dig down a little, as PFF did in their Signature Stats piece on linebackers. The one area where Dawson excels is at being a run-stuffer. Look at Dawson’s breakdown on run snaps.

As you can see, Dawson is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field when it comes to making stops in the run. PFF describes a “stop” as “any play where the tackler prevents an offensive success.” If you keep a ball carrier from getting less than 40% of first down yardage on first down, that’s a stop. Hold him to less than 60% on second down, a stop. Keep him from converting on a third or fourth down, a stop.

Dawson made a stop almost a quarter of the time in those situations last year. By the way, the second guy on this list, Jake Ryan, was also given a good look by the Vikings a few weeks back.

Given the Vikings’ struggles against the run last year, it’s hardly a surprise to see them scouting good run-stopping linebackers. If what you’re looking for is a two-down “thumper” at the Mike, you could arguably not do better than Paul Dawson.

But characterizing Dawson as merely a thumper who makes plays in the run game is selling the young man somewhat short. As PFF’s numbers reveal, Dawson also has value as a pass rusher. When you break down pass rush efficiency among linebackers…yup, there’s Dawson again right near the top.

These numbers aren’t everything of course, but you have to admit they are compelling. They don’t make the concerns about Dawson’s lack of athleticism go away, nor do they magically dispel all the worries about his attitude. But it’s clear we’re dealing with a very productive player here, not just a guy who makes tackles but a guy who makes plays. A genuine playmaker at Mike is what the Vikings need after the generic play of Jasper Brinkley. Can Dawson be that playmaker? The numbers say “possibly.”

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