2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Duke Dawson
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Over the past few years, Florida and LSU have had a running debate about which one is "DB U" for the amount of good defensive backs they are producing for the NFL. Dawson will continue that tradition for the Gators in the 2018 NFL Draft with his mid-round potential.
Playing behind Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, Dawson flashed as a reserve corner for Florida in 2015. In 2016, he replaced Hargreaves as one of the starting corners for the Gators, totaling 24 tackles, seven passes broken up, one interception and one forced fumble for the year.
In 2017, Dawson was on the field for every snap as the Gators' top cornerback with Tabor and Wilson off to the NFL. Dawson totaled 34 tackles with nine passes broken up and four interceptions on the year. He put together an impressive tape going against Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk, running with Kirk and preventing separation.
Dawson projects as a slot corner for the NFL. He is good when plays are in front of him, plus has instincts and a good concept of route combinations. Dawson transitions well and owns above-average speed to carry verticals. He is a tough and gritty corner who will be a nice option to cover fast receivers as Dawson can run with them downfield. Dawson also is a willing hitter and will contribute to run defense, plus make some nice open-field tackles.
With Dawson's height, he will have to be a slot corner and be protected from being matched up against big receivers. He also has tight hips and can struggle to open up.
Sources have told me they have graded Dawson as a third- or fourth-rounder.
Player Comparison: Brian Poole. In conversations with team sources, they compared Dawson to Poole. Both are thick nickel corners who have good coverage skills on slot receivers. They are gritty defensive backs with physicality and a tenacious style of play. Poole mistakenly went undrafted, but he's turned into a quality contributor for Atlanta. Dawson should be a mid-round pick, and he could easily end up being a solid contributor in his role.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas, Minnesota, Cincinnati and New England
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Dawson in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns have to upgrade their cornerback talent, and Dawson would make a lot of sense for one of their mid-round picks. Tampa Bay could use more young cornerback talent to go with Vernon Hargreaves, and Dawson would make sense for the Bucs in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Colts need a young corner to go with Quincy Wilson and replace Vontae Davis. San Francisco also needs cornerback upgrades. Dawson would be a nice fit as a nickel on the inside of Akhello Witherspoon. Buffalo could consider Dawson as it has to find a replacement for Ronald Darby.
The Rams could consider Dawson, especially if Lamarcus Joyner is let go. Staying in Los Angeles, the Chargers could use a cornerback to go with Casey Hayward. Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has dealt with durability issues.
Dallas could use more cornerback talent, and Dawson could make sense for the Cowboys in the second round. The Vikings have to consider a replacement for Terrance Newman, and the Bengals could use a replacement for Adam Jones. Dawson could interest both Minnesota and Cincinnati.
The Patriots could consider taking Dawson. Malcolm Butler is entering free agency, while Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in his first year with New England. Dawson's cover skills could make him a fit for the Patriots' defense.
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