The Bengals weren't going off the 40-yard dash when it came time to draft Paul Dawson.
Since Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther didn't make his first appearance in the media room until the last pick of the second day of the NFL Draft, there were a few guffaws as midnight Saturday neared.
"Tackles go both ways," Guenther said with a smile because he just might have stolen another one with the defense's only pick in the Bengals first four of the nine they get in the draft that concludes Saturday with a noon start.
Three years after plucking Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict from the scrap heap of college free agency, the Bengals took Texas Christian linebacker Paul Dawson with the 99th and last pick of the third round, the Big 12 Player of the Year who ran a slow (4.93 seconds) in the 40-yard dash and saw his stock plummet with the added knock a lack of comportment.
It will be recalled that Burift was a top ten prospect heading into his senior year at Arizona State, but anger issues on the field and the slow 40 time blew him put of the draft before proving the pundits wrong with a brilliant first two years in the league. Dawson is battling questions about his work habits, but they haven't overshadowed his Tez-like ability to make plays.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports gave the pick an A and SI.com called it a steal with "Cincinnati scored a gem to close out Round 3. Dawson posted subpar marks at the combine, but he's a pure playmaker from the linebacker spot."
"He's got to learn to be a pro," Guenther said. "He's a really good player, given where we got him. He had 133 tackles (with) 22 tackles for a loss. For a linebacker. And it was his first full year starting.
"He doesn't take any false steps. He's a good, instinctive player. For instance, Vontaze was the slowest linebacker at the combine. Do you see his play slow on the field? No. That's what this kid has."
The 6-2, 235-pound Dawson, along with veteran free agent pickup A.J. Hawk, are Tez insurance at the moment. The Bengals are confident Burfict can come back from microfracture knee surgery, but just in case his rehab is delayed in a tricky procedure, they felt like they had to bulk up at a linebacker spot they usually keep six.
Dawson joins Burfict and fellow starters Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur, as well as Hawk and Vincent Rey in a suddenly crowded field where the Bengals desperately needed depth.
Dawson says he's a WILL, but they feel, like Hawk and Burfict, he can play all three spots. After the pick, NFL Network tweeted Dawson is a Burfict clone and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called him the most instinctive backer on tape he saw all year.
This gallery features the Bengals 99th pick Paul Dawson LB - TCU
"When I turned the tape on initially to evaluate him, that's exactly what came to mind," Guenther said of the reminders of Burfict. "One thing you can't coach is he doesn't take many false steps. He's going to have to come in here, work his butt off, get into the locker room, do things the way we want them done. On tape, he was one of my favorite guys. I'm very particular about LBs and what I'm looking for, and he had a lot of traits that I like."
Dawson certainly isn't bashful.
"I'm the most productive linebacker in this draft. The numbers don't lie. I'm just blessed. I'm ready to make plays," Dawson said. "Me, Rey, and Vontaze, we'll be a great, awesome linebacking corps, probably one of the best in the NFL."
Someone Friday asked Dawson about the knock that he doesn't study film and that one stunned him and he's got the tackles to prove it
"That's funny, actually," Dawson said with a laugh. "How would I be such a productive linebacker if I didn't watch film? That doesn't even make sense. I studied film two hours a night, every night. They can say whatever they want to — I don't know where it came from — but I enjoy watching film. I'll sit there and rewind the play a million times and be there all night. Sometimes my family gets mad at how much time I put in, but I have to remind them that this is my job. I enjoy putting in film study, so I'd say that comment is nonsense."
Dawson met his critics in a USA Today story before the combine back in February.
"My sophomore year when I got (to TCU), I failed one drug test for Adderall, and I got a prescription for it a couple months later," he wrote. "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."
On Friday night, he said he got along "with the head coach and the general manager," when he came in for his visit to Paul Brown Stadium several days ago.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had a long, productive talk with TCU coach Gary Patterson when it came to Dawson.
"Those are the things he continued to talk about when he spoke about him. He hoped that we were able to add another Horned Frog here, and he'd be behind us 100 percent," Lewis said. "He thought he'd be a great addition to our team. He felt this was a good spot for him and that we could continue to shape and mold as they'd been trying to do there. He (Dawson) has to understand it, and that's why we brought him in here and spent some time with him last week, so he could get an understanding coming from us what it was going to take to eventually achieve your goals."