Colts Prospect: DE Keyunta Dawson

The draft guides say Dawson should be moved to linebacker, Bill Polian and the Colts disagree. Not only will Dawson keep playing end, he may also take a few snaps inside at defensive tackle.

Keyunta Dawson DE Texas Tech

Numbers: 6011/272, 4.72 forty, 33.5 vertical, 9'6 long

2006 stats: 33 tackles, 30 assists, 9.5-38 tackle for loss, 6-32 sack, 3-26-0 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumbles

The Player: If you watched Texas Tech play last year, there was no way to miss Dawson — he was everywhere. Starting at either end position, Dawson was a pass-rushing terror for the Raiders.

He does have some natural gifts for the position. Dawson is a thick-bodied athlete with excellent strength for his size. He has an explosive first step and the agility to adjust once the play develops. He plays faster than his forty would indicate, whether pushing forward, stringing outside runs or chasing a ballcarrier from behind. He has a strong motor and never gives up on a play, as his legs keep moving from snap to whistle. A decent diagnostician, Dawson is adept at sniffing out play-action, traps and screens. An excellent tackler in the open field, Dawson has a knack for stripping the ball.

His liabilities begin and end with his size. Too small to hold down the line on some plays, Dawson's lack of height also makes it difficult for him to disengage once a blocker has locked on. Although he has played some linebacker, he's not suited to it. He can take some wrong angles in space and is too stiff in the hips to be really effective in zone coverage.

Reminds me of: Elvis Dumervil, a fourth-round pick by the Broncos last season who had 8.5 sacks as a rookie situational pass-rusher. Dawson is somewhat larger, but can't match the hyperactive Dumervil's speed, moves or overall athleticism.

How he fits: Most commercially available draft guides will tell you that Dawson should be moved to linebacker. Well, I've seen him play the position and think he's much better off on the line. Luckily, he landed with the Colts. Not only do they not expect him to play linebacker, but they think he'd be effective taking at least a few snaps inside at defensive tackle where his lack of height will be less evident. Dumervil, who is a full inch and maybe 15 pounds lighter than Dawson, did much the same thing for Denver.

Before that happens, he needs to make the team. He has the ability and the attitude, but end is a crowded spot in Indy these days. Colts president Bill Polian has never seen a pass-rusher he didn't like, so Dawson will have to battle Josh Thomas, Bo Schobel, Ryan Lacasse, Jeff Charleston and any other end they sign (and they will) for the right to back up starters Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Dawson's probably the best pure pass-rusher in the group, and his versatility and special-teams potential also give him a chance to contribute as a rookie.


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