With the Minnesota Vikings spending big money on two offensive tackles in free agency, the more immediate focus on repairing a once-decimated offensive line could turn to guard.
The Vikings filled two tackle holes by signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency, but after releasing guard Brandon Fusco before the start of free agency, there is still an opening left there to fill. If it isn’t done in free agency, the Vikings were at least investigating some of the top options in the draft, interviewing projected second-round prospect Dion Dawkins at the NFL Scouting Combine. Minnesota used one of their allotted 60 formal interviews there on the Temple prospect, who is the third-ranked guard by NFLDraftScout.com and fifth-ranked tackle by Scout.com.
With few other big-school options coming out of high school, Dawkins accepted an offer from Temple, a program he said coach Matt Rhule turned from “dirt” into a “mansion” before the coach left for Baylor prior to Temple’s bowl game.
But, while at Temple, Dawkins learned intense discipline and would need to rely on that as he endured time away from the team in spring practice after a 2015 scuffle at a bar. Allegations of assault were eventually plea bargained down, and no doubt the Vikings wanted to get Dawkins’ side of the story.
“I tell them exactly what it was. I tell ’em the full story from front to end, and I own it. Because I’m a man, and nobody’s perfect,” Dawkins said of his interviews with teams at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Things happen, whether you’re guilty or not. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and I had to deal with the consequences. … It made me the man I am today. When football was taken away from me, I see life in a totally different view now. It was taken away from me from stuff I could’ve controlled.”
One of the best linebackers in the draft, Temple teammate Haason Reddick was also forced to sit out those spring practices, but Dawkins seemed sincere in learning his lesson.
“At that moment, it was very emotional. I watched practice from my window every single day. In Philly, the facility is right across the street from [his dorm] and I picked a room where I could watch the football field. Every morning, my brothers were on the field grinding, and I’m sitting in a room and I’m a captain, I’m one of the big dogs … I’m watching somebody else play my position, and I know I’m a better athlete, because of the work I’ve put in. … I could be there if I’d just made a better decision.”
His NFL dreams are back on track after a strong showing in 2016.
Coming from a pro-style offense with four years of experience coming out of a three-point stance should hasten his transition to the NFL.
A broken foot as a freshman sidetracked a quick start to his Temple career, but since then he has started 40 straight games and displayed a unique combination of size (314 pounds) and strength, earning All-American Athletic Conference honors as a junior and senior.
NFLDraftScout.com sees a lot to like in his game.
“Sports a massive chest freezer-like frame which he uses to simply engulf defenders at the point of attack. Though his square-ish frame looks better suited to guard or right tackle, Dawkins shows impressive initial quickness, balance and patience in pass protection, as well as the long arms needed to steer defenders away from the ball,” the analysis reads. “He shows natural mirror skills, easily sliding left and right to keep defenders squarely in front him and plays with a calm patience, easing out of his stance and waiting for defenders to come to him. Dawkins is a coordinated, balanced athlete but plays with a brawling mentality, jolting opponents with his initial punch and working to sustain blocks in the running game.”
The drawback is a tendency to fire out of his stance too high at times, but overall he is considered a versatile guard prospect with potential at tackle – he played left tackle for the Owls. NFL Draft Scout sees immediate starting potential in the NFL, comparing him to Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting left tackle Donovan Smith. Dawkins says NFL teams were “extremely” impressed with his versatility to play tackle or guard.
“It’s basically getting two boxes of pizza for the price of one. It’s a blessing that I have the opportunity to play multiple positions well.
I’m planning on learning center, too,” he said.
“The inside world, it’s a stronger beast, truly. Like, you got a guy like Vince Wilfork that would be inside. And then you’ve got a guy like Von Miller that would be outside. The outside world, the tackle spot, you have a second and a half to understand what’s going to happen. Inside, everything is going to happen very fast.”
But with that sort of flexibility, Dawkins would be a logical selection for the Vikings on Day 2 of the draft and they clearly have shown interest.