When looking at the 2015 Bengals draft class, Paul Dawson has a great chance to be the best value pick to come from this haul.
Dawson may also end up being the one player from this class who ends up getting the most playing time as a rookie, and for good reason. He was viewed as one of, if not the best pure 4-3 linebacker prospect in this draft. Somehow, Cincinnati managed to get him with the final pick in Round 3 (#99), which Pro Football Focus called one of the biggest steals in the draft:
Dawson is the ultimate case study of production versus measurables. As you can see from the graphic courtesy of Mockdraftable.com, Dawson is one of the worst athletes to go through the combine at the linebacker positions. We've already chronicled his production which is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from his athleticism.
None of the five linebackers drafted before Dawson could hold a candle to him in on field performance last season. The interesting thing about Dawson going to the Bengals is that he joins a player that also had atrocious measurables who turned out alright in Vontaze Burfict.
One linebacker who managed to get drafted prior to Dawson was Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney. He went 43rd overall to the Houston Texas, and that drew the ire of the PFF crew in their 'biggest draft reaches' piece. A big reason why is because they viewed Dawson as the superior prospect.
This pick may have received the loudest howls of anguish in the PFF Draft War Room™. Linebacker in this draft class is a fantastic example of a position that contrasts production with athleticism. McKinney has the athleticism, but Paul Dawson, still on the board at this point, has the production. McKinney was the 42nd-graded linebacker in this class, Dawson was the first. McKinney notched 30 defensive stops over the season, Dawson notched 94. In coverage McKinney allowed a passer rating of 96.4 while Dawson just 50.7.
Even on the blitz, McKinney tallied four sacks and 11 total pressures while Dawson notched seven sacks and 28 total pressures. McKinney trounces Dawson when it comes to athleticism and measurables, but is a vastly inferior player on the field judging by college production.
Personally, I too can't wrap my head around how McKinney went 56 picks before Dawson. Hopefully, the Bengals end up being the big winners in this case.