NAME: Dawson Knox
SCHOOL: Ole Miss
POSITION: Tight End
JERSEY: No. 9
RECRUITMENT RATING: Walk-on
WT: 250 lbs
Route-Running – Very basic routes at Ole Miss, quick outs, hitches, verticals, the occasional option route. Attention to detail is minimal, no nuance or deception to his footwork. Clean canvas with few bad habits, but does not currently possess the route running skills to give man coverage a run for its’ money. Often just asked to run to space without any true structure to his play.
Ball Skills – One of the first things that caught my eye with Knox. Natural adjustments to the football and strong hands to go outside his frame and reel in passes. Dug out low throws in minimal opportunities. Has a big radius and can go up and get it in the few instances he was given the chance to do so. Still, so few targets or high degree of difficulty catch opportunities in college that banking on him hard in this area feels like a big risk.
Speed – The one thing I know Knox can do is run. Good explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and the ability to give safeties a run for their money deep. Consistently asked to get down the seam for Ole Miss and was a challenge for linebackers to carry. Often asked to run wheel routes in which his speed made him difficult to switch on to, even for defensive backs.
Run Blocking – Above-average blocker with room for improvement. Has the size, length and strength, but is still developing technically. Gets his hands inside with authority early in the rep, but needs to latch on and drive his feet through contact more consistently. Falls off blocks too often, although he typically gets enough of his opponent initially to do his job. Occasionally late with his hands and can get push-pulled. Can overshoot his target and drop his eyes when on the move. If he hits you as a split zone blocker, he can take you places, but too inconsistent in approaching his target under control. Loses his target on split zone at times. When he finds a leverage point as a down blocker, he’ll run the defender out of the gap, not settling for stalemates.
Contested Catch – Finished the majority of opportunities he had to make catches with a defender over his back. Almost never asked to go up and high-point a 50-50 ball over an opponent. Never thrown to in the red zone, 1 target in that area all season. Zero career touchdowns. Never got to see him on fades. Largely an unknown in this area, but has the size, strong hands and fearlessness over the middle to translate to NFL.
YAC – In 2017, this was one of the weakest areas of his game. In 2018 the man touched the ball 15 times and averaged 19 yards per catch, showing a little wiggle to make a defender miss on 1-2 occasions. Still, lacks creativity in the open field and could stand to be a little nastier in his demeanor with the ball in his hands.
Separation Quickness – Has the burst and athleticism to detach from man coverage at all levels of the field. Routes were easy to predict based off tape study and alignment, allowed defenders to mirror him with more ease. Better technique and footwork will help with separation, and Knox has terrific tools to develop in this way.
Pass Protection – Mixed bag. Gets caught catching and doesn’t strike with a confident base in pass protection. Mistimes his strikes, but has excellent athleticism to recover and run defenders up the arc past the quarterback. Again, inconsistency mars him in this area.
Competitive Toughness – High character prospect on and off the field. Committed in the weight room and carries that workman-like mentality over onto the field. Toughness won’t be questioned.
Athleticism/Size – Elite size, strength and length for the position. Pro-ready build and should test like one of the top athletes in the class at his position.
BEST TRAIT – Athleticism/Size
WORST TRAIT – Route Running
RED FLAGS – None
What exactly are we supposed to do with 39 career catches, including a 22-target, 15-catch redshirt junior season? Not much. Dawson Knox is a highly talented tight end with size, speed and natural hands, but was hardly ever utilized in Ole Miss’ unique offense, so there are a lot of things we just don’t know about who he is as a player.
All of the traits are there to be a no. 1 tight end for a team in the NFL, but the only area Knox really improved in this past season was blocking, and his skill set as a receiver still needs considerable work. Knox’s landing spot is critical to his pro outlook as he has only spent two seasons at the tight end position, and in the pre-draft timeframe, trust will be a big part of the evaluation. A la George Kittle, Knox has the tangible and intangible traits you take a risk on developing in the 40-70 range of the draft despite his lack of usage as a receiver in college.
Route Running –Pretty standard routes. He runs crossers, seams, outs, whips and hooks. His arc release from the LOS can be too passive in giving ground and lose him valuable time and leverage vs. defenders in overhang area. Doesn’t offer any deception on stems.
Hands –Did well to pluck a few balls at the sticks with a defender crashing in on him, showing good hand strength to squeeze the nose of the ball. His extension skills and catch radius are only modest, however. Rarely tested above the rim.
Versatility – Spent a lot of time flexed outside the hashes, primarily to vertical release and pull away coverage or to block on quick screens. His athletic ability suggests he can handle a pretty diverse role, but how much can you put on his plate while still developing the basics?
Contested Catch Ability –Has been featured almost exclusively in box-out reps in contested area. His frame does well to absorb a blow, but he’s also only modest when extending for the football and doesn’t always show needed aggressiveness to ensure a clean catch.
Run After Catch Ability –Hasn’t had the chance to shine here: low volume workload and a lot of targets coming in late haven’t allowed him to shake free. That said, not sure what kind of creativity he’s going to have after the catch when he’s taking throws in stride.
Power At POA –Natural strength is present for quality reps but too often he’s caught lunging or leaning into contact and will fall off of blocks. His short area mobility allows him to leverage himself of second effort vs. softer handed defenders.
Competitive Toughness –Big, strong kid with a lot to like…he just wasn’t asked to show it in the open field or after the catch. Held his own physically against powerful edge defenders across the conference at first contact. Plenty to work with. Never once let lack of targets impact his effort.
Flexibility –He’s not the most fluid at the top of his stems, but it isn’t due to lack of mobility or body control. Labored COD is more on account of sloppy feet than inability to drop the hips or lean his way through breaks.
Balance –Mixed results working at the line of scrimmage. Frames initially well enough but will get rocked back onto his heels or pulled onto his toes too easily by defenders. Can get bumped around trying to work up the field on linear stems in traffic.
Football Intelligence –A product of his conditions: hasn’t been asked to do a whole lot of anything, so there’s not a lot of polish in his game. Promising ball of clay that will need to be coached up in almost all phases of the position if he’s to reach his high ceiling.
BEST TRAIT – Athleticism
WORST TRAIT – Football IQ
BEST FILM – Kentucky (2017)
WORST FILM – Alabama (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Dawson Knox is a challenging study because he has all of the needed tools to be a great TE prospect, but his conditions at the college level were as unenviable as you’ll find. Knox was a non-priority in the passing game and runs a pretty vanilla set of routes in addition to being a high variance blocker in both pass game and run game alike. Knox will require patience, he isn’t a player that will step into a contributing role immediately in the NFL.