Name: Dawson Knox
Position: Tight End
School: Ole Miss
Knox is one of the great enigmas at his position in the 2019 class. He has all the tools to be a great tight end, but his minimal production will call his ceiling into question. As a day two/day three pick, his stock will depend greatly on how teams feel they can unlock his immense talent.
Knox looks the part of an NFL tight end. He has the length to be a red zone threat and the girth to be a solid run blocker at the next level. That said, Knox was not called upon in the red zone much at all, so it is to be seen how he uses his body in contested catch situations. Still, the frame is certainly ideal for the position.
As expected, Knox tested among the top tight ends at the combine. He did not run the 40, but finished in the top-six in the vertical, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Knox’s burst off the snap is solid, but his speed is more long speed than it is quick and twitchy. When he builds up downfield, he has breakaway ability. His change-of-direction is excellent for his size, as he can create separation at all levels simply due to his quickness advantage on linebackers. Knox did not make a lot of plays after the catch. But the few times he did, plus his overall athleticism, would indicate that he could be a threat were he to get more targets in the open field.
Hands and Ball Skills
Just watch his gauntlet drill to see how smooth and natural Knox’s hands are, lone drop aside. Every catch is effortless, regardless of where the ball is. He can adjust seamlessly to off-target throws without breaking speed and can make clean grabs with his full catch radius. Knox can track the ball at every level, though his deep ball reps are few and far between. He has good concentration to make grabs in traffic and has the ability to high point balls in a crowd, though again, those examples on film are rare.
With Mississippi’s offense, it is pretty tough to gauge exactly what Knox’s route-running is at this point in his progression. The overwhelming majority of his reps are from the slot, climbing up the seam and searching for gaps. He ran his share of whips and out-breaking routes, but his role was mostly as a “hit the soft spot” kind of guy. He is good at finding those soft spots, though he will sometimes carry out a route against zone when he could sit and wait.
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Against man, Knox can find separation with his quickness, though his breaks could be more explosive. He will fight hands to gain route leverage when needed, and can sell vertical routes fairly well. However, the majority of his underneath breaks are fairly cookie-cutter, just running along a path. With work and more consistent reps against man coverage, Knox could develop more nuance to his routes. But right now, he simply does not have enough experience with it.
Knox is fairly sound as a run blocker, though much of his role was working as an off-ball wing. He attacks his blocks aggressively, and typically gets good hand placement inside. More often than not, he sinks his hips well, driving his feet and creating movement. Knox will come in too aggressively at times, which causes him to overextend and lose his block. However, occasional technique issues aside, he has the raw tools and the willingness to be a reliable blocker.
With Ole Miss’ offense, in particular the high-level receiver talent, Knox was on the back-burner a lot in college. As such, his NFL career tends to project better than his 39-catch, zero-touchdown collegiate career. The physical attributes are there: size, athleticism, hands, aggressiveness. However, bringing all of those traits together, and making him a bigger part of the offense than he was in college, will likely take some time. Hence the reason Knox projects as a mid-to-late day two selection at the earliest.
In that range, he could figure well into the Vikings’ plan. With Kyle Rudolph probably coming back, there is not an urgent need for a rookie tight end to take on a massive role right away. Over time, Knox could at least take on more of the role David Morgan has as a blocker with the occasional target. Knox played a lot of wing tight end at Ole Miss with a fair amount of time split out into the slot. He was not on the ball nearly as often. That would require some adjustment time, as would the polish on his route-running. That said, as a pass-catching project, Knox possesses a lot of upside and could be a starter down the road while still having an impact right away.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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