The former second-round pick was added to the Broncos’ roster for depth purposes in the past, but after significant offseason additions, Duke Dawson will have to fight an uphill battle to earn a spot on the team.
Defensive Back: #20
Experience: 4 years
Dawson was originally selected by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Dawson’s career got off to a rocky start with a hamstring injury that landed him on IR. A year later, he was traded from the Patriots to the Broncos, as Denver sent a sixth-round pick for Dawson plus a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots used that pick on OT Justin Herron, while the Broncos flipped that seventh-rounder for DE Jurrell Casey.
Duke Dawson has the profile to be a solid nickel DB in the NFL. He’s not a special athlete relative to other NFL players, but his skill set and profile really fit in as a good nickel in the NFL.
Dawson has played with great physicality and chippy-ness going back to his days at Florida. No. 20’s physicality fits in with how Vic Fangio likes his nickel corners. Dawson stands out in run support as well, something that certainly adds to his appeal to the coaching staff.
Dawson also has played in the slot and at safety. The ability to play multiple positions at a good level adds to his value for the coaching staff, as it lets them be creative with roster moves.
There’s a saying, “hurt guys stay hurt,” and that is the unfortunate reality of Dawson’s tenure in Denver. He logged 420 total snaps for the Broncos in 2019 but dealt with a concussion at the end of the season. Dawson’s snap total dropped significantly in 2020 (174), and he also suffered a torn ACL in Week 14.
Dawson opens up 2021 training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. That is a tough blow for Dawson’s hopes to make the roster.
The Broncos carried six corners into the season last year. Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan, Patrick Surtain II, and Michael Ojemudia are locks to earn a spot, leaving Dawson fighting for CB6. The Broncos added seventh-rounder Kary Vincent and return two promising corners in Essang Bassey and Parnell Motley, who impressed the staff last season.
Even if the staff wanted to try Dawson at safety, they carried just three safeties into the original 53-man roster. Obviously, the team will bring more than three into 2021, but with Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, and PJ Locke returning, along with the additions of Jamar Johnson and Caden Sterns, Dawson’s odds of making it in this room are even slimmer.
Dawson had a lot of promise entering the NFL. A First-Team All-SEC nod and a second-round pick by Bill Belichick are impressive things to add to one’s resume. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed Dawson’s career to this point.
If he can prove he can stay healthy and develop, there’s plenty of upside in his profile. He could prove to be a solid DB addition in the NFL. Unfortunately, it seems like that chance won’t come in Denver without an outstanding offseason.