MOBILE, ALA. — The question comes up in every interview.
“So,” each team asks, “where do you see yourself?”
Dalton Risner laughs retelling the stories
“No one has told me where they see me at,” Risner said. “I’ve had a couple informal interviews where a team was like, ‘You’re a tackle.’ Then I had another one where they were like, ‘You’re not a tackle, you’re an inside three guy.’
Listen, throw me wherever you want. I’m going to play for you.”
For the versatile Kansas State product, this week at the Senior Bowl is about showing teams that he can play anywhere along the offensive line.
After starting at center for 13 games in his redshirt freshman season, Risner finished his career as a three-year starter at right tackle. He feels most at home there, but he spent the night before his first Senior Bowl practice in the playbook making sure he knew all five positions just in case.
“I have to know what the right guard and center does and to be honest, coach might throw me at left tackle or left guard and you can’t just hone in,” Risner said. “If I could just hone in on one position, I’d master it. I wouldn’t be worried at all.”
Though the game is the grand finale at the end of the week, Risner is most concerned with his performance in practice. Each day, Risner takes the field in Mobile for an hour and a half with hundreds of scouts watching him. And each day, Risner knows he has something to prove to them.
“Who are you going to be in that hour and a half?,” Risner said earlier this week. “Are you going to be a guy that finishes blocks? How do you practice? Are you a good leader? Are you hustling back from drills? Are you a guy that we want to spend millions of dollars on and bring you into our club and are you going to represent the Chicago Bears in a good way? Or are you going to come in and not represent us and not work hard and get your butt kicked every single day in practice. That’s what they’re trying to see.”
Risner knows that there are unique challenges that come with moving across the line. His long wingspan makes him ideal to block guys on the edge, but he also wants to show that he’s capable of adjusting his footwork and moving inside.
“You’ve gotta be able to transition,” Risner said. “If you’re a guy that wants to preach to the media that you’re versatile, then you better be able to do it in practice. You better be able to block Montez Sweat from Mississippi State, who’s 6-7 with long arms and you better be able to go in and block whoever it is. Christian Wilkins from Clemson. Right?
“You better be able to do both. It takes a whole different style of play at different footwork. A lot tighter steps inside, gotta be able to be strong with tighter hands and outside, you’ve gotta be able to take bigger steps and kick out there and get on quick guys like that.”
In his first two practices, Risner spent most of his time at right tackle. Even when he volunteered to go in at guard, Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable, part of the staff coaching the North team, told him he liked him at tackle.
Projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, Risner could become Kansas State’s first first-round pick in a decade — the first since quarterback Josh Freeman. So far, Risner has met with ever NFL team in some capacity, including the Chiefs and the Texans. He also has an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, where he’s also likely to get the same questions he’s been answering all week in Mobile.
“I know they know, but they ask me,” he said of finding his position. “I think a lot of teams are waiting to see what I do this week. I think they want to see what Dalton Risner does at guard and center and see where coach puts me.”