Although he wasn't even the top freshman running back on his team
in 2012, Dixon took advantage of a late September injury to fellow
rookie Tevin King and shattered a number of national records for
a freshman - including three set by former San Diego State star
Marshall Faulk (27 rushing touchdowns, 28 total touchdowns and 168
points scored). Making those achievements even more incredible was
the fact Dixon finished with 210 touches and only topped 20 touches
in four games in 2012. Following the departures of record-setting
quarterback Colby Cameron and current San Francisco 49ers WR Quinton
Patton, the 2012 WAC Freshman of the Year came crashing back down
to earth the following year, totaling only five touchdowns in 10
games while missing the last two contests of his sophomore campaign
due to a knee injury. (He ended with 917 yards rushing in 2013 -
his only season with fewer than 1,000 rushing yards.)
Dixon returned to prominence in 2014, becoming the school's all-time
leading rusher that season and breaking the program's rushing
touchdown mark as well in the Bulldogs' Heart of Dallas Bowl victory
over Illinois. The Arkansas native, who scored at least once in
every game as a junior, enjoyed the finest season of his career
in 2014 with career highs in carries (253) and rushing yards (1,299)
while tying his personal best of 28 total touchdowns (22 rushing,
six receiving) from his freshman year. Somehow, those gaudy statistics
were only good enough for second-team All-Conference USA honors.
Dixon fell just short of his lofty standards as a senior (in part
because he missed two games), finishing with 231 touches for 1,537
total yards and 26 touchdowns (19 rushing, seven receiving). His
87 overall career touchdowns broke the NCAA mark previously held
by Montee Ball, but that record only stood for a couple days until
Navy's Keenan Reynolds - a fellow 2016 NFL Draft classmate - passed
him. Among his most impressive achievements: Dixon scored six
touchdowns in a game twice, his 72 rushing touchdowns rank tied
for fourth in NCAA history with Ricky Williams, his 24 two-score
games ranks second all-time, as do his 14 games with at least
NFL Player Comp(s): Thurman Thomas
Best Scheme Fit: Universal. Likely
a slightly better fit in a man-based scheme but has enough of
the abilities needed to succeed in a zone-blocking system as well.
Projects to thrive in a creative offensive system that is unafraid
to move him all over the formation and use him heavily in the
Decisive and crafty north-south runner that will almost always
get more than what is blocked - averaged almost twice as many
yards per carry after first contact (3.3) than before first
Keeps legs churning after contact and almost always gets lower
than the defender, allowing him to succeed in short-yardage
despite lack of a substantial power base.
Accomplished all-purpose back (88 career receptions); hands-catcher
who is advanced as a route-runner (for his position) and should
be able to function as a slot receiver in certain packages in
order to create mismatches on most NFL linebackers.
Spins off contact and consistently powers through tackles,
combining sheer will and determination with surprising balance.
Possesses above-average change-of-direction skills and is
a nightmare to corral one-on-one in the open field.
Football intelligence and competitive drive really shows up
on film and carries over into every aspect of his game, particularly
as a blocker.
Keeps the ball high and tight, yet fumbled 13 times over last
three seasons; 2015 fumble percentage (1.7 percent) and career
fumble percentage (1.6) are both concerning.
Does a better job of reading defenses and locating linebackers
than he does reading blocks.
Will create big plays with determination and above-average
elusiveness, but may not be a consistent "home-run hitter" due
to lack of elite speed.
Although he was used responsibly throughout in college, he
still accumulated 801 rushing attempts (889 touches) over his
Generates yards after contact but may need a year or two to
improve lower-body strength.
Allow me to offer this disclaimer right away: I am not suggesting
Dixon is destined for the Hall of Fame with the comparison to
Thomas. From a play-style standpoint, however, I think they are
very similar. It is uncommon in today's college game to come across
a player - particularly a running back - that just seems to "get
it", but it is safe to say Dixon strikes me as one of those
players. Part of his charm is the fact he doesn't have one particular
tangible skill that really leaps out on film, yet it is hard to
pick out one discernible weakness that could hold him back from
having a long pro career. He's probably not going to be able to
add much more strength to his lower body in an effort to power
through more tackles, but I'm not sure that is such a bad thing
in today's NFL. Doing anything that affects the cutting ability
or elusiveness he has now will probably do him more harm than
good and rob him of the unique skills that allowed him to be so
productive in college.
I'm more certain than most that Dixon can be a featured back
in the NFL, but I do have my doubts he'll be given that chance.
There have been many instances in the last few years alone of
backs that have proven that vision, intelligence and determination
means just as much as size does at the goal line, yet those backs
often get pulled for the sledgehammer-type back in other short-yardage
situations. Dixon isn't a small back - nor does he run like one
- but I get the sense that his next coach will perceive him that
way. As such, I believe he will settle in as a lead back in a
committee that will flash feature-back potential when given the
chance to carry the load. It's going to take a special coach and
special situation to not automatically pigeonhole him into a scatback
role and see him for what he really is - a three-down back whose
touches probably need to be monitored to protect him against himself.
Dixon is obviously not on the same level as an Ezekiel Elliott,
but I definitely think he is in the discussion as the second-best
running back prospect in this draft.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.