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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

NFL Draft Profile – RB Kenneth Dixon

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Kenneth Dixon

It's hard to pick out one discernible weakness that could hold Dixon back from having a long pro career.

College: Louisiana Tech
Height/Weight: 5' 10”/215
Hands: 9 1/2”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.56
Vertical Jump: 37 1/2"
Broad Jump: 10' 1" (Pro Day)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.28
3-Cone: 6.97

Background (College Stats)
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 three TDs.

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 passing game.


  • 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 contact (1.7).
  • 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 four-year career.
  • Generates yards after contact but may need a year or two to improve lower-body strength.

Bottom Line
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.