Dynasty Draft Profile: Kenneth Dixon
March 31, 2016 | Rich Hribar
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Kenneth Dixon enters the league with one of the most highly decorated production profiles of this entire class. As a true freshman in 2012, Dixon set a NCAA freshman record with 28 total touchdowns and his 87 career touchdowns are the second most ever in NCAA history. After an injury riddled 2013 season, Dixon bounced back with back to back seasons with at least 1,000 yards, 15 rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns. Those are marks that a running back has achieved just nine times total since 2000, and Dixon is the only player to do it in multiple seasons over that span.
At the combine, Dixon turned in a mixed performance. His 4.58 40-yard time was a little below the 4.55 average for backs that weigh 210-220 pounds (for some added context, he ran slower than Derrick Henry while 32 pounds lighter), but he turned in high marks in the vertical with above average agility for his size. Looking at that measured physical profile paired with final season production objectively leaves us with this group of comparisons entering the NFL.
The top of this group had relatively similar draft investment to what we can expect for Dixon, but as an objective first blush, we’re left a little underwhelmed here by pure name recognition. Moreno was the only player here to post multiple top-24 scoring PPR seasons, but both Betts and Jackson had one each in seasons where they secured lead back volume. The rub there is that neither secured that volume again as they were both ancillary receiving backs for the bulk of their careers.
That’s the crossroads we arrive at with Dixon. His average measured physical profile suggests that a portion of his glowing production profile may be attributed to the level of competition he faced regularly while in the Conference USA. This is also supported by the production we seen from him when Louisiana Tech faced high end opponents. Granted it’s a small sample of his career, but here’s what Dixon did against the Power Five conference opponents he faced during his career compared to the damage he did against everyone else.
Of the eight times he faced a higher end opponent, he rushed for 100 yards just twice, with one of those games coming against Kansas.
His surrounding talent on offense could’ve also played a role in this up and down output as Dixon had a lot of boom or bust to his game in 2015. While he displayed propensity to create yardage on explosive runs, he also ran into issues getting those opportunities. 25 percent of his carries went for one yard or less this past season, the highest rate of any back in this class. 49.2 percent of Dixon’s rushing yardage came on runs that went for five yards or longer (17th of 155 running backs with 100 plus carries), but just 37.6 percent of his carries went for that many yards (83rd).
Given his ability at the second level while failing to cross the line of scrimmage frequently, there’s some data in place that suggests that his own rushing climate caused a good amount of his carry to carry volatility over purely being a product of his rushing style.
Dixon averaged prospect-low 1.2 yards before contact per attempt and prospect-high 3.6 YAC/att as well. Suggests he didn’t get blocking help
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) February 17, 2016
That chicken or the egg questioning will bear itself out in due time at the NFL level, but Dixon definitely has desirable qualities as a runner. His feet are exceptional, giving him suddenness and change of direction ability that is nearly unparalleled in this class with amazing balance.
Just because Dixon moves like a smaller back, doesn’t mean that he’s strictly a finesse player. He was 215 pounds at the combine and was up to 222 pounds at his pro day, having the requisite size to overcome that stigma as a strictly in space back more so than a back like Tyler Ervin in hopes of becoming a three down player in the NFL. He uses his feet often as his main weapon behind the line of scrimmage, but he highlights having that strong frame most often by finishing runs on the second level.
Of course, the cornerstone to Dixon’s floor is his ability as a receiver. He had 13 receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons and only Josh Ferguson, Deandre Washington and Storm Barrs-Woods have caught more passes than Dixon for their careers of all backs in this draft class. Per Pro Football Focus, Dixon also caught 12 of 15 targets and two touchdowns while flexed out in the slot this season. Even if his rushing volatility ends up proving itself to be more self-induced in the NFL by his style of play, he’s going to find the field often as a receiver at minimum.
It’s easy to fall in love with Dixon’s play style in an aesthetic sense because he has a lot of electric plays to call back on. While he’s wildly exciting from a visual sense, it’s nice to have that sobering set of comparisons and their NFL functionality here to ground us a bit from those “wow” plays that stand out.
It’s highly likely that Dixon starts out his NFL career in a Charles Sims or C.J. Spiller like fashion as he still has work do as a gap runner, ball security (13 fumbles over the past three seasons) and in pass protection to prove that he can be an every down/situation back that can be a foundation for an offense, but he has the size and tangible measures to do so and his strong receiving floor is going to very likely reward him with early playing time.
Because of that out of the box receiving prowess, I have Dixon as the third best running back in this class, just ever slightly above C.J. Prosise because I believe he finds more initial opportunity. In PPR leagues, both are solid fall backs from Derrick Henry, who has too large of a gap over those players in those formats. Dixon is currently going off the board at rookie pick 1.11 per Dynasty League Football. That is a comfortable spot for him and I wouldn’t even mind going a little higher on him over a Michael Thomas or a Tyler Boyd if presented those choices.