Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Profile #38 - Kenneth Dixon, RB, La Tech


North squad head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys works with running back Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech (28) during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Glenn Andrews
North squad head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys works with running back Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech (28) during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.

(March 21 note: I think it is important this week to go a bit deeper on running backs - a position of need for the Cowboys.  I will be working on some guys who do not fit in the "Top 50", but rather 2nd, 3rd and 4thround ideas at this spot for a Dallas-specific study.  We miss a few guys who are not at spots of need for Dallas, but I can only get to so many.)
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech - 5-10, 213 - Senior - #28
Let's continue working through the running backs that feature in this spring's draft by studying the fine work of Kenneth Dixon.  It is at this juncture that I feel compelled to mention a conversational piece about evaluating a running back in today's game.  First, we know it is now a passing league and while some teams - maybe even the Cowboys - dispute that with their offensive tactics, the fact is that teams are passing more than ever before, and it is continuing in that direction with each passing decade.  So, as combined that fact with the life-span studies of the position, we find that RB values have never been lower.
But, to me, what makes evaluating RBs very difficult is that there are so many components to playing the position.  And each evaluator is placing different amounts of importance on each spot.  Running the ball in all the different ways that can be done is complex by itself.  But, now we want a RB who can decode and defend blitzes.  We want a RB who can catch passes out of the backfield.  We want a RB who secures the ball.  We want a RB who can work in short yardage.  We want one that is tough to tackle but also very elusive.  We want a RB who is healthy and has not been overused, but he has been used enough that we feel he has proven capable.  And when you look at one man's rankings, it is tough to know what he values the most.  Because there will seldom be a time a prospect does it all well. 
But, in the end, you are looking for someone who does most things really, really well.  And one of those studies this year is Kenneth Dixon.  While he hasn't played at the highest of college levels, his level is quite high, and he has been in the end zone 87 times in 4 seasons.
What I liked:  He is quick, elusive, and competitive.  He does everything that you are looking for in a running back, making you wonder if he is a true 3-down back who might be more dangerous in third down/2-min drill situations than he is on first and 10.  He catches the ball well and when he gets in space, you are going to need a group to get him down.  He has a mean streak that is evident, and he wants to battle all day.  He has no issues with running inside or outside, and he also will compete for every last yard on every occasion.  In pass protection, he is more than willing, and while he doesn't necessarily have ideal size for that work, it is often interest level that determines success rate, and he is plenty interested.  But he is a workhorse who you can feed the ball to continuously and the production just keeps coming.
What I did not like:  Well, it has to start with two pretty big deal breakers for some people.  First, he has had almost 900 college touches which, at a position of short career spans, a number that high often produces the feeling that he has already begun to show wear on his treads and now the hits and defenses become more vicious on Sundays.  For me, this isn't a huge deal, to a point.  The other issue is more problematic.  His fumbles over the last three seasons: 13.  In a league that stresses ball security, he averages a fumble about every 60 touches at the college level.  That usually doesn't improve in the NFL and you want to see that over "1 per 100" if you can find it. Beyond that, it must be pointed out that a lot of his running came in the shotgun of a spread offense against 5 and 6-man boxes.  That means there is a lot more real estate to work with than one generally sees in the NFL, meaning one must carefully evaluate how that will translate to "12" personnel on first and 10 when the opponent has 9 in the box against Dallas.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys:  Kenneth Dixon is not a player I knew a whole lot about and then was really impressed with his performance in his bowl game (the New Orleans Bowl against Arkansas State) and wanted to know more.  He competes so hard and does so many useful things that there is no doubt that this guy separates from that second tier for me and works his way into the mix for the Top 50 discussion. 
Now, his high usage rate and his disposition give me great pause about his durability and ball security issues.  These are all things that go together when you talk about a guy getting 25 touches in a game and then fighting through every whistle. 
Would he be a fine fit in Dallas?  There is no doubt he can do much of what they need.  I assume they wish to avoid spending either a first or second rounder on a RB, so if Dixon somehow sits there at the top of Round 3, I would have no problem in investing in him.  Then, we must begin working on ball security drills immediately.

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