NFL Draft Profile: Kenneth Dixon

(USATSI)

Before heading to Mobile for the Senior Bowl I checked out the list of running back invitees and found them to be rather uninspiring at the time. The injury to Devontae Booker late in the season kept him from making the trip, which was a buzz kill considering I was really looking forward to watching him play. The rest of the Senior Bowl running back invitees were more 3rd down pass-catching specialists like Tyler Ervin, Kenyan Drake, DeAndre Washington and Aaron Green. There was one running back that piqued my interest the more tape I watched on him and that player was Kenneth Dixon from Louisiana Tech. Just to give you a little background on Dixon, he became Louisiana Tech’s all-time leading rusher by his junior year and finished his collegiate career with 87 combined touchdowns, one shy of the NCAA record. To say that he has a nose for the end zone is an understatement. He scored four touchdowns in the New Orleans Bowl last December.

Watching him on tape I was most impressed with his elusiveness in the open field. He displayed superb vision to find cut-back lanes, thus allowing him to break it outside. He’s also very patient, waiting for his blocks to develop a crease for him. He doesn’t hesitate hitting the hole and always keeps his legs churning, like the Energizer bunny, he keeps going and going. He’s a very shifty runner and once he breaks it outside lookout because he’s going to hit the home run more often than not. His big-play ability as a rusher and receiver was on display all season long. He ranked fifth among draft-eligible running backs in breakaway percentage (49 percent of his yards came off of breakaway runs), finished first in yards per pass route run, and first in elusive rating. The elusive rating measures how difficult a runner is to tackle. Lest I remind everyone that Todd Gurley owned the most elusive rating in 2014 according to PFF.

Kenneth Dixon is a superior pass-catcher and finished his collegiate career with 88 catches for 972 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns. While watching North practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dixon really stood out as a pass-catcher. He was consistently getting open in one-on-one drills and displaying natural hands, catching everything thrown his direction. It’s very apparent that Dixon is the best pass-catching running back here at the Senior Bowl but not only that, he’s the best pass-catching back available in the 2016 NFL Draft. In 2015 Dixon hauled in 35 catches on 43 targets and had a 5 percent drop rate which was 2nd only to Tyler Ervin. Dixon proved in practices that he’s going to be a major asset in the passing game and more than capable pass protector. I also came away very impressed with his footwork and balance during individual drills.

On Senior Bowl Media Night I was able to interview Kenneth Dixon. I came away really impressed with the way he carried himself and how humble he was. I asked him who he patterned his game after and looked up to and his response was Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. He went on to say that he had a few things in common with Faulk in the respect that they both played at smaller schools, Faulk at San Diego State and that he wears #28 in honor of Faulk. Kenneth also referred to Faulk’s dual-threat ability in the passing game and said he wants keep improving in that area. He wouldn’t divulge what teams or scouts he had spoken with and said that he would leave that up to his agents. He made it clear that he was here to focus on the Senior Bowl and practices period. Dixon also told me that that he wanted to show coaches, scouts, and NFL front office personnel that he could run the ball well and perform well in pass-pro. Lastly the one thing that stood out the most in the interview was how passionate about the game of football he was. He made it clear to me how much he loves the game and that he plays for the love of the game leaving everything out on the field. He told me that he stays up at night dreaming about all different types of situations. Make no mistake, Dixon is motivated to succeed at the next level and has accomplished his personal goals for Senior Bowl week.

I was also privileged to get an opportunity to interview Dixon’s teammate quarterback Jeff Driskel. He had nothing but good things to say about Dixon telling us that he’s an all-around athlete and true competitor. He went on to say that he’s got great hands, which we witnessed all week long in North team practices. Driskel also mentioned that Dixon has a good feel for the ball and making people miss in space which he displayed all week at practices. Lastly he mentioned the obvious which was that he can score touchdowns, 87 in his career to be exact.

In conclusion, I was very impressed with what I saw from Kenneth Dixon on tape and at the Senior Bowl. As far as I’m concerned he checks all the boxes and like a Swiss Army knife his versatility will make him a highly coveted player on Draft Day. Dixon projects as the most complete back in this year’s crop of running backs. Make no mistake he will be a star in the NFL at some point, I’m betting it’s sooner than later. Dixon is a player that can make an immediate impact from day one if given the opportunity. I expect him to gain even more steam in the pre-draft process and shoot up draft boards with a good performance on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and down the road at the NFL combine.

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