Anthony Dixon, RB - Mississippi State
Weight: 235 pounds
40 time: 4.67
One of the top power backs in this year’s draft, Anthony Dixon is a strong, aggressive runner who is capable of doing damage to a defense when he carries the ball.
A 3.5-year starter who is Mississippi State’s all-time leading rusher, Dixon leaves college having rushed for 3,994 yards and 42 touchdowns on 910 carries (4.4-yard average) during his career with the Bulldogs; his most productive season came as a senior in 2009 when he carried the ball 257 times for 1,391 yards and 12 touchdowns (5.4-yard average).
With a terrific blend of size, athleticism, and power, Dixon possesses the tools that teams look for in a starting running back in the NFL. He’s a downhill, north/south runner who has a strong upper body and a very powerful stiff arm for a running back. Dixon is a tough player to bring down in the open field; his speed is decent and he has shown that he has some lateral agility, however his greatest strength is his size and powerful running style. He doesn’t typically go down when the first defender attempts to make a tackle; he’s the type of running back that an entire defense has to swarm to in order to make sure that he goes down.
What I love about Dixon is his toughness; in 2006 he broke his finger, had surgery on a Wednesday, and played in his team’s game on Saturday; he also suffered from a groin strain in 2008 but didn’t miss a game. Anthony is going to give you everything that he’s got, which is one thing that I love to see in a player. Dixon also has reliable hands out of the backfield, having caught 56 passes for 449 yards and four touchdowns; he’s shown that he’s flexible enough to bend and make an acrobatic catch when needed.
The largest concern that I have about Dixon is that, while his lack of elite speed isn’t a huge detriment, his lack of ability to be a homerun or breakaway threat is what hurts him. He can pound the ball up the middle, but he lacks that ability to consistently be able to breakaway and run away from a defense. With the amount of miles already on his tires, or the amount of carries he’s already had in his career, Dixon’s long-term future may not be as high as other running backs in this year’s draft; he’s also prone to more injury with the amount of times he’s carried the ball so far.
In July of 2009, he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, careless driving, and not having proof of insurance; this is something that teams are going to need to look into before considering drafting him. I project that Dixon will be drafted in the third-to-fourth round.
What I like about Dixon is that he’s shown that he’s capable of carrying an offense on his shoulders; he can carry the ball 20-30 times a game, grind it out between the trenches, and wear a defense down over the course of a game. He has all of the makings of having the chance to develop into a starting running back in the NFL. At the very least, I could see him being a fine short-yard/goal line specialist, however I definitely think that he has the potential to become a starter at the next level.
Notes: Anthony was named first-team All-SEC as a senior. Coming out of high school, Dixon was a top recruit who turned down several offers (Florida, Alabama, LSU) to stay at home and play in Mississippi. As a prep, he was rated as the No. 10 player in the state of Mississippi and the No. 22 running back in the country by Rivals.com. As a senior in high school he rushed for 2,683 yards and 31 touchdowns on 304 carries (8.8-yard average). He was also a successful baseball player as a prep.
It won’t be just the teams looking for a power back who are interested in Dixon; despite the lack of home-run speed, he has all the abilities to be a 20-plus carry per game feature back in the NFL as well. Because he’s not widely considered to be a first-day selection, Dixon may not be thrust into the feature role immediately; however, his size and between-the-tackles ability should get him on the field in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and in today’s NFL it’s rare for all the carries to fall to one back—especially when there’s a capable backup in the mix.
Dixon’s immediate fantasy value should come in touchdown-heavy leagues, but his skill set suggests he should avoid being pigeon-holed as just a short-yardage back. Worst-case he would end up as the between-the-tackles member of a committee, which usually translates into 15-plus carries per game. And after shouldering a full load against SEC defenses for the past three-plus seasons, he’s clearly capable of being an every-down workhorse on Sundays as well.