The Ravens already had plenty of depth at the running back position when they selected Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round.
The question is whether someone will emerge as the clear-cut feature back for 2016 and beyond. Ranked by some as high as the second-best running back in the draft behind fourth overall selection Ezekiel Elliott, Dixon surprisingly fell all the way to the 134th pick where the Ravens snatched him up with the last of their record five fourth-round choices.
Watching his college highlights filled with big plays and impressive vision, it isn’t difficult to figure out which running back he tries to imitate on the football field as he wore No. 28 and averaged 11.1 yards per reception to go along with his robust 5.6 yards per carry over four seasons with the Bulldogs.
“The running back I really looked up to is Marshall Faulk,” Dixon said. “Just looking at his journey, just his work ethic that he had and the perseverance that he had through life. It’s always great, so that’s kind of who I modeled my game after.”
Of course, the Ravens would be thrilled if he could be half the player that Faulk was, but his physical gifts don’t stand out, a reason why he remained on teams’ draft boards until the end of the fourth round. His 4.58-second 40-yard dash time is good enough but hardly special and his 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame isn’t imposing, but then you watch his tape and look at his production as a four-year starter and can’t help but be intrigued.
Over four seasons, Dixon rushed for 4,483 yards on 802 carries — a heavy college workload that also might have scared some teams away — and caught 87 passes for 969 yards. His 87 career touchdowns temporarily gave him the NCAA Division I record last December before it was eclipsed by new Ravens teammate Keenan Reynolds, who is now Dixon’s roommate.
“It was kind of bittersweet. I was kind of mad at the time, but I’m especially happy for him and his journey,” said Dixon, who added that his mother is a huge Reynolds fan and asked for his autograph. “We all have different journeys, different walks through football. You never want to knock someone else’s walk through football. I gave him his props and everything.
“I told him if I had those other two [extra] games, he probably wouldn’t have been the leader.”
Dixon smiled as he noted that Reynolds had played in 13 games as a senior compared to his 11, but he’ll need that competitive fire in a backfield that includes 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett, 2015 fourth-round selection Buck Allen, 2014 fourth-rounder Lorenzo Taliaferro, 2014 third-round pick Terrance West, and Trent Richardson, the third overall pick of the 2012 draft who is trying to revitalize his career. Of those six, the Ravens figure to keep four at most on their 53-man roster.
Plenty of intriguing talent, but who will seize the opportunity and run with it?
It would be unwise to overlook the man who scored more touchdowns than any running back in FBS history.
“It’s a lot of competition in the room,” Dixon said. “[Running backs coach Thomas] Hammock, he works really well with us. He does a great job with us. All we can do is control what we can control. That’s what we’re going to do is come out here and compete and work hard.”