This morning I am going to take a look at the 49ers selection of Mississippi State RB, Anthony Dixon, one year after he was selected in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft.
This is a player that showed us a great deal during the pre-season, so we expected him to hit the ground running come the regular year. Well, that did not happen. Instead, Dixon really didn't see any playing time until Frank Gore went down due to injury. Once Dixon was able to see the field more it became apparent that he may not have been completely ready to take on such a heavy load. He proved to be a little raw in important aspects of the game.
That said, the upside is there and I expect bigger things from him in 2011. After the jump I am going to talk a little more about Anthony Dixon, look at other options that were available to the 49ers with that pick and play a little "Monday morning RB" and rank the players at that position one year later.
6th Round, 173rd Pick: RB- Anthony Dixon Mississippi State
2010 Stats: 70 Rushes, 237 Yards, 3.4 AVG, 2 TD
Analysis: Some will question if Anthony Dixon will ever be a major contributor in the NFL. I may be in the minority here, but I believe he will. Dixon has the power and strength to succeed as an every down back at this level. Of course, Dixon is still extremely raw; especially at pass protection. That is something that needs to change and I hope Tom Rathman has the ability to work with him on this if the CBA is hashed out relatively soon.
Dixon did most of his damage once Frank Gore was lost for the season because of a hip injury. Although not splashy, Dixon did contribute with Brian Westbrook a great deal as a tandem out of the backfield. He needs to figure out running lanes better, hit the hole quicker, and follow his blockers better. This is another aspect that I meant when I said he was extremely raw. At Mississippi State, Dixon was one-dimensional; mostly because that is all that was asked of him. Moving forward, the 49ers are going to have to work a great deal with him in order to get these issues fixed.
If the 49ers were completely sold on Anthony Dixon they would not have spend a 4th round pick on Kendall Hunter. That said, the pick of the former Oklahoma State standout could be linked as much to Frank Gore's age and injury concern as it is with the front offices opinion on Anthony Dixon. I really do believe that Dixon has a strong future in the NFL, hopefully teaming up well with Hunter once Frank Gore calls it a career.
Both Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter are going to split time behind Frank Gore in 2011 and it is going to be interesting to see how that competition plays out during training camp. Dixon and Hunter are two different type of running backs and both bring something different to the table. Throw in Frank Gore and the 49ers could have a real nice 1-2-3 punch in the offensive backfield moving forward.
Listen, you are not going to get a player that isn't without limitations in the 6th round. What the 49ers got in Anthony Dixon last year was a player that shows a nice amount of promise and could eventually be an extremely solid contributor in their offense. I don't know how much more you can ask of a 6th round pick.
Other Options Available at #173
2010 Stats: 15 Games, 30 Tackles, 3 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
Analysis: Entering his final season at Mississippi, Hardy was projected to be a first round pick, but a lackluster year caused his stock to drop dramatically. That said, I was still a huge fan of his heading into the draft and had my fingers crossed that the 49ers would select him in the 6th round; obviously that did not happen.
I really likes what Greg Hardy brings to the table and his production in spotty action in 2010 shows that he has tremendous upside. If Charles Johnson leaves via free agency (unlikely) look for Hardy to step right into the starting role on the right side of the Panthers defensive line. If not, he will get more playing time and continue to be a solid contributor.
I think that Hardy has double digit sack potential, it is just up to the Carolina Panthers to utilize him correctly moving forward.
6th Round, 178th Pick: LB- Arthur Moats Buffalo Bills
2010 Stats: 15 Games, 4 Starts, 33 Tackles, 3 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
Analysis: Moats was a pleasant surprise for the Buffalo Bills in 2010. In fact, he finished the season as the Bills starting right outside linebacker in the 3-4. Small school defenders do seem to do well in the late rounds of the draft, especially in the front 7 and Moats is no different.
The ability to have a 6th round pick start in his rookie season can mean two things. First, that your defense is so weak that there were no other options. Secondly, that the players showed enough to be entrusted in that role. I think that Moats represents the ladder. He has all the physical ability to succeed in the NFL, and I believe that 2011 will be a break out season for him.
6th Round, 180th Pick: RB- Deji Karim Jacksonville Jaguars
2010 Stats: 35 Rushes, 160 Yards, 4.5 AVG, 0 TD
Analysis: I put Karim on this list because the 49ers drafted a RB seven picks earlier; I am sure that Karim was on their radar. Another small school player that showed flashes in 2010, I think that Karim will do a nice job spelling Maurice Jones-Drew in the future.
Karim will never be a full time workhorse in the NFL, but he does bring an intriguing talent to the Jaguars offense. The ability to take it the distance on every play. His ceiling is extremely high right now and he provides another dimension to the Jaguars offense outside of Jones-Drew.
Top Running Backs from 2010 NFL Draft Class
2. Ryan Matthews San Diego Chargers 1st Round, 12th Pick
5. James Starks Green Bay Packers 6th Round, 193rd Pick
6. Anthony Dixon San Francisco 49ers 6th Round, 173rd Pick
Synopsis: Picking in the 6th round is really like throwing darts at a board and hoping they stick. Sure, scouting is a major factor this late in the draft, but does anyone here really think that the Patriots front office envisioned Tom Brady being a Super Bowl winning QB? I don't.
Of course, you are going to be more high on certain players in the later rounds and that can help build your team if you go about it right. In selecting Anthony Dixon I believe that the 49ers got both value and need. He brings something different to the 49ers; a basher that can run between the tackles and is hard to bring down.
If Anthony Dixon is able to tweak some of his game this will prove to be a solid pick. Dixon needs to recognize that he isn't an Ahmad Bradshaw type player. Instead, he needs to hit the hole quick, run down field and between the tackles. If he figures this out, you can expect Anthony Dixon to continue to improve as a RB for the 49ers.