It’s always exhilarating when you draft a player who flew under the radar then watch him take off during the season—giving you bragging rights over all your friends.
Each year, a running back seems to possess that mystical power. Ameer Abdullah looked like one of those players last season, until he struggled with fumbles. The Lions staff didn’t want him involved in the offense for any reason, ultimately leaving those once-excited fantasy owners with sour tastes in their mouths.
But there’s always another guy to be intrigued by, and Baltimore Ravens rookie running back Kenneth Dixon possesses all those potential traits in a slightly different way than Abdullah did last year, which leads him into sleeper territory this season.
An exciting player with very good quickness when changing direction, Dixon can elude defenders in ways few running backs in this draft class can. While he’s not an overwhelmingly powerful runner standing at 5′10, 215 lbs, he runs with a sense of toughness and decisiveness that can help him win 1-on-1 battles despite his lack of size.
Also a gifted receiver, Dixon will be able to assert himself in the short passing game on screen passes and also has the ability to catch the ball over his shoulder on wheel routes. He was considered one of the best receiving backs coming out of the draft. We’ve seen young running backs have PPR (points per reception) value despite not being considered a lead back. Duke Johnson on the Cleveland Browns was an example of this last season playing behind Isaiah Crowell, as was Charles Sims behind Doug Martin for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With his current ADP at RB55, Dixon is being drafted in the same range as Ronnie Hillman, Kenyan Drake, and Jordan Howard. All of those running backs are currently backups like Dixon, but there’s reason to believe Baltimore’s fourth-round pick has more opportunity than any of those mentioned above. Ravens top back, Justin Forsett, will be 31 years old in October and is due $3 million in 2017, which means his time as a lead back is likely nearing its end. This alone makes Dixon a must-own in dynasty leagues.
The rest of the backfield includes a slew of familiar names including Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, former Top-5 overall pick Trent Richardson, and Cleveland Browns castoff Terrance West. None of these players poses much of a threat to Dixon’s status as a potential lead back since they don’t bring the same skill set that the former LA Tech star does.
Overall, Dixon is one of the better flier backs to take in your draft this season. He brings a variety of skills to the table that has translated to solid fantasy production in the past. There’s opportunity for him to immediately start the season as a backup and he may end up assuming a larger role a year from now due to Forsett’s contract situation. There’s little chance any other running back ends up stealing carries away from Dixon this season.