by Bryce McRae
on April 7, 2008 @ 11:00:03
For University of Oregon Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon, last year played out almost as well as you could have written it to. Dixon and the Ducks slumped to a 7-6 record in 2006 as they lost four straight games to close out the season, including a 38-8 loss in the Las Vegas Bowl. Faced with only more chance to win a national championship, Dixon answered the bell as he led the team to a No. 2 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and was a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. However, almost was the operative word up above as Dixon would get knocked out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee during a game against the University of Arizona. Not only did it end Dixon's college career prematurely, it also put a stop to the Ducks' national championship hopes as the team fell apart without their offensive leader.
Despite the injury, Dixon was still rewarded for his productive season with numerous offseason awards. He was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. He was one of the five finalists for the Walter Camp Award (NCAA Player of the Year), as well as a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback in the nation). His 2007 numbers read as follows: 2,136 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, 583 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. One can only imagine what might have been if he had a chance to finish the season.
Several teams have talked to Dixon about playing wide receiver in the NFL in the event he does not succeed as a quarterback. This speaks to his remarkable athletic ability. Dixon's running was among his most heralded characteristics with Oregon. The numbers have already been stated, but they don't speak to the style of running he has, which makes him so dangerous. He is a smooth runner who has great strength and runs loose enough to elude would-be tacklers. If he puts a few more pounds, he will even tougher to bring down.
The numbers also do not show completely the improvements he made in his overall offensive game. At times, early in his career, he would take off after making only a couple reads. However, he improved in his final season in Oregon, often running only as a last resort. This kept defenses honest and was one of the reasons why he was such a great double threat.
Dixon stands 6-foot-3 1/4, tall enough to man the position in the pros, and weighs around 195 pounds. He will have to add some muscle if he wants to stand up to the punishment he will take in the NFL; however, he has plenty of room on his frame to add the much-needed muscle. As strong as he is right now, the potential for further physical improvement will intrigue most NFL teams.
His athletic ability is not the whole story. During his career, Dixon showed great judgment in the pocket, especially in his final season (67.7 percent completion percentage). This was likely the result from a better relationship with new offensive coordinator Chip Kelley, who looked to involve Dixon in the offense more. He had good touch on his short-to-midrange throws, which breaks a string of recent running quarterbacks who can't pass the ball.
The first question opposing teams will ask themselves is can he throw the ball deep? There has been a long history of college quarterbacks who are great athletes, but they don't have the arm to run an NFL offense. Dixon has shown he can make the short throws, but will need to work on his deep balls and develop a greater pocket presence if he is to succeed at the next level. The injury to his knee could interfere with his throwing technique while he rehabs, and his technique is something that he needs to work on at the next level. Most of his work was in a spread offense at Oregon, which will put him behind the learning curve for most NFL offenses, especially when it comes to working on his footwork dropping back from the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of his knee, it will take Dixon around six months to recover from the December surgery enough for teams to get a good evaluation of his abilities, thus he did not ran or thrown in any offseason workouts until his Pro Day Thursday, April 3. Dixon wasn't as involved in offseason training early in his career and did not get along with his offense coordinators prior to Chip Kelley's arrival.
It should also be noted Dixon was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves. He has stated football is his main focus, but if the knee fails to heal completely, or he has problems adjusting to the NFL, it is possible he will make the switch to baseball. It is another distraction teams will look at before drafting him.
Expected Draft Placement
The tear to his ACL will cost Dixon millions as he more than likely will drop to being a second-day draft pick. He has all the physical attributes to be a two-way threat at quarterback in the NFL; however, his success might come as a shifty, trick-play wide receiver similar to Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. The Redskins in fact are one of the teams he has talked to, and they could take him as a late-round flier in the event quarterback Jason Campbell does not pan out. Expect him to go near the fifth round come April.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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