New Orleans Saints: NFL Draft prospects coming at a bargain, part one

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Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

4. Kenneth Dixon, Running back, Louisiana Tech

Age as a rookie: 22 (Birthday in January)

Listed height, weight:  6-feet, 216 pounds

Where He Wins:  Kenneth Dixon is a versatile, underrated dynamo and the all-time leading rusher in Louisiana Tech history.  He has excellent size for the running back position and displays great athleticism on the field.  He isn’t afraid of contact and never surrenders yardage when protection breaks down.  He has been an every-down player for the Bulldogs for at least two years now, lining up all over the formation as a pass-catcher and even holding back as a blocker at times on third down.  He is one of the most experienced ball carriers in this draft class.

Dixon could be the do-it-all backup to supplant the often-injured Mark Ingram as a starter for the New Orleans Saints.  Ingram was placed on injured reserve recently and there are many questions surrounding the rest of the running backs room.  Will Khiry Robinson return in 2016?  When will C.J. Spiller be played more often?  How much does Tim Hightower have left to contribute?  And can Marcus Murphy can be more than a special teams returner?

Adding Dixon to the mix would give the Saints a reliable and legitimate third option at running back behind Ingram and Spiller.  Considering how often New Orleans likes to use its backs and the number of injuries in their combined histories, it makes some sense for the Saints to target a running back even if it is seen as a bit of a luxury pick.  There are bigger needs in the trenches on both sides of the ball, at wide receiver, and at defensive back and weakside linebacker.  But if Dixon is the highest rated player on the Saints’ board on the second day of player selections, it would be hard to look past him.

Pro Comparison: Matt Forte.  It’s easy to pigeonhole Dixon into a comparison with another former small-school Louisiana product (though Forte went to Tulane, not Louisiana Tech).  But the comparison between the two is surprisingly apt.  Both are great pass-catching receivers with Forte averaging four receptions per game as a pro and Dixon seeing an average of three per game in his last two years as a starter.  Dixon plays with a similar tenacious energy as Forte, bullying defensive backs whenever he breaks a carry outside with his physicality.  They are also both high-effort players in spite of subpar offensive lines blocking for them.

Next: 5. The Saints' defensive line is still too soft, how can they toughen up?