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NFL Draft Running Back Prospect Debate: Jonathan Williams or Kenneth Dixon?

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A question of whether you prefer a bruiser to be the lead rusher or a slasher type with good receiving value to be the guy?

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There is a clear need for the Patriots to find a new RB for the 2016 and the position is the biggest need for them in the draft on offense. The Patriots have Dion Lewis and James White as their top 2 RBs going into 2016, which is razor thin for the offense. Brandon Bolden will make the team for Special Teams reasons, but the Patriots lack a player who can grind out yards on early downs. The Patriots could use a running back who can run the ball between the tackles, have the speed to bounce it outside if necessary, and run routes like a WR. Those type of prospects are very difficult to find and typically are Top 15 picks.

With the ideal prospect a pipe dream, the Patriots have to deal with what options are available. Two prospects I like that are highly intriguing are Jonathan Williams from Arkansas and Kenneth Dixon from Louisiana Tech. Both could start for the Patriots in 2016 as the lead back in their rotation as they work to get Lewis back into game-shape over the first quarter of the season. For the time share, I expect the lead back to get around 200-250 touches with Lewis contributing 100-150. White and Bolden will get occasional looks as the team uses a rotation and to rest the other players.

Jonathan Williams

Pros:

  • Bruiser type RB who uses his legs well to move the pile and gain extra yards after contact
  • Little mileage with only about 432 touches at Arkansas
  • Capable blocker
  • Shows good lateral agility to make quick cuts in the hole
Cons:
  • Foot injury that caused him to miss 2015 season, he's healthy now but teams will be extensively checking it
  • Very little receiving value, lack of opportunity or terrible receiver?
  • Questions about 3rd down value and ability to play Special Teams
  • Gets upright at times
Kenneth Dixon

Pros:
  • Very good receiver out of the backfield, 64 catches and 13 receiving TDs last two seasons
  • Despite slasher style of running, very strong finisher on these runs
  • Ability to score in multiple ways, 87 career TDs
  • Good open field runner
Cons:
  • Not a strong lower half, needs time in the weight room
  • Inconsistent in pass protection
  • Competition level questions, played in Conference-USA whereas Williams played against SEC West
  • High mileage prospect, compiled over 800 rush attempts and 889 overall touches in 4 years
  • Needs to play behind Zone Blocking Scheme to maximize effectiveness as a rusher
As a fan, I would be ecstatic if the Patriots landed either guy in the draft. I see Dixon as a late 2-early 3 value and Williams a mid 3-late 3 value. As a hunch, I believe the Patriots are more likely to pick Williams over Dixon since Williams is already Pro-ready and could start for the team tomorrow if needed whereas Dixon needs time in the weight room to strengthen his lower half. Dixon is clearly the superior receiver and is an upgrade over James White in that facet, but the chances the Patriots have to redshirt Year 1 make him less attractive a prospect to the team in my view.