Continuing our look at second- and third-day options for the Detroit Lions, let’s move to safety. After releasing Louis Delmas, the Lions find themselves woefully thin at the position. They brought in veteran James Ihedigbo to temporarily fill in, but as I noted earlier, Ihedigbo would be best served in a situational role at this point in his career. This brings us to Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon.
Dixon played three full seasons with Baylor. In his first two years, he played in more of a linebacker/cornerback hybrid position (technically Nickel/"Bear"). He typically covered slot receivers, played shallow zones and was disruptive in the running game. Last year, Dixon moved back into the more traditional strong safety role.
(stats via Sports-Reference.com)
Dixon gathered numerous accolades during his time in college. Beginning in his sophomore year, Dixon was named to the 2011 All-Big 12 honorable mention team, a feat he repeated in 2012. However, not only was he a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 member in 2013, but he was also named a first-team All-American.
The film on Dixon reveals a player who is still struggling in coverage, but has an aggressive style of play that can produce game-changing plays. Though he has plenty of experience in both man and zone coverage, Dixon isn’t the kind of guy who will shut down an entire half of the field right away. Dixon likes to play on instincts, and that sometimes gets him in trouble. He will occasionally attempt to jump a route only to get beaten by a double-move over top. Watch below as Dixon tries to get an edge on the corner route of the tight end, only to give up the deep center of the field on a post route for an easy touchdown.
(video via Draft Breakdown)
But the deeper you look into Dixon’s career, the easier it is to see his potential. Dixon showed great awareness when it came to stopping the run, specifically the read-option. Rarely did I see him get fooled by the ball-carrier, and often I saw him destroy the runner:
Dixon clearly doesn’t shy away from contact, and that could have a big impact in the passing game as well. His hard-hitting style may have receivers thinking twice about going over the middle and quarterbacks looking elsewhere. Again, watch as Dixon (playing short zone) identifies the target by watching the quarterback's eyes, then uses his speed to quickly close in on the route and his physicality to take down the bigger receiver well before the first down:
Overall, Dixon would definitely be a late-round project. Most draftniks place him somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds. However, his fearless style of play and big-hit potential would give him value as a special teamer right away, and if molded properly, Dixon could eventually fill the Lions’ strong safety role.
Previously: WR Bruce Ellington