Xzavier Dickson finally lived up to his four-star recruit status as a senior, as the “Jack” (weak-side outside linebacker) performer led the Tide with nine sacks and 12.5 stops-for-loss in 2014, adding ten QB pressures and 42 tackles while starting nine times. Since arriving on campus as a 240-pound freshman, he spent the bulk of his Alabama playing days splitting duties.
He had only three tackles in seven games, seeing limited action behind Courtney Upshaw during the 2011 campaign, but when starter Adrian Hubbard was sidelined for a period in 2012, Dickson took over “Jack” duties for six appearances with the first unit, making 33 tackles with 3.5 sacks and four hurries. He lost a battle with Denzel Duvall for the “Jack” chores in 2013, appearing in the team’s first 12 games in reserve before being suspended from the Sugar Bowl due to a team rules violation. That frustrating season saw him produce only 13 tackles with one sack.
Dickson has very good agility for his size. He shows quickness, good foot speed, fine balance, but only marginal change of direction skills. He generates good power on the pass rush, playing with decent leverage. He is a swift-moving player working his way down the line. He shows decent instincts and awareness working inside the box or coming off the edge, but struggles some locating the ball in pass coverage. He has a keen nose for the ball in pursuit and can readily adjust on the move playing down the line.
The Tide senior has just adequate playing strength. While he can stack and control in isolated situations, he fails to generate much pop with his hands. He prefers to slip past tackles rather than engaging, but that is usually “the norm” for “Jack” ‘backers in the Tide system. When he does get his hands on the blocker, he can generate enough leverage to shed and go after the ball.
Dickson needs to spend some extra hours in the weight room to increase his strength, and must maintain his weight, as he did go past the 270-pound mark last year. Scouts feel that Dickson will be an effective strong-side ‘backer in a 3-4 alignment due to his blitzing and pass rush ability off the edge, but without improved strength, he might have to fight for playing time and perform on special teams to see if he will develop.
Dickson runs with a quick burst to close on the quarterback and shows very good timing to get a jump on the blitz. His quickness and athletic agility lets him flush the quarterback out of the pocket and he shows good urgency getting to the ball. Even though he lacks ideal power, he has an array of moves (rip, swim, club) to get leverage. He has valid speed if some team wants to go “big” and keep him on the weak-side, as he demonstrates an explosive burst and can gain penetration even before the offensive tackle can get out of his stance.
In run defense, Dickson shows functional power at the point of attack and will step up and take on the lead block to fill the rush lane quickly. When he uses his rip and swim moves, he can shoot inside and make plays. He is more of a trailer type on the outside, showing swiftness moving to the ball. I really like his agility and balance when he is flowing to the ball, He maintains balance and stays on his feet, doing a nice job of clearing trash to close on the runner.
As for his pass defense skills, Dickson can run with backs and tight ends, showing good quickness and speed in the short area. But, when asked to drop into coverage, he is too choppy in his backpedal to recover and stay on the hip of the receiver. He has decent (not great) hip flexibility through his drop, but he tends to take extra steps and needs to gather before accelerating. He also seems to lack ball anticipation ability when playing away from the line (fails to locate the ball quickly).
Xzavier Dickson Scouting Combine measurables
6-3/260 (4.74 forty)
33 1/2-inch arm length
29.5-inch vertical jump
100-inch broad jump
7.56 3 cone drill
4.53 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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