In order for an NFL team to be successful, they must build along the offensive and defensive lines. Every great team in the league can point to using the draft to bring in massive, athletic young men in the trenches on either side of the football. On the defensive side of the ball the 2014 NFL draft class is shaping up to be very good. And the leader of that group is Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.
Nix jumped off the screen in review of the Fighting Irish from 2012. Not just because he’s 6-foot-2 and around 325 pounds. That’s the easy part. There are lots of big bodies in this draft class, but there aren’t many that are as athletic. He’s got very quick feet, active hands, and a very high football IQ. He finds his way into the offensive lineman very quickly, won’t let them extend and simply overpowers them. This is of course when he doesn’t time the snap count perfectly and split the double team altogether. I know that most analysts look at Nix as a 3-4 nose tackle, but personally I think that would really limit the type of impact he can have on the game. When I watch him play, I see a little bit of Warren Sapp in his game. I can definitely see him playing a similar role in a 4-3 defensive tackle, using his non-stop effort, powerful leg drive and impressive football knowledge to win those one on ones or split a double team.
I love how Nix keeps his head up, even if he gets a little high in his stance, he does a great job tracking the play and closes without hesitation. He’s a very good tackler and plays with the mentality that everyone on the other team stole his biscuits. If this sort of energy and rage can be focused toward his game and it doesn’t overwhelm his football acumen, he has a chance to be great, I mean really great in this league.
Looking ahead to 2013, the Fighting Irish defense is going to be very good, especially up front. Nix had some excellent numbers in 2012, and I expect them to improve this year. If he can learn to play a little lower and maximize that power and anticipation, he could be all but un-blockable one on one. If that happens, I fully expect Nix to be the top defensive tackle off the board and a top ten pick. With his potential and scheme versatility, every NFL team is going to give Nix a long look.