College football players don’t always make the right choice in deciding whether to return to school for another season or declaring for the NFL Draft. One who did, recently, is Notre Dame NT Louis Nix.
I don’t think there’s any doubt Nix (6-foot 2, 350-pounds) made a wise decision by going pro. Not only did he already receive his degree, but he’s as physically ready for the pro game as nearly any other 2014 NFL Draft prospect. Some will say that he should’ve stayed and rehabbed his knee, proved to scouts that he’s fully recovered from his torn meniscus suffered last month, but I think that only should’ve been the case if his injury would severely affect his draft stock.
But really, a torn meniscus, especially for someone who isn’t making sharp cuts over and over again (like a RB, WR or DB), isn’t a devastating injury. Professional athletes have come back from a torn meniscus in a couple of weeks, tops. Heck, the professional basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest came back after 12 days.
So no, the knee injury absolutely won’t affect his draft stock. If anything, it likely played a role in helping him decide to go pro now instead of risking further injury next year by choosing to play for free for another season.
How high could he go, and what are some good fits?
That’s an interesting question. As always, much of it will depend on the draft order, but he won’t last long. I’d say the latest he’ll go is late-teens, and I’d be shocked then.
It’s easy to understand why he’s so highly thought of. Nix is easily the most talented 3-4 nose prospect to come along since Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots) was coming out of Miami in 2004. Players like him, who can both clog two-gaps in addition to collapsing the pocket from inside are incredibly hard to find. Simpletons think all you have to do to find an elite 3-4 nose is to go find the biggest human-being they can, tell him to ‘stay’, and boom, the middle is clogged. Well, it’s just not that easy. That’s why there aren’t many top-of-the-line 3-4 noses out there (really just Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs and Wilfork).
The way the draft order is currently being set up, the earliest Nix would go (barring a trade) is 10th, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he’d be a perfect fit in the zone-blitzing 3-4. The Steelers have been looking for the heir apparent to Casey Hampton for years, and he would instantly improve a rush-d currently ranked 24th.
Other good fits and potential landing spots include the New York Jets at No.14 (imagine him paying between Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson!), Baltimore Ravens at No. 17 (Terrence Cody never panned out and Haloti Ngata is owed $17 million over the next two seasons), and Philadelphia Eagles at No. 22. The Patriots and San Francisco 49ers are two teams that could potentially trade up for Nix and would also be great fits.
Obviously, the draft order will change in the coming weeks, so it’s hard to gauge where exactly Nix will land. But we do know this: if you’re a GM for a team outside of the top ten and Nix is the guy you’ve set your sights on, your best strategy probably won’t be to stay put and let him come to you.