2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Notre Dame Nose Tackle Louis Nix III

Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III plays with force rarely seen in a nose tackle prospect, and NFL scouting departments have taken note. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this first installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III.

Louis Nix III won’t win a track meet. He won’t run a 40-yard dash in under 5.2 seconds, either. But his 6’2”, 342-pound mass, multiplied by his downhill quickness off the snap, has equaled force for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense.

And largely due to his fulfillment of Isaac Newton’s second law, the 22-year-old redshirt junior finds himself ranked as the top nose tackle prospect in the 2014 NFL draft.

The Jacksonville, Fla., native’s ability to generate force has drawn resemblance to fellow Floridian Vince Wilfork, a New England Patriots first-round pick back in 2004. Based on Nix’s body of work as a pocket-pusher and run-stuffer, the comparison is well-deserved.

Nix proved to be a cornerstone in the middle of Notre Dame’s front over the last three seasons. In 2011, he started 11 of 13 games, compiling 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and a pass breakup. In 2012, he started another 11 games, registering 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and three pass breakups. A knee injury in the 2012 National Championship Game, however, held him back this fall.

Nix totaled 27 tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups through eight games before having season-ending surgery to repair the torn meniscus. He decided to declare shortly thereafter.

Now despite an unceremonious finish to his collegiate career, Nix is expected to be a Day 1 selection this May. He will have many suitors due to his ability to take on double-teams and use his athleticism to disrupt in more ways than one.

So with that said, here is a closer look at two sought-after facets seen in Nix’s game film, which has been made accessible thanks to the folks at DraftBreakdown.com.

Closing the Pocket

Now most nose tackles lag behind in quest of the quarterback. Quite often, they’re the last one off the line and struggle to disengage as edge-rushers swarm.

Nix’s purpose in the passing game isn’t prototypical.

He knows how to use his wide frame, long arms and burst to swim or bull rush towards the quarterback. He does so rather consistently, anchoring his lower body to drive instead of being driven back. His impact, in that respect, is realized even when a sack isn’t.

This was illustrated against Stanford on Oct. 13, 2012, during Nix’s redshirt sophomore campaign.

On a 2nd-and-5, the Cardinal offense employed “11” personnel with one running back deep and one tight end inline. The play call itself was a “levels” concept out left, orchestrating five- and 10-yard in routes by the receivers. And out right, the flanker set up for a curl, while current Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo hunkered for a seam pattern.

The Notre Dame defense countered with a 4-3, calling on Nix to play the one-technique between center Sam Schwartzstein and left guard Khalil Wilkes. Schwartstein, though, was combing to block left defensive tackle Sheldon Day, which left Wilkes to take on No. 9.

As then-Stanford QB Josh Nunes received the snap, he diagnosed his tight end’s vertical route – which drew attention from both linebacker Dan Fox and safety Matthias Farley – Nix established the interior.

He locked his arms high onto the chest plate of the guard and pedaled his feet. In this case, the blocker had out-leveraged him, but Nix had out-angled him. He had a clear view of the A-gap and fought towards it.

The blocker leaned to the point where stability was lost, and Nix was the beneficiary. He stayed balanced and swept his arms out of engagement, thrusting himself into the quarterback’s foreground.

Nix lifted his arm up into the QB’s line of sight, further interfering after having already collapsed the pocket.

Nunes didn’t have room to sufficiently guide with his front foot, nor did he have the time to make a calculated decision under duress.

Nix lunged at the quarterback and got a hand the non-throwing shoulder. With the arrival of pressure, the QB floated one up in the direction of his tight end.

It was overshot and intercepted Farley.

On this particular play, Nix’s short-area quickness and flexibility through blocks hindered the quarterback’s ability to drive the ball downfield. His teammates were rewarded.

Now it’s unreasonable to expect Nix to become a sack-amassing pass-rusher, but it’s reasonable to expect Nix to become a play-creator for his teammates. He chases the passer; he raises his arms to deter passes. And while he may not dominate an offense’s pass protection, an offense’s pass protection has to account for him.

In a four-man line, Nix would likely move over to the one-technique or three-technique – shading the center or guard. Favoring one gap instead of two would figure to accentuate his effectiveness versus the pass.

It did on occasion in South Bend, Ind.

Pursuing the Run

Nix’s success as a pass-rusher will go a long way towards him staying on the field in 3rd-and-long situations. Conversely, his success as a run-stopper will go a long way towards him getting on the field in the first place.

From the zero-technique – directly against the offensive center – Nix draws multiple blocks. With heavy hands, active feet and leverage, he shoves his opponents back and out of position. Although he gets knocked upright or down and loses sight of the ball at times, usually he does not.

His improved endurance and nimble feet allow him to work fast. And when stifling double-teams are replaced by single or zone blocks, he doesn’t waste time ripping his arms outside the offensive lineman’s shoulder.

That was the case on a 2nd-and-12 against Michigan on Sept. 7.

The Wolverines assembled in “22” personnel for with an inline tight end, an “F” tight end in motion, and a fullback in I-formation in front of halfback Fitzgerald Toussaint. The play’s intentions were an off-tackle run to the loaded side.

Nix was in the center of a three down-lineman, five-linebacker alignment vying to stop it.

Yet the blocker Nix was about to face wasn’t the center across from him.

As quarterback Devin Gardner handled the snap and turned to hand off, the Michigan line swayed leftward. Center Jack Miller brushed around Nix on his way to linebacker territory, while right guard Kyle Kalis swapped underneath to stall Nix.

As the two interior O-linemen did so, Nix reacted rapidly, leaning his left shoulder into the mesh point before the guard could engage.

Nix spread his arms to detach from the shoulder block and propelled diagonally through the right A-gap. Meanwhile, Toussaint collected the handoff.

Nix took an angle conducive to meeting the ball-carrier in the backfield. In the process, he snuck behind the lead block.

Nix closed fast. He was suddenly within two yards of his target, who was looking to split between his left tackle and tight ends.

Toussaint cut at the numbers. Yet as he did, Nix wrapped him by the shoulder pads and pulled him to the turf for a loss of one.

Nix attacked the lateral block before it could attack him. And while the transition between blocking assignments played a role in his triumph versus Michigan, so did his innate burst off the snap and fluid pursuit.

Running backs have a hard time finding the lane when Nix is on the field. He can congest space or shoot the gap. It is, at least in part, because he’s the first one off the line and can convert his speed into power.

Outlook

Nix’s performance and subsequent production wavered in 2013 largely due to health. But ultimately, Nix embodies what 3-4 defenses want in a nose.

His blend of reaction, power and stamina are visible versus both the run and pass. So even though he may never control a game, there’s reason to believe he will be a force within it.

Whether it is from the zero-, one- or three-technique, Nix has the versatile traits to adapt to a multiple defense like New England’s. And while his availability at pick 29 overall is in question, his value certainly isn’t.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Draft Close-Up, Film Breakdown, Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

32 Responses to “2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Notre Dame Nose Tackle Louis Nix III”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    I like Nix, but Zach Kerr Delaware 6’2″330 seems like a New England type of guy, one of standouts DTs at the Shriners game, a hard worker and grinder, with a good personality. He moves great for a man at 330lbs and he would learn for one of the best Vince Wilfolk.

  2. dslave says:

    There isNO WAY BBtrades Mallet for a 4th and a 5th. NO WAY. Why would you invest all of that time and resources you’ve put into his development fpr that.

    • Pete H. says:

      Remember that the investment is a sunk cost. What’s relevant is the future. So you have 1 year of a cost-controlled backup QB, or you can have a couple of mid-round picks in a deep draft class that you will have cost-controlled for 4 years. Even if they are primarily backups, you get 8 years of cost-controlled backups versus 1. It’s all about what the market will offer, and I think at this point the team is well-served beefing up the roster with draft picks so they can spend cash elsewhere. If they can get more, it’s not worth it, but if they can’t I’d be happier with a 4th and a 5th than with keeping him for 1 year just to see him leave, which is what happened with Hoyer.

      • TD says:

        Like all the other guys in-house except Brady, you just don’t know what value BB has attached to them.
        It’s also the same for any draft prospect; he has a value and round attached and come hell and high water he is not going to reach for him. He will, however move up if the value is much greater than the position the draft is real time and if it is a real need.

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    Nix does have a chance to dropping to # 29, last years draft was an indication. After the first 8-9 picks in the 1st round the draft board went crazy, there was 4-5 QBs said to go in the 1st round and 1 got drafted. Anything is possible!!!

  4. Accuan says:

    It is inconceivable he drops down at #29. If Braylon Edwards as horrible as he was already in college got drafted #3, no way Nix drops down at #29. I like the guy, but, I don’t see him falling down like Fat Big Vince did.

    • Tom says:

      shariff floyd from flordia was supossed to go in the top 10 but fell into the late first round for the vikings

    • Pete H. says:

      I’m with Accuan on this one… hard to see Nix falling so far. I suppose it’s possible, but I think a better comparable for Nix than Floyd would be Star Lotulelei, who fell a bit, but not all the way to 29. Keep in mind that not even Floyd (or Wilfork) fell to all the way to 29. While DT is a tough position to predict, the really big nose-type guys with talent, athleticism, and no major character concerns tend to be scooped up before the end of the first. Hope I’m wrong though!

    • Ryan says:

      I agree, seems like every year when the drafts first come out they get our hopes up. Brandon Graham, Tavon Austin, JJ Watt…etc.. And every year to no avail they go way before us.

  5. Tom says:

    Patriots can offense and defense by adding any of these guys from the draft

    -For Tight ends: (lylera or Fiedorowicz) and amaro

    -For wr: matthews, colemon, robinson, or Abbrederis

    -For Rb: Sims
    add another player like vereen

    -For Safety: Sunseri, Ward

    -For cb: Jean-Baptist (helped his stock senior bowl), Purifoy, Roberson, Gaines, or Verrett

    -For de/dt interior pass rush: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina, Michael Sam DE/OLB, Mizzou, Ra’Shede Hageman DL

  6. trent says:

    This will be a better article to post what I wrote last night in a previous article, so I will be guilty of re-posting here:

    Following the recent conversations on this website regarding Nix being or not being available at the end of RD1, I want to mention a trend I have noticed the last couple of years following the draft—big DT’s/NT’s have been the hardest position for me personally to forecast in the draft (followed by safeties–but I want to focus on NT here), and seems to be the case with other experts as well in recent years.

    Jonathan Hankins and Jesse Williams last year are two big examples. Late fall/early winter last year, I though Hankins was a top-15 pick–no chance we could get him–and Jesse Williams was a top-64 pick for sure. Devon Still, to a lesser extent, two years ago is a similar recent draftee who I thought would have been a great pick at the end of RD1. And they all fell. Hankins and Still for work ethic issues, Williams for injury flags. Has anyone else noticed the volatility in where the big guys have been getting drafted? Alameda Ta’amu is another one I just thought of–fell to the 4th round. Brandon Thompson to the end of Rd3.

    Anyway, based on my experiences the last few years, I would totally understand if somehow a 340lb guy like Nix with knee problems may be flagged by teams and fall a little bit like some of those guys. Typically teams look for prospects in the first round with the fewest flags on them. Obviously I don’t know the medical details, and teams don’t have them yet either, but just saying, don’t be surprised if he falls into the second round. Medical information is info that teams get that we as fans usually do not. At the very least, don’t reject the possibility that a prospect with one flag on him will be available as a late RD1 choice.

    Thanks

  7. td says:

    Nix sounds like a perfect fit, which means that he will be there at #29, BB will trade the pick thereby causing many fans heart attacks, strokes and cross burnings.

  8. steve earle says:

    If Nix falls to #29 I would love for us to pick him. I just have a problem picturing him going that low.

  9. Matt says:

    The last time the Pats took a WR in the first round was 1996 with Terry Glenn. So the odds of the Pats taking a Wr in the first round is slim to none. And Mallet is worth more then a 4 and 5th round pick. I think he would be a much better QB then Bridgewater. A QB that flicks the ball. A lot of people say hes like a smaller Vince Young. And how well did Young do in the NFL?

  10. Alex (freemanator) says:

    Great breakdown.
    If we were to draft Nix I see him as a guy who can help everyone else perform better. Him and Wilfork next to each other. Do you dare run up the gut? Can you single team either of them? You’ll certainly have to leave Jones and Nink single teamed, unless you are going max protection. And the A gaps should be ripe for blitzing through.

    • Matt says:

      Well if Nix gets picked up early. I would like to see the Pats pick up Mccullers. At 6’8 360 him and Vince standing in the middle would be like trying to run into a brick wall. A lot of people compare Mccullers to Ted Washington in terms of skill and style. And Washington did pretty well when he played for the Pats

      • Alex (freemanator) says:

        Nix would be great because he’s a rare athlete for his size, and he plays like it.

        If we couldn’t get him, then I’d like one of the more disruptive DTs that are available. Either the Do it All types like Hageman and Tuitt, who could both play 5T, 3T or NT. Or the lighter penetrative 3 Techs like Donald, Jernigan, Johnson, Sutton or Easley.

        We don’t need a guy who’s just a big body to slow the run, we need a guy who will make a difference on the line on a regular basis. Nix can do that due to his size and athleticism, by collapsing the pocket, drawing double teams and freeing up others. The other guys can do that via penetration, and/or collapsing the pocket and closing off running lanes.

        McCullers is just too tall, to play NT effectively, and seems like a Terrance Cody type, who will be a sub par run stuffer, that only plays 20% of snaps.

        Ryan Carrethers and Justin Ellis would interest me more as late round NT prospects.

        • Pete H. says:

          I agree with Alex, if you’re just looking for a backup run-stuffer, you might as well stick with Siliga, who could perform in that type of role well. If you’re going to draft a DT in the first, it has to be your long-term replacement for Wilfork, an impact player in the middle of the D-line. If they can’t get that guy and they want a DT, I’d rather see them go for a penetrating DT in the second or later.

        • Matt says:

          Washington was one of the best NT in football. He is 6’5 Mccullers is three inches taller then him at 6’8 and you think three inches would make a huge difference?

        • Alex (freemanator) says:

          It’s not just the height, but how he uses it, or doesn’t. And three inches is a lot in football.
          He doesn’t bend very well, and will get washed out of plays too easily. Better NT prospects available in later rounds than him.

      • steve earle says:

        With all due respect Matt, have you ever seen McCullers play? I’ve watched 3 games now that he has played in and can tell you honestly he was a nonfactor in them. Yes he’s huge but he can’t stay low (doesn’t bend his knees well) so that even 1:1 blocks from a guard can stailmate ( on passes) or move him on runs. Players like DeQuan Jones or Justin Ellis will be far more effective. McCullers is not even close to a Ted Washington, his numbers show that.

        • Matt says:

          He is a bit rough around the edges I agree. You don’t think he could improve by learning from Vince one of the best NT in the NFL?

        • steve earle says:

          I don’t see it as rough around the edged Matt, he lacks the athletic ability. In the 3 games I saw him play he was stonewalled on passing plays consistently, could not get off blocks to go down the line on run plays and lumbered, really lumbered in half hearted
          pursuit on anything outside. On inside runs he was consistently driven out of his hole by double teams by C and G with centers quickly braking off and getting to the second level. I really doubt he will do better against experanced pro linemen.

      • steve earle says:

        Matt, Washington was an athletic 6-5, McCullers is a big, slow nonathletic guy, and with all due respect to Alex, I don’t think height has much to do with it. From games I’ve seen McCuller’s play anyone who has compaired him to Washington had to have done so from hearsay alone. I am not using just my own eyes to say this but by the almost universal opinion from scouts at the Sr.Bowl.

  11. Pete H. says:

    While Louis Nix may be New England’s top choice for their first round pick, my guess is he doesn’t last.

    Here’s my mock, including a trade of Mallet to Houston for their 4th and 5th round picks.

    1st-WR-Robinson
    2nd-G-Jackson
    3rd-C-Richburg
    4th(Houston)-TE-Fiedorowicz
    4th-LB-Tripp
    5th(Houston)-QB-Boyd
    6th-TE-Blanchflower
    6th-RB-McKinnon
    6th(Comp)-CB-Colvin
    6th(Comp)-G-Long
    7th-CB-Williams

    Any picks people like/dislike?

    • steve earle says:

      I like a lot of your picks Pete though I would note Robinson, a great prospect, falls into the “want” catagory rather then a need but a good pick. Other then Boyd QB whom I only saw in the Sr.Bowl where he was terrable and would give a thumbs down on the rest of your mock is pretty good, well done.

    • Jim R says:

      I think you addressed most of the areas of need, I Hope they try and draft quality instead if quantity. They are a very young team and I would like to see them move up in rounds. give me a DL,OL,C and TE with the first 4 picks and they have done well. You know that 2-3 UDFA’s will make the team. You get a QB,RB and C with them. I hope they trade a pick and/ or Mallett for a WR like Fitz or Jackson.

      • Matt says:

        Pats move up in the Draft. I’m still recovering from the shock the last time they did it LOL.

      • Accuan says:

        No you can’t, financially you can’t, doesn’t make any sense, trade down and get depth.

        • steve earle says:

          Well financially it also depends on who gets resigned or not, what free agents they might sign. It could be done just depends on who they are willing to go without. Another factor is the rookie contract caps, it’s not like the old days where the sky’s the limit.






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