ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both released the second versions of their first round mock drafts on Thursday, and both predicted Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III as the selection the Pittsburgh Steelers will make with the 15th overall selection.
While I project Nix here because he's an obvious system fit working directly over the center or shading a little -- eating gaps and making everyone around him (particularly behind him) more effective -- he actually has decent quickness for such a mammoth human and could also work in a 4-3. To say Nix moves like a 300-pounder is a compliment, and Pittsburgh could use some help on the defensive line, particularly up the middle.
Nix performed better in 2012 than he did in 2013, and he'll be coming off a knee injury, but you simply don't find many players with his enormous size who can move like he does. Nix has the potential to develop into the Steelers' next Casey Hampton and serve as the centerpiece of their 3-4 defensive scheme. He wouldn't be Pittsburgh's only option in this scenario, however; Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert, Notre Dame OT Zack Martin and Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio would all be good fits. The Steelers might be able to get a bigger WR like Fresno State's Davante Adams or Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin on Day 2.
This is not the first time that we've seen Nix mocked to the Steelers by the major media draft analyst and it's sure to not be the last. While Nix is a quality prospect, I still think that the Steelers don't view the nose tackle position as being as big of a need as most make it out to be.
Here are some numbers that I pulled from our 2013 charting project as it relates to the nose tackle position. Outside of goal-line packages when two defensive tackles were on the field together at the same time, the Steelers used a traditional nose tackle on 441 plays in 2013. Of those 441 plays, 250 were charted as runs.
Nix is not a three-down player and if drafted by the Steelers, he would be lucky to see the field as a starter before the 2015 season. With all due respect to McShay, Nix is also not a reincarnation of Casey Hampton, who didn't start as a rookie until Week 7.
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