Could stand to improve pass-rushing moves for the NFL
Could stand to improve his get-off
Lack of length and weight make him a poor fit in a 3-4
Summary: It took some developmental time, but eventually Nixon became a force for Iowa and continued the program's tradition of good defensive line prospects for the NFL. The Kenosha, Wisconsin product started out his career in the junior college ranks before landing with the Hawkeyes. In 2019 as a rotational backup, Nixon made the most of his limited opportunities, notching three sacks and 29 tackles. He became a full-time starter in 2020, producing an excellent 2020 season despite having fewer games to impress. The junior totaled 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and an interception returned 71 yards for a touchdown on the year.
The ability that stands out the most and gets NFL evaluators excited about is how dangerous Nixon is in the pass rush. He is a quick defender at the point of attack with the ability to fire his gap to get penetration upfield. Behind his natural pad level, Nixon aggressively fights through guards and makes it difficult for them to sustain blocks. He does a nice job of using his hands and feet at the same time to get off blocks. That combined with his leverage, makes him difficult to stand up as he just keeps churning up field.
For an interior pass rusher, Nixon is dangerous with special quickness and athleticism. He closes on the quarterback in a hurry and shows good vision, instincts, and awareness to adjust to a moving signal-caller. With natural and functional strength, Nixon can push through blocks and can close in an instant on the quarterback. For the NFL, he could stand to expand his variety in his pass-rushing moves to get after the quarterback but Nixon showed some variety in moves run 2020.
Nixon is a solid run defender, too, possessing a strong, thick lower body to hold his ground at the line of scrimmage. He fills his gap and can be tough to move. Nixon is able to eat up his block, prevent holes from opening up, and maintain gap integrity. As a junior, he improved his ability shed his block to stuff a run near the line of scrimmage or fire into the backfield to disrupt a run off the snap. He also will give an effort to make tackles in the ground game downfield, and he plays with a steady motor.
Nixon could stand to improve his get-off for the NFL. He has the quickness and explosion to be faster off the ball, and pro coaching could help to get upfield quickly. Coming from the junior college level and then being a rotational backup in his first year at Iowa, it is easy to understand that Nixon is a bit raw and inexperienced. But team sources have raved about Nixon's athletic upside and his potential to continue to improve.
For the next level, Nixon's best fit would come as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense. He lacks the length to play five-technique defensive end in a 3-4
Nixon is one of the top, if not the top, defensive tackle prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. Some teams gave him a second-day grade, but given his rare pass-rush ability, he has a good shot at going on the opening night of the draft. Nixon could rise in the interviews and workouts. In this analyst's opinion, Nixon looks like a future first-round pick and won't last long if he were to slip to Round 2.
Player Comparison: Kawann Short. Nixon's speed, athleticism, and build remind me of Short when he was at Purdue. Short was a second-round pick and turned into one of the better interior pass rushers in the NFL before injuries derailed him when he hit age 30. Nixon has a similar style of play to Short (6-3, 315) and could be a similar caliber tackle as a pro.