For my 3rd draft preview, I decided to use the Rich Hill "bulletpoint" template for increased user-friendliness. My first two profiles were a little lengthy so I'll give an abridged film breakdown of the player at the beginning.
Name: Louis Nix III
School: Notre Dame
Size: 6'3, 342 lbs. In other words, big. Large.
Expected Round: Mid 1st to Early 2nd
Strengths: Nix can function as a space eater inside, creating opportunity for others (ex. Manti Teo). Shoots gaps well in the running game and gets off the line with good burst and pad level. Uses hands well to punch defenders out of the way and plug up holes in the running game. Has experience facing double teams and handles them well, sometimes driving both defenders back. Doesn't quit when he's over matched by multiple guys, sometimes splitting double teams with his quickness. Strong pass rusher for an interior lineman. Didn't put up too many sacks, but consistently pushed the pocket. Signature move is bull rush, which allows him to get pressure up the middle and limit the QB's ability to step up. Gets hands up to disrupt the QB's passing lanes.
Weaknesses: Nix struggled with endurance in his career. His physical peak was during the 2012 season, and he's still trying to get back to that level. Nix has room to improve as a pass rusher in terms of diversifying his moves. While he is quick for a man his size, he needs to develop better counter moves (rips/swims/spins). His lack of pass rush moves limited his ability to finish off the QB on multiple instances.
There is also the question of Nix's health. Nix battled knee problems last season, which contributed to a bit of a down year. Teams will be concerned about his long term future in the league before spending a high draft pick on him. According to National Football Post, Nix is working out in preparation for the Combine. His performance there will have a big impact on where he is drafted.
What is his role? Nix played the traditional Nose Tackle role in Notre Dame's 3-4 defense, meaning he could serve as insurance and depth behind Vince Wilfork when the Patriots elect to use those fronts. Nix isn't limited to that role, however. Greg Knopping explained this perfectly in his article on Nix:
Nix could be a potential first and second down player in either the 3-4 or the 4-3 as a rookie and is more nimble than advertised and could therefore potentially play in some sub-packages as well.
Bill Belichick values versatility on defense, as it allows for a crux in case of injury as well as the ability to tailor your scheme based on matchups. The Pats alternated between a 4-3 and 3-4 as their base defense multiple times in 2013 due to the loss of Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Tommy Kelly. I can envision Nix having immediate impact as a traditional 0 technique in a 3-4, while providing depth as an attacking one technique in a 4-3 (think Haloti Ngata), and nickel DT, on the condition he keeps his weight down. For example:
In the nickel 2-4-5, (usually employed by 3-4 teams) Nix could serve as the one technique lined up on the inside shoulder of the guard.
In the 4-2-5, (usually employed by 4-3 teams) Nix would once again be the one technique lined up inside the guard.
Will it change from year 1 to year 2? With Vince Wilfork expected to make a return next season, Nix would likely see time as his direct backup, with some extra work coming as a one technique in sub packages. By his second year, he would be expected to take more and more snaps in the 3-4 from an aging Wilfork, who would be 34 by the start of Nix's sophomore season. In addition, Nix could develop a starting role as a DT in the base 4-3 if he is able to leapfrog Sealver Siliga/Joe Vellano on the depth chart. If the Patriots drafted Nix and kept Wilfork for 2-3 years, I would expect BB to employ a versatile scheme to maximize the talents of both players as much as possible.
How many downs can he play? With his stamina and possible knee concerns, I can't project Nix to be a sure three down player at this point. While his quickness could allow him to play in some sub packages, he had some struggles with endurance at Notre Dame, so he would probably be more effective overall if he was subbed out on some third downs. He is currently working on bringing his weight down to 330 lbs. which could help with his knee issues, but it is still something to be monitered going forward.
Which current player will he beat out? I can see Nix quickly passing Joe Vellano on the depth chart while challenging Sealver Siliga for the #2 DT role next to Vince Wilfork.
What’s his ST value? Down lineman on FG/Punt Unit. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Does he have positional versatility? See "What is his role?"
*Also serves as emergency QB* (not really though)
Louis Nix Two-Point Conversion - Notre Dame Football (via WatchND)
Why the Patriots? With Vince Wilfork coming off the dreaded Achilles tear, Louis Nix could serve as a great fallback option for the Patriots. And if Wilfork returns and is back to his old self, Nix will be able to give him the occasional breather (which he could have used the past few seasons) while also bolstering the Patriot run defense and interior pass rush. In passing situations, Nix's bull rush could take a lot of pressure off the outside pass rushers, particularly Chandler Jones. In addition, Nix will have the best mentor he could possibly have in Wilfork as a player and a person.
Why not the Patriots? The Patriots could pass on taking Nix if they are sold on the health of Wilfork (they know infinitely more than we do about his recovery) and the play of Sealver Siliga and Joe Vellano. Also, at 29, Nix might be a little out range for the Pats. Other than that, there is a minor concern with Nix's health that could cause the Pats, or any team for that matter, to hesitate. However, I could totally see this working to the Patriots advantage, allowing them to get good value at 29. It all depends on the individual perspective of the team doctors. Although the injury was different, the Eddie Lacy situation from last year's draft comes to mind.
Verdict: Nix is a talented prospect that fits the short and long term needs of the defense. There is also the Brian Kelly connection that Belichick has developed in the last couple of years; Kelly's endorsment of Nix or DE Stephen Tuitt could increase the chances of one of them landing on the Patriots. Overall, I would be very pleased with the Pats drafting Nix as long as team doctors are sold on his long term health.
Bleacher Report (Injury report)
Bleacher Report (Nickel defense pictures)