With the spread offense keeping larger nose tackles off the field, and the NFL demanding more for their 3-4 and hybrid defenses, a Louis Nix III type of talent becomes a very valuable commodity. With others like Washington's Danny Shelton reportedly returning to school, that only swings the draft better for Nix, as long as he's medically cleared.
“Irish Chocolate” is the target nose tackle for needy teams in the 2014 NFL Draft. In a 3-4, he's got the potential to be as valuable as a Poe at the nose. In the 4-3, he could be a Pat Williams type of defensive tackle.
For a 350-pound athlete, he moves very well. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate much into pass rushing. In recent history, we've seen John Jenkins, a run-stopper with little to no pass rushing ability, “slip” until late Day 2 of the draft. While nose tackles aren't known for rushing the passer, a team will likely look for a three down player, if they're drafting said player in the first round. I'm not sure that Nix has warranted the ability to lineup on third downs at the next level. On the flip side, though, Vince Wilfork is someone that many teams would pay a fortune for, and he doesn't rush the passer very well. If you're a great nose tackle in many other aspects, you can get away with the lack of third down upside. At this point, though, I think Nix is a little too top heavy to do much on third-and-four or longer.
The place where Nix “wins” is the run game. In college, Nix saw double teams regularly and continued to push through them. Not only that, but the fight didn't dwindle as the game, and double teams, went along. It wasn't rare to see Nix playing 60 snaps and never take a play off. His conditioning is amazing for an athlete his size. By drawing double teams, he opened up the field for other defenders; and by beating the double teams, he gave Notre Dame an even bigger advantage on a snap-to-snap basis. That is ultimately what teams are looking for out of him.
The two causes for consern with Nix are his weight fluxuation and his medical clearance.
His weight has been reported between 320 pounds and 355 pounds. If he gets too large, he could potentially lose explosiveness and elite conditioning for his size. The consistency of an NFL weight and diet program will do someone like Nix good.
Nix had end of the season knee surgery, which sounds a lot worse than it actually is. He had meniscus surgery, which usually is a quick process, and was already walking freely soon after the procedure. While it may not be something to worry about, it's something that every team will need to check off before finishing their evaluation on the big man.