Editor's Note: This is a reader submission from CAeveryday, and is a fantastic read. Want to write a draft profile? Email me and let me know. -Matt
This past year the Colts were one of the worst teams in the NFL at protecting the quarterback, and with Andrew Luck being the present and future of the franchise, keeping him on his feet will be the first offseason priority for Ryan Grigson. Depth and talent will be a necessity for the Colts front five. One player who can bring both to the roster is Xavier Nixon out of Florida.
Nixon was a four star recruit from North Carolina and got immediate playing time with the Gators as a true freshman, seeing action in 10 games and starting the last five at left tackle, protecting Tim Tebow's strong side, and earning himself an SEC All-Freshman selection. The following season he started 8 of the 12 games he played in, mostly at the right tackle position. During a coaching transition at Florida, the Gators Offensive Line went through a few shuffles, resulting in Nixon continuing to get inconsistent starts in his junior season, totaling 9, all at left tackle. Finally, as a senior Nixon solidified himself on the left side of the ball with 11 starts protecting the blind side.
He was invited to the 2013 NFL combine, but did not participate in workouts, sighting a minor hamstring problem. He hopes to instead impress scouts during Florida's Pro Day on March 12th. Nixon was able to get some spotlight during the Senior Bowl week, and here is one of the comments on his skills after some of the practices:
Florida tackle Xavier Nixon has also moved around the offensive line this week, seeing extensive time at left tackle, where he lined up mostly in Gainesville, but also taking reps inside at left guard on Tuesday. He flashed the hand strength to deliver a jolt off the snap and hold his ground, but his best attribute is his feet and athleticism, which makes him a better fit on the outside. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
The immediate reaction of most scouts to Nixon's skillset is how naturally talented and balanced he is as a blocker, showing strong hands and fluid movements as he forces rushers to the outside. Some of the glaring weaknesses are that he lacks consistency, often making mental errors when attempting to read a defense and being slow at the snap from time to time. He is touted as a great run blocker, helping teammate Mike Gillislee run for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, but needs to improve his pass-protection as the entirety of the Gators passing game struggled mightily.
All of this being said, there is no question that Xavier Nixon would be somewhat of a project player for the Colts, but with a whole lot of upside and untapped talent that NFL coaches could certainly find. He has a great build at 6'6" and 321 lbs., fantastic reach with 33 ½" arm length and 10 1/8" hands, as well as rare athleticism for a lineman, all of which provides great building blocks for turning Nixon into a stud lineman. Spending his time in the defensively driven SEC, he had respectable success protecting Gator quarterbacks from elite pass-rushers such as Jarvis Jones, Tank Carradine, Barkevious Mingo, and Jadeveon Clowney (all probable 1st round draft picks) giving him invaluable experience at the collegiate level.
Recently, it has been reported that the Colts are going to pursue OG Louis Vasquez, one of the top free agent lineman. If the front office can convince Vasquez to make the move to Indy as the new right guard, hopefully he, with Anthony Costanzo at left tackle, and either Samson Satele or A.Q. Shipley at center, will provide a strong backbone for the Colts new offensive line. That does still leave some room for improvement at left guard and right tackle. Xavier Nixon will most likely be slotted in as a tackle at the next level, and drafting him will provide great offensive line depth that the Colts are longing for, a talented long-term player in the making, and even let him compete for the open right tackle position.
Nixon is currently projected as a middle-round draft pick, falling somewhere between the 4th and 6th. Depending on how well the Colts fill up their needs in Free Agency and what positions they decide take with the #24 and #86 picks, drafting him in the 4th round, or later if he falls, would mean that Indianapolis would be bringing in a high-ceiling prospect that could help keep Luck's jersey clean for many years.
Presents a long, athletic build, and when balanced, he can utilize that length and his lateral agility to maintain distance with edge rushers. Anchors against bull rushes fairly well considering athletic build.
Gets in trouble relying too much on his reach, however, and not moving his feet to cut off the corner and inside lane in pass protection. Known for whiffing on his strong punch against better players, and is also apt to lean into his man, opening the door for better opponents to rip down and get free of his grasp.
Strengths: Natural in space with very good flexibility and bend. Stays balanced in pass protection with rare athleticism and fluidity for the position. Effortless kickslide with the feet to easily mirror defenders. Extends his hands to jolt rushers while staying coordinated through contact.
Weaknesses: Plays too light and lacks the natural base strength, allowing himself to be bullied backwards. Needs to do a better job pre-snap of recognizing what the defense is planning to do. Too many mental errors over his career and will have moments that leave the coaches scratching their heads. Needs to remain patient in his stand and gets himself in trouble when he lunges.
Compares To: Demetress Bell, OT, Philadelphia Eagles - Although they both need some technique work, Nixon and Bell both have the athleticism and mobility to protect the edge at the next level. Consistency can be an issue, but hard to argue with the raw skills.
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