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Where will Nixon land in the 2021 NFL Draft?

This news story was published on February 22, 2021.
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Daviyon Nixon has carved out a reputation as a dominant defensive lineman in the college game for the Iowa Hawkeyes. The 22-year-old was a steady presence in his debut campaign as a sophomore, but has taken the next step in his development, becoming a force for the Hawkeyes. 

Nixon notched 45 tackles in only eight matches, 13.5 of which were for a loss. He was also a presence around the quarterback, collecting 5.5 sacks over the course of his junior campaign. Perhaps the most notable play of his college career came with an incredible 71-yard interception for a touchdown against Penn State. It certainly put him on the map across the United States.

The defensive tackle was named as the Big 10 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American due to his exploits. As a result, he has rocketed up boards for the 2021 NFL Draft, including the top 10 of ESPN pundit Mel Kiper’s best players available in the selection process. 

Nixon confirmed that he will enter the 2021 Draft, but the question now is where could he land? And where would be the best fit for one of the Hawkeyes’ most dominant players of recent times?

Detroit Lions

The Lions are in a rebuilding phase after firing general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia during the 2020 campaign. Both men were unable to deliver winning football to the franchise, despite their previous success at the New England Patriots. Detroit have had previous dealings with Iowa in the first round, selecting T.J. Hockenson in the first round of the 2019 Draft with the eighth-overall pick. Hockenson was a superstar for the Hawkeyes, and has been solid in his first two NFL seasons – there will be room for growth in the future. 

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Stout rep from Iowa DT Daviyon Nixon vs Penn St senior center Michael Menet<br><br>Menet wins hat placement off the ball – but watch Nixon fight to get back into playside A-gap. Nixon playing with proper leverage/hands inside – allows him to recover!<br><br>Nixon flying up NFL Draft boards

— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) December 24, 2020

The Lions are scheduled to pick in a similar spot in 2021 and would welcome the presence of Nixon on their defensive line. They’ve struggled against the run and failed to pressure opposing quarterbacks sufficiently, especially during Patricia’s tenure. Nixon would provide a solid building block on the line alongside Trey Flowers and Julian Okwara. The 22-year-old has the ability to transform the defensive line, although the Lions may have other pressing needs on their roster that may see them pass on Nixon. 

New England Patriots

The Patriots are in the very unusual position of picking in the top 15 of the NFL Draft. It has been 12 years since they were last in the spot after failing to reach the post-season for the first time since 2008. New England should be in the market for a quarterback after Cam Newton’s dismal campaign, while Jarrett Stidham does not appear to be the answer in their quest to find Tom Brady’s replacement. 

However, the best quarterbacks could be off the board by that point and the Patriots have a number of holes to fill on their roster anyway. They’re a long way off matching the best in the AFC in terms of talent, notably the Kansas City Chiefs – the leading contenders in the betting odds at +275 for the Super Bowl as of January 1st.

Bill Belichick needs to get star talent back on his roster. During the early days of his reign in New England, Belichick drafted Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. They were the foundation of a dominant defense that guided the Patriots to three Super Bowls in four years. Nixon could fit the mould of what Belichick requires, and he already has a good relationship with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Drafting the 22-year-old would turn the Patriots into contenders once again overnight, but he would shore up their leaky run defense. 

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have a good record in the first round of the NFL Draft. More often than not Jerry Jones hits on his star players, although it has not yielded success for the franchise. Ceedee Lamb appears to be trending in that direction after being selected in the first round in 2020. Leighton Vander Esch, Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith were all named to the Pro Bowl after being picked by Dallas in the first round. 

The franchise has a major need for defensive improvements after a terrible season against the run and the pass. Plugging Nixon into the middle of their defensive line would go a long way to resolving those issues in the 2021 season and beyond. Whether they are in position to acquire him remains to be seen, but he should certainly be top of their agenda. Selecting Nixon would likely continue Jones’ success in the first round. 

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