Iowa Football: Daviyon Nixon ranked inside Mel Kiper’s Top 10 NFL prospects

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released the latest edition of his 2021 Big Board for the upcoming NFL Draft and had Iowa football’s Daviyon Nixon ranked inside the Top 10.

The Iowa Hawkeyes could have a player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft for the third consecutive year. At least, that’s what ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper believes.

In his latest Big Board update (subscripted required), Kiper has Iowa football’s Daviyon Nixon ranked 10th overall among all draft-eligible prospects in 2021. Nixon is also the No. 1 defensive tackle.

Nixon was previously unranked in Kiper’s rankings.

“I was waiting to add Nixon to my rankings. I can’t wait any longer, though,” Kiper wrote. “He has been one of the most dominant and disruptive players in the country in 2020.”

Nixon, a junior college transfer from Iowa Western, only made one start for the Hawkeyes last season but has broken out in a big way in 2020. The former JUCO star was once recruited by Nick Saban and Alabama but chose to stay in-state. He currently leads the Big Ten in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5) and was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year. He’s also a finalist for several national awards.

Nixon’s athleticism and ability to rush the passer as a 305-pound interior lineman is what will stand out most to NFL scouts.

Of course, having the ability to stop the run is a defensive tackle’s main priority. But the great ones can do it all. Primarily a 3-technique defensive tackle, Nixon has shown rare ability to affect the passer from the interior.

It’s not usual to see a 300-pounder with the speed and strength combination that Nixon possesses. In recent years, NFL teams have started grooming interior linemen as pass-rushing specialists as offensive tackles have become more athletic. Essentially, everyone is trying to find the next Aaron Donald. Finding mismatches against less athletic offensive guards creates advantages for defensive linemen with the size and speed to rush from the interior.

Nixon comes readily equipped with the tools to succeed right away in the league. He has the total package; pass-rushing prowess and run-stuffing ability. As a defensive tackle that can stay on the field for all three downs, it’s not a surprise Nixon is ranked inside Kiper’s top 10.

It’s no guarantee Nixon will move to the NFL this spring, though. Currently a junior, Nixon still has a year of eligibility left. If he were to declare, he could join former Hawkeyes Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson and Tristan Wirfs as first-rounders drafted in the past three years.