Look no further than Scout.com's mock draft muncher for proof that Louis Nix is the hands-on favorite to become San Diego's first-round pick on Thursday.
Is Nix worth of such a high pick? And what would be bring to the Chargers defense? To find out, we conducted a Q&A with Tim O'Malley, publisher of IrishEyes.com.
Michael Lombardo: What are Nix's strengths and weaknesses?
Tim O'Malley: Aside from his immense strength, Nix possesses unique short-space quickness for a player his size. Blessed with quick feet, Nix has the ability to jump and bat passes despite being engaged by a blocker. One of the most competitive players at the program in recent memory, Nix played through knee pain (and injury) as a senior and with a shoulder injury throughout the team's run to 12-0 in 2012.
He's also a coordinated athlete, finishing tackles/sacks in the pocket.
Though he has a great game-day motor, Nix was repeatedly challenged (prior to his breakout junior season of 2012) to be a better practice player. He'd likely be in for a rude awakening in the NFL if he's not on top of his game Tuesday through Friday.
Nix at times let his emotions get the best of him, so his rookie season in the NFL will be a major adjustment, as frustration will at some point set in facing the best offensive linemen of his short career.
ML: What factors played a role in his somewhat disappointing senior season?
NT Louis Nix
USA TODAY Sports
ML: Will he be able to anchor as a 3-4 nose tackle against the bigger and stronger linemen in the NFL?
TO: Barring injury issues or weight gained as a result, Nix should develop into the ultimate two-gap nose guard. Short-space quickness, quickness off the snap, a competive mean streak and the desire to be great are all factors that should allow Nix to develop into a Pro Bowl-level player during the course of his career.
ML: Do you think he is deserving of a first-round pick? Would reuniting him with Manti Te'o prove particularly helpful to either player?
TO: Unlike his former Irish teammate, Stephon Tuitt, an NFL team isn't taking a chance on Nix, the competitor. The only concern would be a knee injury to a 330-plus pound man, but that's the nature of the NFL Draft.
In his senior season, Te'o was as close to a father figure to Notre Dame's younger defenders as you're likely to find in a college program. He drove Nix, among others, to play at a level far beyond anything Notre Dame fans or coaches had seen from the group in the recent past. There's a memorable sideline scene during Notre Dame's comeback win over Pittsburgh that saved the team's undefeated season in early November in which Te'o is shown imploring a flu-ridden Nix, "Louis! Louis! I need you!" as the defense took the field for a third overtime.
Nix played nearly the entire 60-plus minute contest after spending the week of practice in the university's infirmary with a bad flu. Three overtime sessions later, Nix was still on the field holding the Panthers to a field goal on their final possession, enabling the Irish offense to win with a touchdown run one series later.
Of note, Nix admitted following the season he was jealous of the accolades that both Te'o and Stephon Tuitt received, though that's likely true of any top tier player on that squad -- or any elite college team. Nix just happened to speak truthfully on the matter.
A Notre Dame official told me that if Te'o was No. 1 following the season's film reviews, Nix was "at least 1B" during Te'o's Heisman runner-up campaign.
ML: What is Nix like off the field?
TO: The affable Nix ranks among the most enjoyable interviews in the history of the Irish program. Notre Dame's in-season interview process is regimented, limiting player access aside from team captains. Each time Nix walked into the Guglielmino Auditorium, reporters, both national and local, flocked to him hoping for the quote of the day.
He never disappointed, from discussing eating habits (he had never had a salad until 2011), to estimates of his weight at a given time ("I'd say I'm about 280" when he was notably bigger than 330), to "having more time to watch Breaking Bad" when his season ended due to surgery. Nix would not only fit in with any NFL locker room, but likely any place of business, at least when co-workers gather after the work is done.
His leadership style, (self-described as, "I tell people they suck, and then they want to prove to me they don't suck") might take some tweaking.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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