While Dri Archer may be the biggest name coming out of Kent State this season, he's not the most accomplished. For all of Archer's flash on the offensive side, the Golden Flashes are losing an equally impressive once-in-a-lifetime talent from their defensive front.
Roosevelt Nix was an enigma from the moment he stepped foot on a MAC football field. As a 5-foot-10 inch, 237 pound freshman defensive lineman he wasn't supposed to be a force. He certainly wasn't supposed to come out and record 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and four forced fumbles enroute to becoming the first, and only, freshman to ever win the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award.
But four seasons later, Nix will go down as one of the greatest players in conference history. One of only five players to ever earn first-team All-MAC honors in four consecutive seasons, Nix's numbers were never quite as good as his freshman year, but the small tackle still managed to place himself fairly high up on several NCAA career records lists.
His 65 career tackles-for-loss rank fourth all-time in NCAA history. His 12 career forced fumbles are tied for seventh, and his 24 career sacks are tied for 46th all-time with some players you may have heard of before: Jadeveon Clowney and Ndamukong Suh.
Few players were as naturally disruptive in college as Nix was; no matter what level of competition. He is destruction incarnate. Able to burst into backfields in a matter of seconds thanks to one of the most explosive first steps in college.
It's even more impressive when we consider players such as Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney have a significant size advantage over Nix. No one doubts Nix's high motor, and natural ability of getting into the backfield. But as Nix, who now weighs in at 248 pounds and 5-foot-11, prepares for the 2014 NFL Draft his size is the one thing that could keep him undrafted.
Back in the fall we ranked Nix as the fourth best player in the MAC, and compared to his contemporaries in the 2014 NFL Draft class, Nix ranks 26th among eligible defensive tackles, according to Mocking the Draft. Realistically, Nix won't be drafted or signed to be a defensive tackle. In the NFL where the average weight of offensive lineman is exceeding well over 300 pounds, it doesn't matter how explosive Nix is (and trust me, he's as explosive as they come) he would struggle working on the front line.
But that doesn't mean Nix's future in the NFL is bleak. Gil Brandt of NFL.com calls Nix an "inriguing prospect", and this is not an uncommon opinion of Nix. His technique is near flawless, and clearly he knows how to disrupt plays. Many see Nix being converted to a linebacker, or a stand up edge rusher, similar to the role Elvis Dumervil, who also stands at 5-11 and weighs in at 260 pounds, is doing in Baltimore.
In fact Nix has already shed nearly 20 pounds since the season ended, dropping from 267 pounds in the season, to 248 pounds at his pro day. While his measurables don't jump off the board, they're quite impressive for someone of his size. He ran a 4.79 40-yard-dash, had a 28-inch vertical, and 9-foot-2 broad jump. He also hoisted 22 reps of 225 on the bench. Those numbers compare quite well with many of the OLB prospects, including projected early second-round pick Kyle Van Noy.
His three-cone drill time of 6.90 is spectacular, far better than the times of many OLB prospects.
But even if linebacker isn't an option many teams, including New England, have reportedly expressed interest in potentially using him at fullback, where his athleticism and strength would make him a valuable piece of any rushing attack.
Again, it's unlikely Nix hears his name called in the NFL Draft. It's hard to find anyone who has him going even in the late rounds, but it's unlikely he won't make a roster as an undrafted free agent. There's just too much upside for all 32 teams to pass over him completely. He'll need to continue to work hard and adjust to whatever position he winds up at, but if he can be half as effective in the pros as he was at Dix Stadium, he'll have a nice NFL career.