Scales tip in Nix’s favor at Combine

South Bend Tribune

On Friday, former Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix posted on his Twitter account that if a follower guessed what Nix’s weight would be during his weigh-in at the NFL Combine, Nix would reward them with a follow.

Turns out the winning guess was 331 pounds. That weight wasn’t only a win for some lucky Nix follower, but also a win for Big Lou himself.

The 6-foot-2 Nix, who was listed at 357 pounds in ND’s media guide, and whose senior season was cut short by a knee injury, took a big step toward improving his draft value with Saturday’s weigh-in at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“I think that’s a really good number,” analyst Scott Wright of said. “If he had come in 10, 15, 20 pounds heavier, it would have been a real warning sign, whereas now I think teams are going to feel a little more comfortable that that’s not going to be a huge issue.”

Nix wasn’t the only former Irish player, or defensive lineman for that matter, to make a positive impression at Saturday’s weigh-in day for defensive linemen and linebackers.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt weighed in at 304 pounds after beginning the season at 322 per the ND media guide. The 6-5 Tuitt had been listed at 303 pounds as a sophomore in 2012.

“That’s really good,” Wright said of the 304. “That’s basically back where he was a couple of years ago when he was playing at his peak level.

“Everyone’s kind of down on Tuitt right now, and there’s reason to be — he didn’t have a great season and he was out of shape, but boy, if he reverts to the form he showed a couple years ago, I think he’s going to open some eyes.”

One guy who may have opened some eyes on Saturday was former Irish tight end Troy Niklas, who, like Tuitt, bypassed his senior season to enter the draft.

The eye-opening provided by Niklas, according to Wright, came during the weigh-in.

“He looks the part. He is absolutely ripped physically,” Wright said of Niklas, who checked in at 6-6, 270. “I think just showing up at that weigh-in and taking his shirt off, he probably made a positive impression.”

One area in which Niklas has yet to make a positive impression is in the 40-yard dash, which he did not run on Saturday. A good time, Wright said, could help plant Niklas as the No. 2 tight end in the draft behind Eric Ebron of North Carolina.

“Of course, speed is going to be a big question mark with (Niklas),” Wright said. “Let’s face it, when teams draft a tight end in the early rounds, they’re not drafting blockers, they’re drafting guys that can be dynamic pass-catchers. Niklas needs to run well whenever he does to kind of alleviate that concern.”

Niklas wasn’t the only former ND player who did not run the 40 at Saturday’s testing, as ND product Zack Martin also chose not to run at the Combine.

Martin, however, may be climbing even higher in the eyes of scouts as other offensive linemen show warts.

“For Zack Martin, it’s kind of a war of attrition for him. Some of the other guys maybe having disappointing results maybe helped him,” Wright said. “I think some other guys maybe dropping off around him is probably boosting his stock more than anything he did.”

Former Irish offensive guard Chris Watt, who is projected by Wright to go in the Round 3-5 range, according to ran the 40 on Saturday in 5.5 seconds. Michigan’s Taylor Lewan was the top offensive lineman on Saturday in the category, registering a time of 4.87 seconds.

Watt is at a position that Wright sees as one of the deepest in the draft. The recovery time from the knee injury is allowing others to perhaps jump Watt.

“There’s plenty of tape on him from his college career. We know what type of player he is,” Wright said, “but these are missed opportunities where you don’t have a chance to put your best foot forward and make a case why you should be selected ahead of someone else.”

Saturday’s results

Zack Martin: Broad jump: 106 inches (tied for 11th among offensive linemen)

Three-cone drill: 7.65 seconds (14th among offensive linemen)

20-yard shuttle: 4.59 seconds (12th among offensive linemen)

Chris Watt: 40-yard dash: 5.5 seconds (Michigan’s Taylor Lewan ran the fastest 40 among offensive linemen at 4.87 seconds)

Troy Niklas: Broad jump: 114 inches (tied for 11th among tight ends)

Three-cone drill: 7.57 seconds (12th among tight ends)

20-yard shuttle: 4.55 seconds (11th among tight ends)

60-yard shuttle: 12.19 seconds (tied for second among tight ends)

Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/MICHAEL CONROY)