Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The New Orleans Saints have a long history of finding valuable undrafted free agents, and they are hoping 2014 is no different. Today we focus on one of these prospects, linebacker TraShaun Nixon from New Mexico State.
At 6’0”, 235 pounds, Nixon has good-but-not-great size to be an NFL linebacker. He played outside in a 4-3 system with the Aggies, so it’s a bit unclear where exactly he fits in the Saints’ hybrid defense. Nixon, a JUCO transfer, finished his career with 189 tackles (23 for a loss) and five sacks in just two seasons with New Mexico State.
He did not get invited to the 2014 NFL Combine, but scouts began to notice Nixon during his private workouts. He ran the 40-yard dash in the high 4.5s/ low 4.6s, showing that he has the speed needed to compete at the pro level. While he didn’t have the hype of a big-school prospect, Don Banks from Sports Illustrated listed him as a potential post-draft impact player.
It’ll be interesting to see where he fits into the Saints scheme as training camp starts. Again, he played outside in college, but will likely get a shot to play weak side inside linebacker with New Orleans. To succeed in the Saints’ system, you need to have positional versatility, and Nixon fits the bill in that regard. He likely won’t be a consistent contributor to the defense this season, but has some definite upside.
While it’s obviously too early to peg him as a sure thing to make the 2014 roster, there is some hope that he could contribute this year, mainly as a special teamer. Even if he never becomes a staple of the New Orleans D, he’ll still be a steal if he can make plays in punt and kickoff coverage.
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