Xavier Nixon’s phone rang during the draft, but it wasn’t a team making that call that every prospect looks forward to. The Redskins were on the other end and they had good news and bad news. The bad news was that they wouldn’t be able to pick him.
“They [the Redskins] actually called during the draft and told me they had used their last pick, and they were surprised to see me still on the board at that point and they would pick me up after the draft was over,'' Nixon told the Fayetteville Observer the day after the draft ended. “That pretty much made my decision right there.”
The Redskins may have been interested in taking Nixon with their seventh-round pick. But, according to Mike Shanahan, they were surprised to see that Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison still on the board when their selection came up and they believed the could not let him get by.
They ended up getting both players as Nixon agreed to a contract with the Redskins and reported to the team’s rookie camp last weekend.
“I was a little anxious [during the draft process] but everything happens for a reason and I’m glad I ended up in a place where I fit the system and I have the ability to work hard to get better,” he told reporters at Redskins Park.
Some were puzzled that Nixon was still available even in the seventh round. He started at least five games in each of his four years at Florida. At 6-foot-6 and 321 lb. he had the perfect build for an NFL offensive lineman and his athletic ability added to the package. NFL.com had him graded higher than 15 other offensive linemen who got drafted, including one that went in the fourth round.
But while there was some good game video on Nixon there were some bad games as well. He struggles with inconsistency. From the NFL.com scouting report:
Gets in trouble relying too much on his reach, however, and not moving his feet to cut off the corner and inside lane in pass protection. Known for whiffing on his strong punch against better players, and is also apt to lean into his man, opening the door for better opponents to rip down and get free of his grasp. Length is negated by lack of technique.
The lack of technique will likely be the focus of offensive line coach Chris Foerster. If they can get him using proper fundamentals, the consistency should come.
Nixon played both guard and tackle at the Senior Bowl. While he may be too tall to work in the interior on a full-time basis, Mike Shanahan values versatility in his offensive linemen. Being able to fill in at guard would help Nixon’s chances of sticking around.
Nixon said that not being drafted would not necessarily serve as motivation. “Regardless of if I’d gone the first pick or not picked at all in the situation I am I’ve got to stay hungry and stay true to myself,” he said. “I know where I came from and I know the people and what I’m working for so I’ll always be hungry.”
Nixon said that the Gators ran a lot of zone blocking and he believes that the Redskins’ system plays to his strengths. “The scheme, my speed and athleticism, I fit perfectly in what’s going on here,” he said.
He was asked again about not being drafted and he insisted that it doesn’t matter.
“All that, at this point, is irrelevant,” he said. “All I can do is worry about the future, where my work ethic will take me.
“This is a new beginning for me and I’m going to start fresh.”
If he proves to be coachable and makes sufficient progress he could have a role on the team this year. That probably would be a practice squad spot in 2013 but if he learns to use his physical gifts he could be in the mix for a roster spot next season. While the Redskins seem to be content with Tyler Polumbus at right tackle for the time being, they are not financially committed to him for the long term and they would welcome an upgrade.
If Nixon can work himself into that job, or even into a solid backup role, the Redskins will have themselves quite a steal. If he doesn't make, they will have lost nothing.