The Buffalo Bills’ defense was inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Some players throughout the front seven that were productive in Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz’ defensive schemes that were based on 4-3 concepts weren’t able to replicate that success in their new roles. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look Virginia Tech edge defender Dadi Nicolas.
Dadi Nicolas was a four-year starter for the Virginia Tech where he recorded 165 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, 41 QB hurries, seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles, an interception and blocked two field goals.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
Dadi Nicolas Size/ Physical Attributes
Dadi Nicolas is one of the more intriguing edge rushing prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft class as he possesses ideal length and athleticism for the position. At the 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl, Nicolas measured in at 6’3” and 235 pounds with 35 ¼” arms and 10 ½” hands and his length will certainly intrigue NFL evaluators. However, his 235-pound frame will be a concern as he won’t be able to play with his hand in the dirt as a base end as he did during his collegiate career, so he’ll need to transition to a rush linebacker for a 3-4 team or a “SAM” linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
Dadi Nicolas Pass Rush Ability
Prior to his senior season, Dadi Nicolas was extremely productive as an edge rusher and finished his junior campaign with 71 tackles, 18 for a loss, 8.5 sacks and 26 hurries. He shows incredible burst off the snap and has great speed and a relentless motor that make him a handful for opposing linemen to handle. Nicolas has ridiculously long arms that he’ll use to his advantage to beat linemen with either inside or outside moves.
In the following play against Ohio State, Nicolas shows his burst and the ability to bend the corner. He beats the right tackle, drawing a hold, and the pressure forces quarterback J.T. Barrett to leave the pocket and a fellow Hokie is able to chase him down for a sack
This speed and ability to bend the corner shows up again in the same game, as Dadi Nicolas gets around the right tackle, once again forcing the quarterback to run. Nicolas doesn’t give up on the play though, and quickly changes direction, using his length to split a sack with his teammate.
Dadi Nicolas has developed a lethal inside spin move that lets him recover if an opposing lineman forces him to get too far outside. Here against N.C. State, Nicolas embarrasses the right tackle before overpowering the running back and nearly bringing down quarterback Jacoby Brissett for a sack.
He uses the spin move again against the Buckeyes, getting pressure on the quarterback and it results in an interception.
After his productive 2014 season, Nicolas returned for his senior year, but was moved from a traditional defensive end role inside where he primarily aligned as a three or five-technique defensive tackle, which is very odd considering his light, lanky frame.
He still managed to make an impact from an interior position, although it didn’t show up on the stat sheet as Nicolas finished his senior year with 45 tackles, seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks and just five QB hurries.
Here, Nicolas blows up an option play against N.C. State from the defensive tackle position, splitting between two offensive linemen and bringing down Jacoby Brissett before he has a chance to toss the ball to the running back.
From the five technique, Dadi Nicolas uses his speed and length on an inside rush, bull-rushing Ohio State’s right guard into the lap of the quarterback before bringing him down for a sack.
While Nicolas definitely flashes as a pass rusher, his lack of size can prove to be a major issue for him at times. He lacks the core strength and bulk in his lower body to consistently convert speed to power in his rushes and can get forced around the arc relatively easily by stronger tackles.
Here, Pitt right tackle T.J. Clemmings, who was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2015 NFL Draft takes Nicolas out of the play with a simple push.
Dadi Nicolas Run Support
Dadi Nicolas can struggle to play the run, with the primary issues stemming from his skinny legs and lack of overall strength to hold his own at the point of attack. He can make splash plays by using his speed and length to disengage from blocks, as he does here against N.C. State.
But when Nicolas needs to set the edge against the run, he struggles to stand his ground as you can see in the following play against the Miami Hurricanes’ right tackle, who pushes him away from the play with ease.
Here, he’s absolutely manhandled by Pitt’s tight end #83 who walks him nearly 10 yards backwards.
Dadi Nicolas Coverage Ability
Dadi Nicolas is a fantastic athlete, which is why he’d be best suited for a 3-4 edge role or a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3. He’s fluid when dropping into coverage and can flip his hips and run, while showing great range and closing speed.
Here, he drops into coverage on a zone blitz between the hashes. As Jacoby Brissett dumps it off to the running back in the flat, Dadi Nicolas flips his hips and changes direction with ease before chasing him down to the sideline.
Potential Fit with Buffalo Bills
Dadi Nicolas is an interesting player that will almost certainly blow up the NFL Combine. He definitely has some work to do if he wants to be anything more than a sub-package player in the NFL, but he has a frame that can stand to put on 10-15 pounds without sacrificing athleticsm. In Rex Ryan’s multiple defense, Nicolas could be a fit as an edge rusher or a SAM linebacker depending on the situation.