Numbers: 6040, 264 pounds, 4.82-4.89 forty-speed
2005 Stats: 30 tackles, 18 assists, 8-29 tackles for loss, 3-16 sacks, 2 pass deflections, 1-0-0 fumble recovery
Who He Reminds Me Of: Ellis Wyms(pictured right), a sixth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2001 who has carved out a nice career as a wave tackle and occasional end.The Player: Nichols is a player who's fun to watch. He's a scrapper who gives his all on every play and tapes of his technique could be used to teach young defensive linemen how to play the right way. He has a strong first step off the ball, stays low and uses his hands in a variety of effective ways. Despite being the only elite player on the defensive line of an also-ran team (the Blue Devils went 1-10 in 2005), he willingly fights off double and triple teams and does the necessary dirty work to free up teammates. Surprisingly strong (the school claims he's capable of a 440-pound bench press) and willing to fight for every fraction of an inch, Nichols has a non-stop motor and tracks the ball astonishingly well.
He has a reputation as an upstanding and intelligent young man and is likely to complete his mechanical engineering degree this season. "I have a lot of respect for Eli," Duke head coach Ted Roof said. "He has made himself into a very solid defensive lineman in this league. Eli is a very accountable football player, and from a coach's perspective, that is worth its weight in gold."
While I have very little doubt that Nichols will make a fine pro lineman, I'm not as sure he'll stay at end. His lack of agility, suddenness and foot speed make him better suited to play inside or as a 3-4 end, despite his lack of bulk. When I have seen him in action, he always seemed to make more plays in traffic — taking advantage of the chaos in the junk — than in space.
How He Fits: The Colts like to rotate and move around their linemen and a guy like Nichols could easily use quickness, determination and technique to take advantage of tired guards and centers late in games. Capable of lining up at any position on the Colts four-man front, Nichols' lack of size probably wouldn't hurt him in the NFL if he is used in the right position at the right time.
Photo: Duke University Athletics