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2021 NFL Draft: Carolina Panthers select Iowa's Daviyon Nixon in fifth round


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In his only year as a starter for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Daviyon Nixon exploded onto the scene as the most dominant defensive player in the Big Ten Conference.

Now the powerful defensive tackle is going from the black and gold to the black and teal. Nixon on Saturday became the third Hawkeye selected in this year’s NFL Draft, going No. 158 overall to the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round.

Fellow first-team all-Big Ten defensive lineman Chauncey Golston went Friday night in the third round to the Dallas Cowboys. And one pick before Nixon, Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette was nabbed by the Minnesota Vikings.

Nixon (6-foot-3, 313 pounds) elected to leave the Iowa program one year early after earning consensus all-American status and being named Big Ten defensive player of the year.

Nixon took a winding and sometimes bumpy path on his way to becoming an NFL Draft pick. After committing to Iowa, he instead began at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs to get his academics in order. He arrived in Iowa City the next year (spurning an Alabama offer) and redshirted, then put his name in the NCAA transfer portal before returning to Iowa. Finally, in his third college year, he earned a rotational role (averaging about 20-25 snaps a game) before dominating as a fourth-year junior during Iowa’s 6-2 season.

He led all FBS interior linemen with 13½ tackles for loss, but easily his most memorable play of the 2020 season was a 71-yard interception-return touchdown at Penn State — in which his giant body slithered through Nittany Lions to clinch the Hawkeyes’ 41-21 rout in Happy Valley.

Nixon was once forecasted by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. as the top defensive tackle in the draft (and No. 10 overall on his big board), but his stock slipped in recent months. He is the first Iowa defensive tackle to be taken in the NFL Draft since Jaleel Johnson was a fourth-round pick by the Vikings in 2017.