Two New Mexico defensive standouts from a season ago received invites to participate in rookie camp for the Minnesota Vikings.
The former 2016 2nd team defensive lineman, Nik D’avanzo, will look to make his name heard at Vikings rookie camp later this year. D’avanzo, 6’3” 292 played in 49 games in his four years at New Mexico. D’avanzo had an impressing outing in 2016, totaling 61 tackles and nine of those being for a loss. He also had his career high in sacks last season with five.
D’avanzo is very physical and excels at shedding blocks. He utilizes his hands very well to meet backs at the line of scrimmage. D’avanzo was someone who required a double team on almost every play to be contained. He has a quick burst off the ball and flows sideline to sideline very well. The Lobos take pride in coaching ball pursuit and D’avanzo has exceled in chasing down backs in a triple option filled Mountain West. The NFL is known for being much “bigger and faster” than college ball, but his stature and speed will transition very well into the pros.
D’avanzo will likely be competing with former Southern Mississippi defensive lineman Dylan Bradley for a roster spot. In a defense that thrives off of attacking the quarterback, D’avanzo will have to provide similar production that veteran defensive tackle Linval Joseph and a healthy Sharrif Floyd have given to Minnesota in recent years. The former Lobo has his work cut out for him and it will be very interesting to see how he pans out for the Vikings.
Here are some highlights of D’avanzo showing his ability to shed blockers and make plays in the backfilled. (NSFW)
Similar qualities can be given to the former 2014 first team linebacker Dakota Cox. Cox 6’0” 231 pounds, was also invited to Vikings rookie camp after the drafts conclusion. Cox racked up 403 tackles and 46 games played at New Mexico in four years. He was able to bounce back in a strong style after tearing his ACL after the 2014 season.
Cox has tremendous vision and great play recognition. He was able to lead the Lobo defense as a team captain for two of his four seasons. Cox was a huge piece to the 9-4 season the Lobos put together last year, due to his physicality and knowledge of the game. He exceled in stuffing open holes before the running backs could explode through them, but slightly lacked in pass defense. He will need to work on his pass coverage this offseason if he wants a linebacker spot in Minnesota. With the anchor of the Vikings defense retiring, Chad Greenway, Cox could prove to be a decent replacement if his number is called. In a division with running backs like Jeremy Langford, Ameer Abdullah, and Ty Montgomery, a solid run stopper could be what the Vikings need.
There will likely be competition between Eric Wilson (Cincinnati), Shaan Washington (Texas A&M) and Cox at the rookie camp.
Cox could be a developmental process, and if used correctly, could be a solid contributor for an NFL team. With his ball pursuit capability and surprising closing speed as a linebacker, special teams is always an option for someone like Cox.
Here are highlights of Cox at New Mexico.