Let's look at what Derek's football resume thus far in his short career (from Seminoles.com):
· The Seminoles' leading tackler with 81.
· Ranked 19th in the ACC in total tackles.
· Tied for sixth in the ACC with a career-high 15.0 tackles for loss.
· His average of 1.15 TFL per game was among the best in the FBS in 2008 (t-47).
· Fifth in the ACC in fumbles recovered and 23rd in tackles.
· One of only three defensive players (also Everette Brown and Tony Carter) to start all 13 regular season games.
· Started 26 consecutive games (every game in the last two seasons)
· Finished as the Seminoles' leading tackler for the second consecutive season.
· The first Seminole to lead the team in tackles in consecutive seasons since his brother, A.J., during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
· Prior to the Nicholson brothers Marvin Jones was the last player to lead the Seminoles in tackles in consecutive years in 1991 and 1992.
· Season-high of 10 tackles came against Georgia Tech with nine coming against Boston College.
· Had at least five tackles in 11 of the Seminoles' 13 games.
· Second on the team with 15.0 tackles for loss.
· Multiple tackles for loss in four different games - Wake Forest, Colorado and Miami in consecutive games and against Florida.
· A tackle for loss in 10 of the Seminoles' 13 games
· His 15.0 tackles for loss were more than he accumulated in the first three years of his career (10).
· Finished his career with 207 tackles.
· Returned a fumble for a touchdown in the Seminoles' 37-3 rout of Maryland and also scored the first TD of the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl on another fumble return for a TD.
· The return versus the Terps was the first fumble retuned for a touchdown by a Florida State defender since 2006 and the first touchdown of his career.
· Earned his undergraduate degree in sport management in December of 2008.
Junior Year (2007): Florida State's leading tackler with a career-high 99 stops...ranked 13th in the ACC with a career high 7.6 tackles per game...tied for 12th in the ACC for total tackles...earned at least seven tackles in seven of the Seminoles' 13 games...the Seminoles' starter at the middle linebacker position for all 13 games...the only linebacker to start all 13 games for the Seminoles...has played in 31 games during the first three years of his career after playing in only five as a sophomore in 2006 when a knee injury limited his playing time...his career-high 99 tackles in 2007 is more then three times as many tackles as he had during the first two seasons of his career combined...posted a career-high 13 tackles in the Seminoles' Music City Bowl game versus Kentucky...also registered double digit tackles in a victory over Colorado (11), against Miami (10) and at Virginia Tech (10)...ranked fourth on the team with eight tackles for minus yardage to bring his career total to 10...a career-high 1.5 tackles for minus yardage at Wake Forest and in the Seminoles' victory over then-No. 2 Boston College...an All-ACC Academic Team member.
Sophomore Year (2006): Played in five games before injuring his right knee against NC State and missing the remainder of the season with a torn ACL...injured his knee in the first quarter of the Seminoles' game against the Wolfpack...was an impact player on Florida State's third-and-long defense and contributed significantly on special teams...totaled six tackles in five games before being lost for the season...season-high two tackles came against Clemson with one each coming against Miami, Troy, Rice and NC State...his one tackle against NC State earned him credit for one-half of a tackle for minus yardage.
Freshman Year (2005): Played in all 13 games for the Florida State including the Seminoles' ACC Championship game victory over Virginia Tech and the Orange Bowl against Penn State...led all first-year players in tackles with 21 and also registered 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack, spending most of his time on special teams...actually led all defenders in tackles against The Citadel with a career-high nine...had three tackles vs. Duke and Syracuse... credited with a tackle for loss and a half sack vs. the Orange.
High School: Graduated from Mt. Tabor in 2005...was a USA Today All-American second team selection...regarded as one of the top prep linebackers in the country...a four-star player by Rivals.com and the No. 30 overall player in the country...the No. 2 inside linebacker in the country according to Rivals.com ...ranked the No. 7 player in North Carolina...member of the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team and was named MVP in that game...played for the East squad in the Army All-American game in which he led the East team in tackles...finished his career with over 600 tackles, which broke his brother A.J.'s school record...announced his commitment to Florida State live on ESPN News...chose Florida State over North Carolina, Miami, Notre Dame and Texas.
Now, that's not an all-world type of player, but it's also nothing to shake a stick at. Not a lot of dominating, game-breaking play, but consistent nonetheless. His production decreased a bit from 2007 to 2008. However, I think that may be from a decrease in production on the defensive line.
Derek wasn't invited to the NFL combine and most experts don't list him as being drafted at all. Here's my take on why the NFL is overlooking Derek:
1) lack of elite speed for a LB;
2) his brother A.J. was a bust in the NFL and had serious character issues;
3) he may be a bit undersized to be considered a "run-stopper" like he was at FSU.
Although Derek may not be an "elite" first round type prospect, I think he has legitimate NFL potential. I also think he may have more potential than his brother, who was drafted in the 5th round (even with the character issues). Am I missing something here? What are some other thoughts on why he isn't getting attention from the NFL?
In 2005, Lofa Tatupu, a 6-foot, 238-pound linebacker, recorded a very average 4.83 and was selected in the second round. Tatupu has been named to the pro bowl 3x. Apparently, he ran a great short-shuttle time at 4.21 which appears to be the more important drill for MLB's. Source: Wes Bunting, The National Football Post
Anyone know if Derek has run the short-shuttle? If so, what was his time?
Here is a scouting report that thinks that Derek has a shot at a late round draft:
Yet, Nicholson does have good instincts, is a very smart player and seems to always get the job done. He will have some work to do at the combine to match the premiere linebackers in this class. Still, the 6-2, 235 pound Winston-Salem, North Carolina native can sneak into the first day of the draft if his 2008 season goes as well as his 2007 season did.
10/26 Update: Nicholson is continuing his productive collegiate career as a senior. Through seven games, he leads the Seminoles with 41 tackles, nine of which were for a loss. Florida State is having a decent year thus far and is now considered by many the favorite to represent the ACC in a BCS Bowl game. Nicholson and other upperclassman like Everette Brown and Myron Rolle are doing a great job leading a young defensive group and they should all get plenty of exposure throughout the rest of the season. However, for Nicholson, where he goes in the draft will depend a lot on the combine.
1/13 Update: Nicholson ended his senior season ranking first on Florida State with 81 tackles. Fifteen of those tackles were for a loss. Nicholson might not be the best NFL prospect on the Seminoles' defense, but he was certainly the leader of the unit. His intuition and work ethic should make him a solid player in the NFL and some team will be happy to get him in the later rounds.
3/24 Update: Nicholson was not invited to the Senior Bowl or the NFL Combine. That put a lot of pressure on his Pro Day workouts. Nicholson's production in college was pretty impressive, but he does not measure out very well and there are some character issues. That will force him down into the later rounds. Link