With the 185th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers selected Nick Niemann, linebacker from Iowa University. Nick Niemann’s family has football in its blood. His father, Jay, is currently an assistant coach at Rutgers University. His older brother, Ben, is a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, a divisional rival. Growing up in a strong football environment, it’s no wonder that Nick would try to make the pros as well. And now, his dream has come true.
Being a day three pick, expectations for Niemann should be kept reasonable. He’s expected to contribute mainly on special teams and to fill out the depth chart. However, can Niemann prove he’s worth more than that? Like Brenden Jaimes, can he claw his way to a starting role? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
This is the Nick Niemann rookie profile.
- Stays with assignments. Niemann has the physical ability and instincts to keep up with tight ends or running backs in coverage. Being able to stay with designed assignments is an underrated ability for linebackers. It provides a sense of reliability that the linebacker won’t get burned in coverage too often.
- Good tackling form. Niemann’s tackling form is quite solid, allowing him to be a strong finisher on tackles. Though he may not be able to tackle through sheer force, he makes up for it with his well-honed technique. His consistency in tackling can prove beneficial both on defense and special teams.
- Good burst speed. Niemann has a spring in his step, which is a fantastic skill to have. His ability to burst at the snap can help with clogging holes on run plays and staying with speedy targets on pass plays. Combined with his sold tackling, Niemann could be a solid piece on the depth chart if he bulks up.
- Undersized. This seems to be a trend for the Chargers’ draft picks this year. First Asante Samuel Jr., then Chris Rumph II, and now Nick Niemann. At 6’3, 234 pounds, Niemann is sligthly below the desired parameters for an NFL-level linebacker. He simply need to pack on more muscle, particularly in his legs, to help with tackling bulkier running backs.
- Subpar coverage recognition. Niemann, though he can stay with assignments well, can often get caught by his lack of adaptability. If the opposing offense audibles, or a player runs a route that is unexpected, Niemann tends to get fooled. Niemann would need to focus heavily on film study and confidence to adjust his coverage schemes base to his opponents’ lineups.
- Relies too much on technique. While it is important to have a solid technique, Niemann’s overreliance on it will not transate well to the NFL level. Relating to his lack of size, his lack of power will prove his technique ineffective when facing off against larger and bulkier opponents. If he blitzes, he could be overpowered by speedy linemen. Also, when trying to tackle running backs like Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb, he will risk getting bulldozed.
In short, Nick Niemann is yet another potential diamond in the rough for the Chargers. Tom Teleseco seems like he was intent on finding raw prospects with high potential. Whether Niemann can live up to that potential is unclear, but the fact remains that the talent is there. As it stands, he will likely be used solely on special teams. However, if he gains some muscle mass and studies film diligently, he can possibly see some first-team reps. It’s honestly difficult to imagine that he amounts to more than that, but it’s impossible to deny his potential to be a late-round gem. This was the Nick Niemann rookie profile.