Oregon’s Bo Nix Is Upper-Echelon 2024 NFL Draft Prospect

With three 2024 quarterback evaluations done, I’ll continue to preview the 2024 NFL quarterback class with the University of Oregon signal caller Bo Nix.

Others in series: Drake Maye | Caleb Williams | Michael Penix Jr.Jordan Travis | Quinn Ewers | Joe Milton

Bo Nix Evaluation

Who is Bo Nix?

Nix came to the University of Auburn as a highly touted, five-star recruit with sky-high expectations as the son of former Tigers QB Patrick Nix. He met those expectations initially after leading Auburn to a 9-4 record and being selected 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year. 

Unfortunately, Nix did not progress in the next two seasons. The departure of his 2019 offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, to Florida State likely was one reason.

Auburn’s team performance also regressed in Nix’s sophomore and junior seasons, going 12-9 in his 21 starts. He struggled with inconsistent accuracy and had his 2021 season cut short after 10 games due to an ankle injury that required surgery.

After the 2021 season, Nix took a huge but educated gamble. He gave up his final two seasons at Auburn to transfer to Oregon, where he believed he could maximize his skillset and productivity. There, Nix was reunited with Dillingham. 

At Oregon, with excellent coaching, offensive structure and a talented offensive line, Nix took the leap that was expected of him earlier in his career. He completely reset the narrative with career highs in passing yards (3,594), passing touchdowns (29), completion percentage (71.9) and rushing touchdowns (14). He threw only seven interceptions.

Oregon’s use of bubble screens (more than 37 percent of Nix’s passes were behind the LOS) is one factor for Nix’s bump in completion percentage from around 60 percent at Auburn to 71.9 percent last season. Still, he completed 60 percent of passes beyond 40 yards (nine of 15).

After watching his performance against UCLA and the final two games vs. Oregon State and North Carolina, the coaching and quality of offensive structure were visible. They validated why Dillingham was hired as the head coach at Arizona State. 

The Ducks added former UTSA co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Will Stein to replace Dillingham, and it’s unclear how this new marriage will work. Still, I am hopeful the offense will allow Nix to be highly productive during this career-defining season.

Oregon QB Bo Nix

What Bo Nix Does Well

On tape, Nix shows fluid athleticism and high-end throwing mechanics. He is well-coached in this area with disciplined drops, high and tight staging of the ball, nimble footwork, the ability to flip his hips to square to his target and a quick-twitch, over-the-top throwing motion.

It’s impossible to fully appreciate a quarterback’s arm talent without seeing him play live, but Nix appears to drive the ball with high-end velocity. His throwing demeanor shows that he has complete faith in his arm. Nix can throw with varying velocity and trajectory on short and deep passes to hit receivers with well-located throws.

Of the 2023 and 2024 quarterbacks I’ve evaluated, Nix is the only one with a consistent ability to hit back-shoulder throws up the sidelines on go routes. 

That is a requirement for an NFL quarterback, and Nix displays the ability to win by throwing to receivers with a pressing, bump-and-run defender. On such throws, he showed high-end flashes of ball placement. Nix proved he could keep the football in play, allowing his receivers to get the ball with back shoulder and over-the-top throws.

Pre-snap, Nix appeared to be in total control of the offense at the line of scrimmage. He took calls from the sideline, changed protections, called audibles, and, when necessary, used hand signals to get the Oregon receiving corps in a position for a successful play. 

Post-snap, he looked mentally sharp with high-level spatial awareness, quick decision-making and the ability to get through progressions. Nix took only six sacks last season. That was due to sound pass protection coupled with Nix’s ability to sense pressure, calmly slide to the quiet area of the pocket, find his hot receiver and quickly get the ball out accurately.

As a coach, you work to prepare a quarterback to play the game with a quiet mind. Nix has this quality.

Nix’s final throw of the 2022 season in the Ducks’ Holiday Bowl win against North Carolina perfectly illustrated his ability to win against the blitz. He beat the blitz by finding his hot receiver on fourth-and-2 from the 6-yard line, leading to a winning touchdown. 

On this play, Nix showed the intelligence to recognize the free rusher and throw hot, as well as the “it” factor to make crucial game-changing plays that put his team in a position to win. 

That “it” factor showed up in his first collegiate game when he led Auburn to a comeback victory against Justin Herbert and Oregon.

While his arm talent and poise are a big part of why Nix is a high-level prospect, his athleticism is also a big boost. With a lean, muscular frame and good foot speed for the position, Nix can buy time and escape the pocket with twitchy athleticism. 

That ability to play on the move outside the pocket is necessary in the modern NFL. Coordinators cannot always make the perfect call. Having a quarterback with playmaking ability to get the play caller off the hook by manufacturing big improvisational plays with his arm or legs is crucial.

Bo Nix Oregon quarterback

How Nix Can Improve

While Nix mostly shows high-end mechanics and accuracy, there are some inexplicable anomalies on intermediate throws where the ball simply dies on him. On tape, it does not seem to result from a mechanical error. Any evaluator would need to do a complete vetting of Nix’s tape and speak to him in person to understand why this intermittent issue occurs.

These fleeting moments of erratic accuracy reportedly plagued him at Auburn. They are still an issue that can be remedied through the summer and training camp.

Although he threw only seven interceptions last season, four were in or near the red zone. A forced pass, a tipped ball and a few arguably reckless decisions resulted in turnovers that took points off the board.

Nix has some minor parts of his game to improve, such as easily correctable drop-back issues. Like many young quarterbacks, he must also learn to slide to protect the ball and himself. Finally, he must clean up his lackadaisical ball security outside the pocket. 

While his carefree carriage of the ball on the move did not negatively impact him in 2022 (he had six fumbles his freshman season), it’s another skill he should work on this offseason. Needing work in this area is not unusual, and I would encourage all quarterbacks to look at Joe Burrow in his senior year at LSU. 

Burrow showed elite fundamentals and conscious effort in and out of the pocket to protect the ball. His ball security on the move in college should be the standard for every player.

Comparing Nix to Other Quarterback Prospects

Nix is the fourth quarterback I’ve evaluated early in the expected 2024 NFL Draft class. With limited exposure and no personal time with any of these players, I have no reservations about placing Nix in the top tier with Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Michael Penix Jr.

If Nix continues improving in 2023, he will be just as deserving as the others of a high-round ranking. 

Nix’s high-level playmaking and athleticism are not quite on the same level as Williams or Bryce Young. However, Nix was more mechanically consistent in the pocket than Young while under less pass-rush pressure.

With this evaluation at such an early stage, I am comfortable comparing him to recent second-overall pick C.J. Stroud. Nix is a slightly better athlete with similar arm talent, accuracy and spatial awareness. However, he is less consistent than Stroud as a passer, even though Nix’s completion percentage is higher. 

With another season to play and my reviews of Penix, Williams and Maye fresh in my mind, let’s place Nix in the same Tier 1 category.

I’ll keep a particularly close eye on Nix’s head-to-head matchup with Penix on Oct. 14 in Washington.

Marc Trestman is a former NFL, CFL and college coach. After more than a decade as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in the NFL, he coached in four Grey Cups in the CFL, winning three over seven years with Montreal and Toronto before becoming head coach of the Chicago Bears. Follow him on Twitter at @CoachTrestman.

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