In a draft class that is loaded with talent at receiver, KD Nixon isn’t viewed as one of the elite prospects.
The Colorado junior is betting on himself, though.
On Tuesday, Nixon announced that he will forego his senior season with the Buffaloes and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I feel like you have to take a risk to whatever you want to do in life,” Nixon said. “Whether we’re first round or not first round, we’re going to always believe it. We have first round talent no matter what. Maybe you all haven’t seen mine, but I’m going to guarantee you once I get the opportunity, it’ll be a whole different talk.
“I always believe in myself.”
Nixon’s decision to leave CU early came one week after his longtime friend and fellow receiver Laviska Shenault declared for the draft. Shenault and Nixon were teammates at DeSoto (Tex.) High School before coming to CU in 2017.
Nixon becomes the 11th player in CU history to declare early for the NFL Draft.
“He’s a solid contributor that we’d love to have back for his final year, but I’m excited about his professional football future,” CU head coach Mel Tucker said in a press release from the school. “We’re thankful for his hard-working attitude, his leadership on and off the field and how he’s embraced our relentless culture.”
This is just the second time two Buffs have declared early for the draft in the same year. In 1995, running back Rashaan Salaam and defensive end Shannon Clavelle both left early.
Each of the previous nine CU players to leave school early were drafted, with seven of them going in the first four rounds. Shenault is projected as a first-round pick as one of the top players in a loaded 2020 class of receivers.
Nixon is a potential late-round pick, but CU receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said the 5-foot-8, 185-pounder could be attractive to NFL teams because of his versatility. Nixon played as an outside receiver and in the slot, while also running the ball a bit and returning kickoffs and punts.
“He’s a versatile kid,” Chiaverini said to Buffzone.com. “He’s an unselfish player. Whenever he got opportunities, he made the most of them during his career. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to be intriguing for scouts just because, does he play slot or does he play outside? He can stretch the field on the outside and in the middle of the field.
“He is built like a tailback, so I could see him being a guy that plays in the slot and they also bump him in the backfield and run inside zone, run outside zone with him. He has those qualities as a running back, as well as a receiver.”
This season, Nixon finished third on the team in receptions (35), receiving yards (465) and receiving touchdowns (three). He also averaged 23.4 yards on 16 kickoff returns, rushed for 19 yards on five carries, gained 10 yards on two punt returns and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Stanley on his only career pass.
“I didn’t have the season I wanted to, but I know what I can do,” Nixon said. “When I do get the opportunity, just fulfill it.
“A lot of people are going to say what they have to say, they’re going to make their opinions. At the same time, people don’t believe in you until you show them you believe in yourself. Once I’m up, I swear it’ll be a whole different talk.”
Nixon caught 52 passes for 636 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. His yards per catch improved this year, from 12.2 in 2018 to 13.3.
Chiaverini said Nixon has improved his route running and ball skills at CU, while also maturing as a young man. At Sunday’s team banquet, Nixon and linebacker Davion Taylor shared the Eddie Crowder Award for outstanding team leadership.
“I think he’s got a bright future,” Chiaverini said. “I’m excited to watch what he does.”
Nixon will leave CU ranking 24th in school history in receiving yards (1,118) and 25th in catches (89). He plans to finish the semester academically and then begin training for the draft. In addition to pursuing his football dream, Nixon has interests in acting and producing and getting involved with advertising. He believes football can open doors for those other interests.
Chiaverini played a big part in Nixon’s journey, as he recruited both DeSoto receivers to Boulder and coached them at CU.
“It’s kind of like being a proud dad, because you’ve known these kids since they were really young, 15, 16 years old,” Chiaverini said. “It’s more than just coaching them. You develop relationships with these kids. To see them chasing their dreams and to fulfill their dreams in a couple months, it’s a proud moment for me as a coach.”