Montae Nicholson is now the second Spartan headed to the NFL in the 2017 draft. The Michigan State safety was chosen with the 17th pick of the fourth round, 123rd overall by the Washington Redskins. Nicholson will join another former Spartan in the nation’s capital, Kirk Cousins, the starting quarterback for the Redskins.
While some people feel Nicholson is Washington’s first true reach in the draft, his biggest value to the Redskins early on will be his skills on special teams.
Nicholson has the abilities to be able to play early on in his career, lining up in the box to cover tailbacks and tight ends on third down situations.
With the right coaching and conditioning, Nicholson has the speed and ability on the field to be able to blossom into a starting safety for the Redskins. Nicholson can benefit from playing in a two-deep defensive scheme where the safeties switch onto receivers in deep coverage. If Nicholson can gain some significant size, he may even be able to play his way into a cover-three scheme where he’ll be asked to play in the box to help with run support.
Nicholson, like Malik McDowell, left after his junior season at MSU, and many were speculating if a shoulder injury to Nicholson would hurt his draft stock, a projected third-day pick. Nicholson is the Spartans highest safety drafted in the NFL since 2006, where Eric Smith went 97th overall.
Dealing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Nicholson had surgery to repair it just two days after participating in the NFL draft combine. At 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, the strong safety from Monroeville, Pa. ran a very impressive 4.42 second 40-yard dash, which was third fastest among all safeties participating there.
Nicholson was a 2016 All-Big Ten honorable mention where he finished the season with 86 tackles and one interception in his second season as a starter.
A few other MSU players will look to join their teammates in the NFL and hope to hear their names called late in the draft, including fullback Prescott Line, tight end Josiah Price, linebacker Riley Bullough and wide receiver R.J. Shelton.