Both Apke and Nicholson are traits based prospects
When watching college tape of Apke and Nicholson, they don’t particularly stand out. Neither possess particularly good ball skills, and they are at their best when coming downhill. That’s where their athletic ability, size, and strength are shown, and naturally that is why they look good in those situations.
The biggest praise of Apke coming out of Penn State was his ability as an athlete. While many didn’t see a lot on tape that made Apke seem like anything more than a late Day 3 pick, it was clear that he was an elite athlete. And he proved that at the Combine.
Apke blazed a 4.34 second 40-yard dash at the Combine, and he also logged a 41 inch vertical jump and ran the three-cone drill in 6.56 seconds. In the on-field drills, Apke showed excellent burst and the ability to move quickly on the field. This athletic display generated some buzz about Apke, and his performance at his Pro Day did a lot to back that up.
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Similarly, Nicholson had a very good athletic performance at the Combine. He ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds and demonstrated fluid athletic ability in the on-field drills. He did enough to prove that he belonged in the fourth round despite some question marks about his overall ability on-field. His athletic skill set, frame, and potential was what got him drafted where he ended up.
The similarities between Apke and Nicholson as athletes don’t end there. Both have similar frames. Apke stands and 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and has played at a heavier weight in the past. Meanwhile, Nicholson is only slightly bigger at 6-foot-2, 219 pounds. Considering the minor size difference and the minor difference in athletic ability, the two appear to be very similar players, and that could benefit Apke as he transitions to the NFL.
In short, both Nicholson and Apke are traits based guys. Their tape at the college level was decent, but it didn’t do a lot to demonstrate that either player would be a starter right away. However, the traits they have such as size and athleticism demonstrated that both players could have a chance to step in and be productive right away. That’s what Nicholson was able to do, and Apke will have a shot to do that as well. And that will certainly be beneficial for the Penn State product, especially given how good Torrian Gray has been as the defensive backs coach.