With the 29th pick of the 2016 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals select Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Tackle, Ole Miss. Nkemdiche is an absolute monster on the field, when he is motivated. He is fast, strong, and an accomplished pass rusher, however he is inconsistent. If anyone can coach the best out of him, it is Bruce Arians. He has some off the field issues, and this has affected his draft status. He is so quick, however lacks real motivation. He struggled with double teams last year, and he needs to get better with those, however if he gets his mind right and listens to the coaching he can become a big time pro bowler. The question is what Nkemdiche shows up.
Every year there are polarising prospects; Nkemdiche is 2016’s version. Let’s tackle the many concerns and negatives first off. They are legitimate, and I’d be very worried about taking him. Even before the highest profile incident (the synthetic marijuana and falling out a window situation), there were already major concerns about his character and personality with much reported “baggage”, bad attitude and ego, very poor effort to work at his game, and ambitions away from football. His media interview at the combine was a car-crash. His post-pro day interview in which he described himself as a hard working high effort player showed an almost delusional lack of self-awareness or at least denial. One thing won’t hurt a prospects stock much, but multiple and varied concerns that suggest a pattern absolutely do. On the field isn’t necessarily a great deal better. Nkemdiche is about as gifted as anyone in this class. In terms of natural ability, he’d challenge for the best player in 2016. The problem is how rare that ability actually showed up on the field. When he wanted to be, Nkemdiche was unstoppable. His week 3 dominating performance against Alabama was a huge part in that key win. Trouble is, that was one of the few occasions he could seemingly be bothered to try that hard throughout an entire game. The effort on some snaps, and how quickly he’ll give up on a play gets downright infuriating. Someone will be unable to resist the potential though, and it’s hard to blame them if they think they can motivate him. The speed with which he can fly at nearly 300 lbs is just ridiculous, so much so that he made some incredible plays on offense this season as a running back and tight end early in the year, out-sprinting players two-thirds his size. The initial get-off from the snap followed by a powerful punch immediately puts his opposing lineman on the back foot. Some of the plays he makes against double and even triple teams that he faced are the kind that only a few have the ability to pull off. Just a shame it’s seen so infrequently. The 19 TFLs and 7 sacks are his 3-year career total. Good luck to whoever makes the gamble; it would be great if it does pay off and he fulfils his potential.