Defensive Lineman, Ole Miss 6ft 3, 294 lbs
|40-Yard Dash: 4.86 sec (1.67 split)||Bench Press: 28 reps|
|Vertical Jump: 35”||3-Cone Drill: n/a|
|Broad Jump: 9ft 8||20-Yard Shuttle: n/a|
One of the more polarising prospects of the 2016 NFL draft, but one thing is for sure, Nkemdiche will not go as high as someone of his natural talents should have, and there’s even questions whether someone takes a chance on him at all during the first day of the draft on Thursday night. Nkemdiche joined the Ole Miss Rebels as the consensus number one recruit out of high school in his year, and was the first domino in what would turn out to be a historic recruiting class for Hugh Freeze’s team that has become the platform on which the program is building its future. But while fellow recruits that year Laquon Treadwell set school receiving records, and Laremy Tunsil proved a rock at left tackle, Nkemdiche greatly underwhelmed, only occasionally flashing the potentially dominating traits that he possesses. He leaves college with the rather modest statistical production of just 19 tackles for loss and 7 sacks over three years. Even taking into account the likes of double teams that he attracts, that is a poor total for someone of his abilities. Many players in top conferences are producing more than that in a season despite similar blocking attention. Watch the game film of Nkemdiche against Alabama this year in the Rebels’ win over the eventual nation champions, and you’ll see everything that is great about his game, what the upside can be and what a truly dominant NFL player he could be. When he’s in the mood and in the zone, he is unblockable even with double or triple teams. His ability to shed blockers is incredible when he wants to. In fact, shed isn’t a good enough word. He dismisses would be blockers, like swatting a fly. His initial get-off speed from the snap and transition to power at the point of attack with a powerful punch is so effective and immediately puts opposing linemen on the back foot. The way he is able to move at nearly 300 pounds is scary and rare. In the early part of the 2015 season, Ole Miss deployed Nkemdiche on offense for a few specially designed plays to make the most of his athleticism, lining him up in the backfield and breaking him out into the flat for a touchdown catch and run, sprinting like a guy some 50 lbs lighter would. Prospects with his natural gifts just don’t come around often, with the disruption he can cause from his defensive line position. It’s just a shame it isn’t seen often enough. As good as the flashes are, and as that Alabama film is, it’s just not seen often enough. The lack of effort on some snaps can be so listless, his lack of hustle or pursuit, the number of times he quickly gives up if his initial rush attempt isn’t successful, the lazy play all round, is all so infuriating to watch. It’s one of the big mysteries of this draft class – who wants to take on the challenge of keeping him motivated and to get the best out of the unquestionable talent. If someone can, they are going to get a bargain. The on-field questions are one thing, but Nkemdiche hasn’t helped himself off the field either. The highest profile incident being his recent plummet out of a window that could have been a much worse accident than it ended up being. His response to the rumours that synthetic marijuana was involved was to say that it’s alright, he was just drunk. Some teams are worried about the influence and presence of his troubled brother. Others about his self-awareness, with Nkemdiche claiming that teams should draft him because of his hard working high-effort style, which anyone can see is not the case. There’s multiple and varied character questions that combine to make Nkemdiche a significant risk to take. The Buffalo Bills with Rex Ryan are often projected to be a possible landing spot at pick 19, as is going a little earlier to the Raiders and Jack Del Rio at 14. If he falls a bit further, the Cardinals and Bruce Arians at 29 have the need and the system to use him. All three coaches fit the types who you could see having the better chances of getting the best out of Nkemdiche, making them sensible candidates to predict making him their draft selection. That’s quite a wide range, from the top half of the first round, to the bottom of the first round. It’s not impossible that he slips into the second day either, depending on how the draft plays out. Either way, it’ll be fascinating to see what happens.