Previously, we profiled a stud linebacker and an under the radar receiver prospect. By popular demand, we're moving back to the defensive side of the ball and into the trenches. Nearly a third of you readers/voters wanted a Robert Nkemdiche profile, so that's what you're getting. Nkemdiche is a name that has been linked to the Detroit Lions in plenty of early mock drafts. Get ready to have that name, among others, pounded into your skulls for another four months.
The national media seems to believe that the Lions' biggest need is at defensive tackle, and well, that might be the case. Currently, the Lions have both of their starting DTs (Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker) set to hit the market. It's likely that the front office will attempt to re-sign at least one of the two, but the need for pass-rushing D-linemen remains. Can Robert Nkemdiche be The Almighty Savior that will propel this D-line back to what it once was just a couple years ago? Maybe. Maybe not.
DT Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss)
6-foot-3, 296 pounds
There is a whole lot to love about Robert Nkemdiche. Before packing on a few pounds and moving inside, he started off as a defensive end and lined up in all four slots along the D-line at some point last year. That's impressive, but it also pales in comparison to his three, count it, THREE offensive touchdowns in 2015. Yes, Nkemdiche can even play a little bit of fullback/running back when needed.
Um, I don't think defensive tackles should be allowed to do this. Who knows, maybe the Lions can draft Nkemdiche as a two-way player and fill two needs at DT and tight end. You're right. Probably not.
But it's not just where he lines up that makes him so versatile and dangerous. It's how he can win in a variety of ways. Nkemdiche's impressive repertoire includes: a fierce bull rush, a lightning quick swim move, a deceptive spin move and the occasional rip (or club/rip) move.
Here's an example of Nkemdiche utilizing his bull rush to perfection. He gets a decent jump off the snap and fires off low to create leverage. His hand placement is right where you want it to be and he bullies the left guard straight into the QB for a near sack. Of course, Florida's QB conjured up some dark magic and somehow managed a TD out of this throw, but that's still a nice play from Nkemdiche.
How about that swim move?
I know this looks like a designed screen to either side, but UT Martin couldn't even chip Nkemdiche on this play. When he wants to, Nkemdiche explodes off the snap and is a handful to block. You'd just like to see some added consistency to his game.
Ah, the ole patented Nkemdiche spin move. This is his bread and butter. The problem is that he overuses it. It can be his ace in the hole or his soft underbelly.
Last but not least, the rip move.
Another move run to perfection. Nkemdiche uses his outside arm to club the LG's shoulder and rips with the inside arm to get the sack on Dak Prescott. That's a great play, though not quite as great as what's happening on the bottom ticker. BOOM. [Editor's note - Although I don't believe in censorship, Alex Reno has been reprimanded for this.]
It's not just about being raw, it's about effort. And it's something that really frustrates me when I watch Nkemdiche play. On one play, you'll see a player deserving of a top-five selection, and on the very next play you'll see a player that'd be lucky to get a Day 2 selection.
With the right coaching, Nkemdiche could turn into a Pro Bowl player. He's shown that he can win in a number of different ways, but he lacks the consistent effort and the football instincts of when to use the right move at the appropriate time.
There's that overused spin move. On 3rd-and-24, Nkemdiche fires high off the snap and twirls away from the ball carrier, for what appears to be a wasted play. I'm not exactly sure what he's trying to accomplish here. This leads me to another concern. Nkemdiche absolutely needs to improve his pad level in both the run and the pass game. He plays upright in his stance and loses the leverage battle far too often, especially in the run game, allowing blockers to seal him away from the play.
On this play, Nkemdiche makes the poor decision of going with his swim move and runs right into a double-team, leaving his chest exposed -- or back, in this case -- and gets his bell rung at the end of the play. For some reason, he has a strange habit of turning his back to the line of scrimmage, as witnessed in the play above. He needs to square his pads to the line of scrimmage on a more consistent basis.
Nkemdiche also leaves a lot to be desired as a run defender. He averaged just under three tackles per game over the past two years. He exhibits lazy technique and inconsistent hands which hampers his ability to gain leverage and shed blocks.
As you may already know, Nkemdiche also comes with off-the-field baggage due to his recent marijuana possession after falling approximately 15 feet out of a window.
Robert Nkemdiche is a freak athlete with an immense amount of upside as a D-lineman. If he can put it all together and give the consistent effort that teams are looking for, he could eventually turn into a Pro Bowl caliber player with the right coaching. Due to his physical traits, Nkemdiche has been regarded as a lock to have his name called within the top-10 selections, but if his interviews don't go well or his background doesn't check out, then his draft stock may take a fall.
How He Fits
Nkemdiche is going to have his fair share of struggles early on in his NFL career. His best fit will be in a penetrating, one-gap system in the 3-technique due to his physical tools, but if he doesn't hone his run defense skills early in his career, then he may be forced into a rotational pass rushing role. The best case scenario for Nkemdiche is to land on a team with a proven D-line coach that can teach him how to perfect his skills and when to use them. It wouldn't hurt to find a pass rushing guru over the summer to improve on his skills as well. Someone like former Falcons DE Chuck Smith who used to work with guys like Osi Umenyiora and Albert Haynesworth.
Should the Lions draft Nkemdiche, he would fit an immediate need at DT. They are in desperate need of pass rushers, to say the least. I have a second round grade on Nkemdiche, so drafting him with the No. 16 pick overall wouldn't be ideal, but it may be necessary given his physical tools. He's a true boom-or-bust type player that's going to make a general manager either look like Albert Einstein or Matt Millen.
Grade: 2nd round
Games Watched: 2014 vs. Texas A&M, 2015 vs. UT Martin, 2015 vs. Fresno State, 2015 vs. Alabama, 2015 vs. Mississippi State, 2015 vs. Florida