As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.
Today, a profile on Mississippi’s Robert Nkemdiche.
#5 – Robert Nkemdiche/DL Ole Miss: 6034, 294
– Nose for the ball carrier, seeks out in space
– Violently explosive off the line
– Disruptive use of hands
– Patient hip discipline in contain
– Extremely powerful bullrush, puts OL on skates
– Active handfighter
– Raw strength
– Questionable balance/COD skills
– Plays extended, doesn’t have his feet under him
– Fails to keep his vision up, misses plays that go right by him
– Tends to line up dangerously close to offsides when rushing a gap, lines up clearly half a yard off the scrimmage when about to stunt – tips his hand
– Unable to anchor against double teams or traps
– Effort questions, runs T-E stunts lazily and doesn’t seem to trim in his bends
– Jogs plays to the sideline
– Several offsides penalties
– Hips not flexible enough to make the play in space, stiff
– Consistently double-teamed and had protection slid his way throughout 2015
– Second-Team All-American in 2015 and 2014
– Brother Denzel Nkemdiche is a draft-eligible linebacker, also from Ole Miss
– Was No. 1 overall recruit in the nation out of Grayson High School (Ga.) in 2012
– First-Team Freshman All-American in 2013
– One of four finalists for Paul Hornung Award (awarded to the most versatile player nationwide)
– Three-year starter at both DE and DT
– NFL Combine results: 4.87 40 yard dash, 28 bench press reps, 35.0 inch vertical jump, 116.0 broad jump
Nkemdiche gets a good jump off the snap, but fails to bring his feet with him. What that means is he leans forward and doesn’t have his feet as a solid base. Instead, he’s forced to play extended along his full frame, which lessens the amount of force and power he’s able to generate.
Nkemdiche consistently shoots the snap to cause disruption, which is the case again here. He rocks the guard and stands him up. His arms aren’t anything special – just above average at 33 7/8 inches – but he uses them effectively to his advantage. He extends his arms and disengages violently, swiping away the OL’s hands to close and make the key third-and-short stop.
Nkemdiche is ridiculously quick off the snap. This offensive lineman hasn’t even had a chance to get his hands up and Nkemdiche is already making impact. He gets himself skinny into the gap and free into the backfield. However, he’s playing extended too far ahead of his feet again and a shove in the back from the center doesn’t help his balance. This is a good representative snap of Nkemdiche’s disruption from initial burst but bad base and vision to make the play.
As I noted earlier, Nkemdiche’s “tell” is lining up half a yard off the line of scrimmage when he’s about to run a twist or stunt. However, as he comes around, he engages with minimal power and negative vision. The back scurries right by him for a bigger pickup. He has to have better eyes here, particularly since he’s effectively following the same path across the formation as the RB.
Another great get-off (notice a trend here?) for Nkemdiche, who bullies the guard almost three yards off the line of scrimmage before anybody else even makes contact with a lineman. He then forces his way inside and has Dak Prescott dead to rights in a phone booth. However, he can’t finish the sack. Disruption does not equal production, and he needs to be able to complete the sack here.
Crowned prior to the season as a sure-fire top five pick, Nkemdiche has done anything but live up to that label. There are questions about not only his on-field talent, but outside the lines decision-making. Most of this stems from a mysterious incident that saw him fall multiple stories from a Georgia hotel room in December and be arrested for possession of marijuana. News reports alleged Nkemdiche was, with his brother Denzel, under the influence of “spice” at the time, a synthetic form of cannabis that causes paranoia. Subsequently, Nkemdiche was suspended from the Sugar Bowl and would go on to throw teammate Laremy Tunsil in at the NFL Combine.
Although Nkemdiche has a great get-off, that works against him at times. His poor vision and play recognition, combined with his inconsistent eyes, mean that he’s usually worked himself two to three yards past the ball carrier and is unable to recover to make a play. For such a dominant burst at the line of scrimmage, it’s mystifying to see him end up with just 16.0 TFL and 6.0 sacks…in three years.
Nkemdiche is scheme-versatile, with fits as a 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE. However, it’s difficult to see him enjoying much success until his eye level getting off the ball is improved or he is coached on how to penetrate. It’s not exclusively about blowing up a backfield, it’s about blowing up a backfield and making the tackle. He also shows limited ability to bend in a backfield to make a stop, disappointing for a player marketed as a plus athlete.
It’s not often that I feel it necessary to write up a paragraph as projection. On college work alone, Nkemdiche’s tape and production put him as an early Day 3 choice to me. I don’t think he’s as advertised rushing the passer, although I do like his very raw rip move, which has potential to really be coached into something. He’s better against the run, but has to get his vision right. Even then, disruption doesn’t necessarily translate to production, and nowhere is that more true than Nkemdiche.
Off the field? That’s another story entirely. I have serious questions about that fateful December night, and everything I’ve been told is that NFL teams are just as suspicious. His behavior afterwards at the NFL Combine was also not what I was looking to see from a guy who would need to own up to his mistake. For that alone, I wouldn’t be shocked to see his stock plummet, even though it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lesser-touted prospect tumble out of the draft.
It’s time to admit that Nkemdiche isn’t what we thought he is. He’s not a first-round pick, and while he’s still remarkably raw with athletic ability, I can’t say that I’d take him anywhere before Round 4 right now.
Games Watched: at Auburn, at Florida, at Mississippi State