Pros, Cons, and a Summary of Robert Nkemdiche
- Freak athlete
- Crazy initial burst and closing speed
- Muscular frame, thick upper and lower body
- Impressive as a pass rusher
- Smooth rip/spin move
- Powerful, just needs to learn how to use it consistently
- Disrupts passing lanes, tipped passes led to interceptions several times
- Position versatility, can play both DE and DT
- Overall subpar technique, relies heavily on athleticism
- Below average hand usage
- Inconsistent body of work. Dominant one game, disappeared the next
- Noted off-field issues
- Lacking counter moves
- Snap anticipation needs improvement
- Mediocre balance, on the ground too often
- Needs to perform better against double teams
- Admitted to playing lazy at times
No player (that’s healthy) in this draft class has seen their draft stock fall more than Robert Nkemdiche.
Thanks to some off-field issues that involve weed and falling out of a window, as well as poor combine interviews where he admitted to playing lazy at times, deflected accountability for his off-field issues and threw teammates under a bus, it’s been a rough stretch for the Ole Miss defensive lineman.
Randy Gregory, a potential top ten pick last year who had some similar concerns, fell all the way to pick 60. So it’s difficult to predict where Nkemdiche will end up being selected.
Plenty of teams are still interested, however. Tony Pauline reported that 14 teams have visits scheduled with Nkemdiche, including the Oakland Raiders. Other reports say there are 16 teams scheduled to meet with him.
Teams will speak with Nkemdiche and form their own opinions on him, so let’s not worry about that side of things. In terms of his ability on the field, there is plenty to like, but there are several concerns as well.
The biggest thing Nkemdiche has going for him is his ridiculous athleticism. Given his stature and how quickly he moves, he definitely falls under the category of “freak athlete”.
His initial burst is crazy and he closes very quickly on players in the backfield. He certainly has the athletic ability to be a big-time player at the next level.
He also has a nice arsenal of moves that he uses to beat blockers, most notably a a rip/swim that he uses effectively. However, he struggles to utilize these moves in counter situations, meaning if he doesn’t beat his matchup the first time, he gets stuck.
There are times where Nkemdiche looked dominant on film and like a sure-fire top ten pick. But then the next game, he’d completely disappear.
This is mostly attributed to poor technique, which leads to an inconsistent body of work. The majority of his positive reps are athleticism based, which worked well for him in college, but he is going to need to greatly improve his technique to be an impact player in the NFL.
As Charles over at The Falcoholic explained in great detail, Nkemdiche struggles with gap discipline and some basic defensive line fundamentals.
I highly recommend clinking on the link and checking it out (after you are done with this article, of course). But simply put, Nkemdiche struggles with the mental processing aspect of being a defensive lineman. Too often, he won’t handle his assignment and the result is a play that negatively affects the team.
So even though Nkemdiche oozes athleticism and has pretty much all of the physical tools you could want, he does need a lot of coaching in order to become the player many once thought he would be.
It just so happens that the Raiders have one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL on their staff in Jethro Franklin, who has worked wonders with Khalil Mack, Mario Edwards Jr. and the rest of the defensive line.
On film, Nkemdiche is more impressive than Edwards Jr. and he is also the superior athlete. So considering the year that Edwards Jr. just had, it’s certainly reasonable to think that Nkemdiche could have an even bigger impact.
On the field, Nkemdiche is a borderline top ten talent in this class. He has the upside to be ranked higher, but with so much inconsistency with his technique and effort, plus the off-field concerns, that knocks him down some.
With Oakland’s second round pick (#44), I think that would be a great spot to select Nkemdiche, if he’s available. At 14, he’d be a very good pick on the field, but it’s hard to say how much he can be trusted. But if McKenzie and Del Rio interview him and make him their first-round selection, I wouldn’t have any problem with the selection.
If Franklin can coach Nkemdiche as well as he did with Edwards, he could be a special player for the Raiders.