The 2016 NFL Draft is two weeks away, and the NFL world can’t seem to figure out where Robert Nkemdiche stands.
The 21-year-old defensive end from Ole Miss is a 6-foot-4, 296-pound, athletic monster with game-changing ability.
Yet a lack of a consistency and some off-field concerns have made him one of the most tantalising prospects in the draft.
As highlighted by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, NFL teams are concerned with Nkemdiche’s personality. Concerns came to a boil when in December, Nkemdiche fell from a fourth-story window at a hotel. Police were called to the scene where they found Nkemdiche injured, but conscious, with marijuana in his room. There weren’t signs that he had smoked marijuana, and he claimed to have passed drug tests, but he did admit to being “blackout” drunk, while some theorised he had taken synthetic marijuana, which he denied.
According to Wickersham, there are other intricacies of Nkemdiche’s personality that bother NFL executives. He reportedly refused to do a drill for GMs during Ole Miss’ pro day, was called “evasive” in interviews, and “earned universally awful reviews.”
Wickersham says one team’s scouting report says Nkemdiche “thinks he’s a philosopher” after he went through an “enlightenment” phase at school, reading science-fiction books, calling himself “spiritual” rather than religious, and thinking about “interconnectivity.”
He told Wickersham he wants to buy a pet panther with his first paycheck and doesn’t see where that purchase could go wrong.
All of this has left the NFL world without a consensus.
ProFootball Focus has had Nkemdiche going 16th overall, 26th, and in the second round in three different mock drafts. NFL.com’s draft experts have Nkemdiche going as high as 14th and as low as the second round.
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar has Nkemdiche going 28th in his mock draft, writing, “At what point does the reward outweigh the potential risk in the draft? That is what every team considering Nkemdiche will wonder when the draft starts. If Nkemdiche stays on the straight and narrow, some team could get a steal.”
CBS’s Bob Rang has Nkemdiche going 19th in his mock draft, saying his talent is too good for the Buffalo Bills to pass, despite “red flags.”
It’s clear that the entire NFL world is wary of Nkemdiche’s personality and potential to be a headache. His inconsistent production in college — 16 career tackles for losses, six career sacks — is overshadowed by highlights where he showed his stunning athleticism.
There’s little doubting that Nkemdiche is an NFL talent — it’s a matter of when teams are willing to take him, which can be a difference of millions of dollars. It seems whichever team does use a pick on him is doing so with the knowledge that he could be a handful.