Analyst: Nkemdiche falling out of teams’ favor following combine

Published 12:03 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

Robert Nkemdiche’s name isn’t being talked about in the most positive of breaths right now by representatives that will soon employ him.

The former Ole Miss defensive tackle “did not do himself any favors” at the NFL Scouting Combine last week in Indianapolis, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said on a conference call Wednesday. Nkemdiche’s rare athleticism for a 6-foot-4, 296-pounder was put on display during his workout with a 4.87-second 40-yard dash, a 35-inch vertical jump, a 9-8 broad jump and 28 reps of 225 on the bench press, but it’s the off-field issues that continue to concern league personnel.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to get somebody to say something really positive about Nkemdiche right now from the league,” McShay said.

Email newsletter signup

During his media session at the combine Friday, Nkemdiche was grilled about his infamous fall from a fourth-floor Atlanta hotel room in December, which resulted in his Sugar Bowl suspension and effectively ended his college career.

Nkemdiche told reporters he was drunk, not high, despite being charged with marijuana possession after a lieutenant with the Atlanta Police Department found approximately seven marijuana cigarettes on a table in the room from which he fell, according to a police report. Nkemdiche said other people were in the room with him, including Laremy Tunsil, but that he was charged since the room was in his name.

It wasn’t the first red flag for scouts, coaches and general managers.

During the 2014 season, a photo of Nkemdiche holding a bong to his lips went viral on the Internet. Nkemdiche and his older brother, former Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, are also defendants in a $2 million lawsuit stemming from a 2013 incident in which the Nkemdiches and others are alleged to have beaten the plaintiff, Matthew Baird, unconscious, which drew a counter-claim from the brothers denying the allegations.

“Ultimately it’s about trust,” McShay said. “Do you trust this individual to handle more fame before than he’s ever had in his life, more money before than he’s ever had in his life and more free time than he’s ever had before? I think there are a lot of people in the league, decision-makers, right now really questioning that.”

Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 player in the country in the 2013 recruiting cycle, also admitted at the combine he was lazy at times and took plays off during his three years at Ole Miss.

Nkemdiche finished his career with 98 tackles with just 19 of those going for a loss.

Nkemdiche has widely been considered an early first-round talent, but McShay has the two-time All-American falling to Seattle with the 26th pick in his latest mock draft. At this point, McShay said, that may be generous.

“I think one of the top 5 most naturally talented individuals in this draft — and he backed that up with that combine workout — could wind up falling late in the first or out of the first round completely,” McShay said.

No. 1 spot
One player NFL teams are falling in love with is Tunsil, who McShay projects to go No. 1 overall to the Tennessee Titans to help protect their first-round pick a year ago in quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“The more I think about it, if Tunsil checks off all the boxes at his pro day and during interviews, I think it just makes sense to protect the investment,” McShay said.

McShay called the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Tunsil the “most naturally athletic and talented offensive lineman” in this year’s draft. Tunsil gave up just two sacks in his three years as the Rebels’ starting left tackle.

The Titans have the top pick because they had the worst record in the league last season, meaning they could trade the pick for additional picks to help address their many needs. Should they take Tunsil, they could move Taylor Lewan, their first-round pick in 2014, to right tackle.

“It would make a lot of sense to bring (Tunsil) in and now have two first-rounders as your offensive tackles,” McShay said.