Breaking Down Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche

Going into the 2015 college football season, many had Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche as the highest rated inside defensive lineman for next April’s NFL Draft. While Nkemdiche has the talent to be to be a very good player, I am not sure at this point that he is the top interior defensive lineman. While I am far from having all the players evaluated, I can say right now he isn’t close to being as good at Ohio State’s Joey Bosa. Whether or not he becomes a better pro remains to be seen. Nkemdiche is a third-year junior and a three-year starter for Ole Miss. By almost all accounts, he will be entering the NFL Draft as an underclassman. Coming out of high school, he was rated as a 5-star player and the top defensive lineman in the country. He was recruited by all the top programs and originally committed to Clemson before changing his mind and accepting a scholarship to Mississippi. His older brother Denzel was already a member of the Ole Miss Football team. While Nkemdiche has been a very good player for Ole Miss, he is not the dominant player that many expected him to be. His stats are very average. In 2014, he finished the season with 35 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, and 4.0 tackles for loss. To date, this season, he has recorded 22 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss. For his career, he only has 5.5 sacks. Granted, he is constantly double teamed and opponents prepare to face him. Nkemdiche has good, not great, size. He will measure at about 6034 – 295. He has a thick, well-muscled frame with good length. He has very good strength and power and shows the ability to hold the point versus single and double blocks. He is a very good athlete for his size with speed and a burst and plays with natural bend. He has great balance, stays on his feet, and can change direction and move well laterally. Nkemdiche has above average instincts. He often plays with his head down and can be slow to find the ball, or he can lose track of the ball. When he keeps his head up, he is much better. He has quick hands, knows how to play with leverage, and can shed quickly. He moves well through trash and shows he can be a good pursuit player. He often gets penetration to disrupt running plays, and while he may not make the tackle, his penetration sets up teammates to make the play. As a pass rusher, Robert gets pressures and hits, he just doesn’t have a lot of sacks. He can be quick off the ball and has the agility and change of direction to redirect his charge. He shows a good spin move, and his overall hand use is very good. He just needs to learn to finish his pass rush better. As a competitor, I sometimes question his overall aggressiveness. He picks and chooses when to make plays. While he will flash a dominant type play where he can’t be blocked, there are too many plays where he is not a factor. Overall, Nkemdiche has the natural talent to be a top NFL interior defensive lineman. He can play either tackle position in a 4-3 and can play either end position in a 3-4. He has to pick up his level of intensity and play hard every down. His upside is unlimited, but because of his inconsistency, he also has some downside. While he will go very high based on his talent, the team that drafts him has to know that there is also some risk. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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