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Know your Chiefs draft crush: Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche

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The Know Your Draft Crush series continues with a guy we've talked a lot about, and has been regularly mocked to the Chiefs.

I try my best to go into each of these film review pieces without bias. For this one it was particularly challenging. Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche is a much-discussed prospect with widely varying opinions on him. I stayed true to my process and didn't watch others' evaluations until after I watched for myself, but it was hard to drown out the noise.

Most agree that he has elite potential and that he flashes on tape, but also is inconsistent and appears to take plays off. Those are significant red flags, especially for a defensive lineman. In his own words:

"There’s times I didn’t finish, times I was lazy on some plays. But I told (NFL teams) I’m going to keep growing as a player and I’m going to keep learning how to finish and I’m going to keep becoming more of a student of the game and focus on being the best NFL player I can be."

He seems like an interesting guy off the field, some of the interviews I've read reminded me of Ricky Williams or Marshawn Lynch. He had a widely publicized incident where he was charged with marijuana possession after a 15-foot fall out of a window at a hotel in Atlanta. His accountability in interviews at the NFL Combine could be more concerning than the incident itself.

Nkemdiche said he was drunk that night and claimed no marijuana was involved.

"There were more people in my room," he said, adding that teammate Laremy Tunsil, projected to go No. 1 in the draft, was with him. "The hotel was in my name. Nobody wanted to take the fall. It was under my name so it played out like that."

Potential fit/role with the Chiefs

The Chiefs could use another interior pass rusher, and Nkemdiche has the raw ability to be a disruptive pass rusher in a one gap scheme. The Chiefs coaching staff has done an outstanding job developing guys like Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey, so perhaps they could get the best out of him.

The Chiefs have three very good starters on the d-line, so Nkemdiche (or any lineman they draft) won't HAVE to contribute too much on day one. However, after watching Nkemdiche play, I wouldn't take the risk on him in the first two rounds. The risk with him is less about off the field stuff, but has everything to do with the effort and motor (or lack thereof) that showed up on tape.

In my opinion, you can coach technique, you can build strength, but you can't make a guy want it  and you can't teach motor. I watched a few other d-linemen from this draft for comparison, just to make sure it wasn't a big guys always look like they are lazy thing. I didn't see the same issue with the others. (For the record they were: DeForest Buckner, Vernon Butler, Jihad Ward and Kenny Clark)

More than any other position, the success of defensive linemen (and pass rushers in general) is dependent upon effort and motor. Guys like Tamba Hali have built a career overcoming physical limitations. There are numerous guys who have all the physical ability in the world, but not the drive ... and many of them are unemployed.

So, before I get to my film notes, What should we be looking for when watching DL film? Here are a few:

  • Burst, Quickness - explosion and quickness when firing off at the snap, but also ability to chase down a play and close
  • Pass Rush - ability to use a variety of moves, get to the QB and finish
  • Hands and Feet - extend arms to keep blockers away, strong punch, ability to fight off blocks and keep feet churning, keep balance
  • Anchor - hold your ground, drive the o-lineman back, not get pushed back, hold up against block or double team, keep off of the ground
  • Awareness - locate the ballcarrier quickly, diagnose screens, blocking scheme, misdirection, etc. It's one thing to get in the backfield, but can they make the play once they are there
  • Size, Length, Strength - the physical traits that will translate at the next level, where the o-linemen are bigger and stronger
  • Motor, Effort - be relentless, fight through blocks, play through the whistle, chase down plays that go the other way, consistently go hard every snap

The measurables

6'3 294 pounds, thick, muscular build, no bad weight

4.87 4-yard dash, 28 bench press reps, 35" vertical

Refused to do shuttle drills (not sure I remember any other prospect that wasn't injured refuse this)

Reviewing the tape

Alabama 2015
  • As soon as the play goes the other way he jogs...at a very leisurely pace...every time
  • He explodes out of his stance, timing the snap ... but tends to get a little too high after that, and loses some leverage
  • Really shoots gaps well, but only straight ahead, when he can beat a blocker one on one
  • Had a quick TFL around the 2 minute mark
  • Knows how to get skinny and get into the backfield
  • Lines up in multiple spots, looks much more natural inside
  • When he tried lining up outside and rushing around the edge, he looked stiff and awkward, took a big slow loop to the QB with little success
  • Did have a successful pressure on the outside around 4:40
  • Huge TFL near the goal line around 5:00, among several defenders were in the backfield instantly at the snap
  • On the inside, he displays very good swim and rip moves
  • He does employ a spin move that CAN work ... but he also times it wrong often and just ends up spinning around while being blocked
  • Seems to lack awareness and change of direction; when he gets into the backfield, the play often goes right past him
  • On a number of occasions a huge Bama o-linemen absolutely bullied him, put him on the ground
  • Gets a (half) sack on a spin move on one play but then gets pancaked on the next snap
  • Took the wildcat snap straight ahead at the goal line, got stuffed
  • Another TFL, ran right past the blocker
  • Credited with three solo tackles (six total) two for a loss, with a half sack
Florida 2015
  • Shows an effective bull rush at times
  • Doesn't seem to be a forceful tackler, more of a "hugger"
  • Got pancaked on at least one occassion
  • Had a flailing miss in the backfield
  • Credited with one solo tackle, no sacks
Mississippi St. 2015
  • Great swim move for a (half) sack
  • Nice shoulder dip for a pressure
  • Another pressure
  • Noticed two offsides penalties where he was trying to time the snap
  • Gets a sack, runs right past the QB on the next play
  • The guard tried to pass Nkemdiche off and he ran right past him, didn't get credit for the sack, but should have been at least a half sack
  • Gets turned around by o-linemen a lot. Once he's blocked, he's done. Little second effort
  • Credited with one solo tackle (four total) 1.5 sacks

Where he wins

  • Does have very good straight-line quickness and can be disruptive as an interior pass rusher. A few plays a game when he's able to beat a blocker or run right past them.
  • Has a variety of pass rush moves but his best are the rip and swim. His spin move is great at times.
  • He looks the part: has the size, strength, quickness, lean muscle and build you'd want in a d-lineman.
  • Natural athleticism- maybe he is just the type that doesn't look like he's going fast, but actually is?

Where he doesn't win

  • Production wasn't really there to match his potential: five sacks and 11 tackles for loss over two years
  • Has quickness when he runs hard, power when he gets leverage but doesn't consistently do either.
  • Doesn't display the change of direction you'd want to see form a guy with his athleticism, goes straight ahead into the backfield
  • Saw a lot of plays where he got into the backfield, but missed the QB or RB, due to a lack of awareness and/or ability to change direction
  • When he's blocked, he's done. I didn't see that second effort or the passion / energy to fight off blockers.
  • I'm not sure he takes plays off ...  just not sure he takes very many plays on.
  • Doesn't play fast, doesn't show the competitiveness or motor you want.
  • Tries to rush on the EDGE, but generally doesn't bend or get to the QB with any effectiveness

Possible NFL comparisons

Upside: Fletcher Cox or Darnell Dockett (disruptive interior pass rushers)

Downside: Quinton Coples or Stephon Tuitt, Ra'Shede Hageman (has the build and ability, but doesn't really live up to it)

For more on Robert Nkemdiche, there are some good links below: