The Arizona Cardinals selected Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche with the No. 29 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

By Doug Farrar
April 28, 2016

The Arizona Cardinals selected Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche with the No. 29 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Grade: A-

The Cardinals just got themselves one of the most dominant players in this draft class, regardless of position. Of course, Nkemdiche's off-field issues will have to be vetted, as well as the concern that he doesn't get everything out of his potential on the field. But if Bruce Arians can corral Nkemdiche's talent as he did with Tyrann Mathieu, then Arizona now has a run-stopping monster with the ability to rush the passer—and do both from just about any gap.​

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Strengths: Hyper-aggressive gap-splitter who’s always looking to pursue, and brings an estimable leverage pop off the snap. Will occasionally time a gap move right off the snap and force an offense to deal with him on the quick. Has the base upper-body strength to deal with larger inside blockers and double teams from both the one-tech and three-tech positions. Outstanding movement skills from one gap to the next, and he brings his power with him. Has the agility to still play strong-side end in a pinch. Burrows under the pads of blockers and persistently moves them back. Practices ability to slip off blocks to either side, re-direct and get into the backfield. Will extend to make tackles out of his area. Has an embryonic over move, and could be really devastating with a full array of hand moves. Could be a game-changer on twists and stunts. For all the (legitimate) talk about his relative lack of sack production, Nkemdiche rarely gets flat-out beaten—he’s a constant battler. Legitimate threat to disrupt at every gap. Scored two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in 2015.

Weaknesses: Relatively short arms limit Nkemdiche’s ability to deliver the first punch and allow blockers into his kitchen too often; he has to get a stout two-handed grip to compensate. Wrestles too often and needs to stack and shed with more consistency. Lack of sack production over his college career is a concern, but less so when you watch his tape and realize how often he was the opposing offense’s primary point of focus. That said, and as he admitted at the combine, Nkemdiche didn’t always finish plays, and his production was affected. Tweener body may limit him to a 4–3 base scheme—his lack of height gives him a considerable leverage advantage, but could shoot him down the boards of many 3–4 teams. Off-field concerns are entirely legitimate and will take a lot of vetting. There are also questions about how well he’ll take hard coaching.

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