TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Three years ago the Arizona Cardinals took a chance on Tyrann Mathieu and came away with one of the great steals of any draft. They think the same thing may have happened when they chose defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche of Mississippi with the 29th pick overall on Thursday night.
Nkemdiche was considered one of the most talented players in the draft but he was still available late in the first round due to an incident last December at an Atlanta hotel, when he fell 15 feet through a broken window.
He was charged with marijuana possession after the drug was found in the hotel room.
The Cardinals had an inkling the 6-foot-4, 296-pound lineman might slip to them and prepared accordingly.
''We spent more time with him personally than anybody else in this draft process,'' general manager Steve Keim said. ''...so he is a guy we feel like we've gotten to know extremely well. The incident happened. It was an embarrassing situation for him and we feel like that's in the rear-view mirror.''
In a telephone conference call, Nkemdiche said he wasn't surprised he fell to late in the first round.
''I knew I could have slipped because of the incident,'' he said, ''but it's one incident. It's way behind me. I'm looking forward. I'm going to be with the Cardinals and I wouldn't want to be with any other team.''
Nkemdiche said the Atlanta situation ''wasn't anything that really reflected who I am.''
''It was a true accident that happened. It was a blunder,'' he said. ''It's not who I am. Over time they will see that I'm a great person, I'm a great dude and I was the perfect pick for them.''
Keim said Nkemdiche, one of the top recruits in the country out of high school, can play anywhere along the defensive line.
''He's a nightmare for a guard or center,'' coach Bruce Arians said, ''and he can work a tackle off the edge.''
There were some issues with consistency at Ole Miss.
But, Arians said, ''when he was on, baby, there was nothing else like him.''
Keim said that his initial perception of Nkemdiche as a person was based on that arrest, that the player was a character risk.
''When he came and spent a significant amount of time with us, it changed my perception,'' Keim said. ''He's actually an artistic guy, plays the saxophone. I think he's very well-rounded, reads a lot of books. But more than anything he's remorseful. That incident happened and he's paid for it.
''He paid for it today and hopefully we're the beneficiary of that.''
Mathieu was kicked out of LSU for marijuana possession and later was arrested on marijuana-related charges, spending an entire year away from football. But he's been a charismatic, multi-talented, personable player from the moment he arrived.
He is part of a solid locker room with an abundance of leaders, including Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell, Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer.
The Cardinals believe they may have struck gold again.
''I'm a positive person,'' Nkemdiche said. ''I'm a great teammate, I'm passionate about the game of football. I'm a good person, I'm a competitor, I'm a hard worker, I'm a persistent person. I'm everything that the Cardinals want and I'm everything they need.''
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