It’s not a secret that the Redskins would like to land a big defensive lineman, maybe two of them, in the upcoming NFL draft. One of the linemen they interviewed during the scouting combine was Ole Miss tackle Robert Nkemdiche. We don’t know how that particular interview went but Nkemdiche did not impress every general manager he talked to.
You didn’t need to be in one of the private interview rooms in Indianapolis to hear him say some alarming things; he said plenty during his scheduled session at the podium with the media. One was about his play on the field:
“There are times I didn’t finish,” he said to the media at the combine. “I was lazy on some plays at times, but I told them I’m going to keep growing as a player.”
The honesty was refreshing but admission was startling. He’s not the first college player who underutilized great physical tools; indeed, the player with a “high motor” is more the exception rather than the rule. But Nkemdiche’s low level of production at Mississippi was suspect given his native ability so the open admission of the “lazy” characteristic is a red flag.
Nkemdiche’s account of an incident in an Atlanta hotel last December raised some eyebrows as well. He was arrested for marijuana possession after he fell out of a window in the hotel. That prompted the Rebels to suspend him for their bowl game.
He did take some responsibility for what happened, saying he was drunk when he fell out of the window. But he denied that the marijuana in the hotel room was his.
“There were more people in my room,” he said. “The hotel was under my name. Nobody wanted to take the fall. It had to go under my name. It just happened to play out like that.”
He even named names, saying that Ole Miss teammate Laremy Tunsil, the offensive tackle who is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick, was in the room when it happened.
The performance at the podium, along with the game tape, did not impress NFL scouts and general managers. There is talk that Nkemdiche could take another fall, this one perhaps worse than the one he took in Atlanta. He could start to fall in the draft.
Here is where things could get interesting for McCloughan and the Redskins. Suppose Nkemdiche is still there when their pick rolls around in the second round? Or even the third? While the organization stayed away from players with character questions in the draft last year, at some point the upside of the talent could outweigh the character risk.
For McCloughan, events like the incident in the Atlanta hotel and the player’s performance on the podium in Indianapolis won’t decide whether or not he will consider Nkemdiche at any point in the draft. That decision will be made by the game tape and by a deeper look into Nkemdiche’s background.
If he is somewhere on the Redskins’ board, there could come a point in the draft where the talent of the player and the need at the position makes him too much of a value to pass up.
Sometimes teams are rewarded for taking character risks in the draft. The Bengals have gotten good play, including a Pro Bowl appearance, out of Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted out of Arizona State due to numerous red flags. But the Cowboys took a chance on Randy Gregory last year and he is going to be suspended for the first four games of 2016 due to multiple failed drug tests.
I suspect that the Redskins aren’t in the position to gamble with a pick in the first three rounds of the draft. But at some point, a player’s talent could make the risk worth the reward.