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Will the Redskins believe Nkemdiche's upside is worth the risk?

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Will the Redskins believe Nkemdiche's upside is worth the risk?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 66 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Robert Nkemdiche
Defensive end
Ole Miss

Height: 6-4
Weight: 296

What they’re saying
Production was definitely minimal, but Nkemdiche offers plenty of disruption potential. After playing outside early in his career, Nkemdiche looks at his best inside. His natural athleticism is an advantage there, winning around heavy footed offensive linemen off the snap or through weaker opponents.
Josh Norris, Rotoworld

How he fits the Redskins: It’s no secret that the Redskins want to start to rebuild their defensive line. In the past they have done so mostly through free agency; the last defensive lineman they took in the first round was end Kenard Lang in 1997. Scot McCloughan believes that the draft is the lifeblood of the organization and there’s no doubt that he will look to build the defensive line there. This year’s first-round pibk would be a good place to start.

Is Nkemdiche (pronounced kim-DEE-chee) the guy McCloughan wants to be the cornerstone of the line? He certainly has the physical tools to do so. He has the athleticism and quickness of an outside player but the size and toughness to play inside. He received second-team All-American honors from multiple media outlets as both a junior and as a senior.

Potential issues: Although he looks good both getting off of the bus and when he gets in his stance on the line he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of numbers. Last year as he was earning those All American honors he posted just three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Those are not the gaudy stats you might want from a top draft pick.

And there is the little matter of the end of his career at Ole Miss. A about 10 days before the Rebels were schedule to play in the Sugar Bowl, Nkemdiche fell out of the window of an Atlanta hotel and suffered mild injuries. That was not a big issue; the marijuana found in the room was a problem. Nkemdiche was arrested for possession and was suspended from the Sugar Bowl. After that he decided to enter the draft.

Bottom line: The on-field numbers won’t make McCloughan pause if he likes what he sees on tape. But the arrest in Atlanta raise questions about how important football is to him.

If the Redskins find Nkemdiche’s on-field talent to be good enough to pursue then they will start looking into his background to see if the incident in Atlanta was an aberration or part of a pattern.

If I had to guess, I’d say that if the Redskins had, say, the No. 10 overall pick they wouldn’t consider Nkemdiche very strongly. There could be better options that have fewer question marks. But if he slides in the draft due to the production stats and the arrest in Atlanta McCloughan could find himself looking at a top-10 talent at pick No. 21. If character concerns are minimal might McCloughan overlook his weak statistical output and make his pick based on Nkemdiche’s high ceiling and can do in the future? We could find out.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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