COUNTDOWN TO THE DRAFT: The plight of Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche

(April is finally here. The NFL draft will be held April 28-30 in Chicago. We’ll periodically look at some of the top prospects in our Countdown to the Draft).

FLOWERY BRANCH – It’s been a rough run-up to the draft of Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

It started with his alcohol-infused night at a Buckhead hotel that led to a drug possession charge.

At the NFL combine, he was not convincing in explaining the events of that night and threw his teammate Laremy Tunsil under the character bus.

At his Pro Day, he admitted to being frustrated because teams questioned his desire to play football and cited him playing his saxophone at a Mississippi blues club in December.

The Falcons have the 17th overall pick, but will pass on Nkemdiche, who said he'd love to play at home. They are troubled by his inconsistent play. Most draftniks have Nkemdiche going in the latter parts of the first round and some have him slipping into the second around.


Q: What’s the reaction when you tell your side of the story?

A: They understand. Some of them ask me some more questions, but they understand. I was drinking. I was drunk, and it happened. Just stay way from it. Keep your focus where it needs to be.

Q:  Why will (you not finishing plays in college) change when you're getting paid?

A: Because I know what’s at stake and I know what I have to do as a player to be great in the NFL. I’m just going to keep focusing on the things I need to focus on as a player that I didn’t focus on so much in college and that I know I need to get better at.

Q: You say you were drinking. It was a drug possession charge. How do you explain the inconsistency?

A: There were more people in my room. 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.


Projected Round: Late first, early second. College: Mississippi. Height: 6-3 1//2. Weight: 294. Hometown: Loganville. High school: Grayson. Age: 21.

Highlights: He was the consensus No. 1 overall recruit in the nation after playing for former Grayson head coach Mickey Conn. He was an immediate starter for the Rebels. He played some defensive end and defensive tackle as a freshmen. He was a very good college player, but never lived up to his immense hype. His inconsistency is troubling to some NFL scouts. He played like Mean Joe Greene against Alabama and then disappeared against Arkansas. The uneven play is a red flag to some.


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.