Atlanta Falcons 2016 Scouting Report: DL Robert Nkemdiche

Oct 3, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (5) looks on prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (5) looks on prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Outside of the obvious defenders on the radar (Jaylon Smith, Reggie Ragland, Shaq Lawson), quite possibly the most popular defensive name to be attached to the Atlanta Falcons is none other than Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. I have to be frank and say I’m not quite sure why. Yes, Nkemdiche is a talent guy. Yes, he will be a first rounder. Yes, he actually is a fit for Atlanta’s defense. However, the selection of Nkemdiche will mean that several options didn’t make it to the 17th pick for the Falcons, but since we’re here let’s take a closer look at Nkemdiche at what he can bring to Atlanta.

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DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Height: 6’4

Weight 298 lbs

Strengths: Nkemdiche is one of, if not the, most athletic defensive tackles in the NFL draft. He also has a well-developed, all-around frame, with the room to add some more bulk to be even more stout at the next level. Rare, excellent burst at the snap and can be a headache for slower interior lineman. The defensive tackle has been seen from time to time to apply brute strength and drive offensive guards five to eight yards into the pocket. Applies proper awareness to get hands up into passing lanes if unable to get to the passer. Agility/athleticism is evident with the ability to fight off blocks and maneuver down the line to chase plays. Still developing with only two full seasons at DT, which affects his ceiling and what he can potentially be.

Here is one of Nkemdiche’s better games at Ole Miss where he displays elite quickness, excellent strength, and even threw in a number of sacks to cap it off:

Weaknesses: We are all fully aware of his off-field incidents recently so we won’t concentrate heavily on that matter. Turning the attention on the field, Nkemdiche still hasn’t figured out to use his hands consistently. When he does, he gets positive results. As strong as Nkemdiche is, the bull rush didn’t always work in college and won’t always work in the NFL. He also has a tendency to resort to a odd, unreliable spin move as a last minute option. It usually occurs four or five seconds into the play and in some cases, that lack of discipline takes him out of plays completely. Technique needs a considerable amount of work. Even with that brute strength mentioned earlier, sometimes his initial burst gets a little push. Pass rushing development is needed as well.

Bottom line: Nkemdiche has talent as well as immense potential. His burst as a 296 pound DT is rare and not many with similar size can match it. While Nkemdiche will be a first round pick, it will be based more of his ceiling/potential and not from his production the past two seasons. When watching his film, you have to keep reminding yourself that by NFL standards, he’s still raw and still developing.

Why do I feel Nkemdiche is a fit for Atlanta? In the Falcons 4-3 Under scheme, one of the tackle spots lines up in the 3-technique and sole purpose is to cause chaos in the B-gap. I’ve seen enough undisciplined plays from Nkemdiche to believe he’s not quite ready for a two-gap technique system. In Atlanta, coach Quinn can rotate a solid lineup of Hageman, Jarrett, and Nkemdiche at that 3-tech DT spot with allowing Nkemdiche to split out wide as a SDE on occasion as well as allow Hageman or Jarrett to see spot duty at the nose. As stated before, Nkemdiche will be Plan F or G for Atlanta in the draft with other options (Ragland, Smith, Lawson, Dodd, and Ogbah) probably getting consideration before him. However, Quinn could make Nkemdiche a star in Atlanta.