ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., believes in Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche’s talent. But he isn’t sure about his work ethic.
In his latest mock draft, Kiper slotted Nkemdiche to the Buffalo Bills with the 19th overall pick. Kiper said during a Tuesday teleconference that Nkemdiche would be a steal at that spot in terms of talent, but added the team that takes him might need to provide some coaching inspiration.
“With Nkemdiche, I give him to Rex Ryan,” Kiper said. “There’s going to have to be a good spot. The one where you’re willing to say ‘OK I’m getting a top five, top 10 caliber player at a bargain point.’ But can you motivate him to the heights he can get to? And that’s where coaching is going to come in.”
Nkemdiche is vastly talented and could make an NFL team very happy. But his ability hasn’t always been in sync with his production. He registered 29 tackles and three sacks during his junior season in Oxford, Miss., which was disappointing when compared to expectations.
“You look at being blocked and handled in a double-team situation, triple-team situation by college players; you’re going to get that in the NFL,” Kiper said. “So it can’t be an excuse and he was not as productive as he should have been. With that said he’s got a tremendous amount of talent.”
That inconsistency combined with some questionable off-field decisions has put Nkemdiche in a puzzling spot for NFL scouts. Kiper believes Nkemdiche would be taken at the very top of the draft if not for the off-field transgressions.
“If it wasn’t for intangible issues, he’d be in the top 10,” Kiper said.