When Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche fell from an Atlanta hotel on Dec. 12 thoughts immediately rushed to his health and safety.
Nkemdiche came out of the fall from a fourth-story window relatively unscathed. As he and Ole Miss decide how to progress with an upcoming trip to the Sugar Bowl, the junior also has to consider his NFL draft stock.
Considered a first-round pick — potentially a top-five selection – if he were to forego his senior season and enter the draft, Nkemdiche not only has to heal, both mentally and physically, after the fall, but he has to decide if entering the draft is the right decision.
A big deciding factor for Nkemdiche will be whether or not his draft stock has taken a hit after news came out about the fall from the hotel and what transpired up to that point. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay thinks there’s a way for Nkemdiche to make it through this situation without taking much of a hit, maybe not any hit to his potential draft slot.
“Assuming that he doesn’t have any issues between now and the draft and assuming that what has been reported is the story and assuming there’s not a major dependency issue, my guess is we’ll have close to have forgotten about it come draft time,” McShay said on a conference call. “Again, there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in there, and I’m not saying it’s not a big deal or not an issue at all. But I’m saying if he does everything right between now and then and if everything checks out and there’s not a bigger issue out there, I think the talent will prevail.”
Nkemdiche posted 29 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss this season and was one of the more feared defensive tackles in college football. His track-star speed combined with a 6-foot-4-inch, 296-pound frame allows him to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. It’s that kind of potential that has NFL general managers drooling.
McShay believes NFL GMs will be able to put this incident in the past. Many student-athletes have made mistakes in the past. Sometimes it hurts their draft stock, sometimes not. If Nkemdiche wants to remain a top-of-the-first-round pick, he’s still got work to do.
“If he checks out with work ethic and there’s no concern at all with those other things, then teams will put it in perspective,” McShay said. “He needs to be smart and realize what’s at stake. If everything checks out from a work-ethic standpoint and an intangibles standpoint, I don’t think it’ll have any major effect on where he winds up drafted.”
What Nkemdiche has put on film is great enough to be a top-10 pick. Now it’s time for the Ole Miss star to back that game tape up with a solid NFL Combine and Rebels Pro Day, and sizzle during private workouts. If he does that and can show NFL teams this kind of episode is behind him, he’ll likely hear his name called early on the first day of the draft on April 28.