The Buffalo Bills’ defense has been inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they’ve transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Some players throughout the fron seven that were productive in Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz’ defensive schemes that were based on 4-3 concepts haven’t been able to replicate that success in their new roles. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at Ole Miss Tackle/End Robert Nkemdiche.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
The number one overall prospect the year he was recruited, Robert Nkemdiche was one of four players to be the consensus no. 1 prospect, joining Ernie Sims, Vince Young and Jadaveon Clowney. Nkemdiche’s brother (Denzel) had been a member of the Ole Miss team already, which many figured would have a hand in his going to Ole Miss. While that ultimately was the case, the time leading up to signing day was fraught with “will he/won’t he” declarations from media.
Upon his arrival to campus, the pomp didn’t stop. Starting in 10 of 11 games, Nkemdiche racked up 34 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 2 sacks en route to being named Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-American flopping between end and tackle. In 2014, Nkemdiche played at defensive tackle and kept up the good work on the nation’s stingiest defense (16.0 ppg) with 35 tackles with 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. This year Nkemdiche amassed the usual statistics (26 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) and added offense to his repertoire, scoring twice as a jumbo back and once as a receiver.
Nkemdiche, for all of his accolades, is now more known for his 15 foot fall from a hotel room, which resulted in his hospitalization and the discovery by police of marijuana in the room he fell out of. As teams scramble to evaluate the true junior, his decisions off the field will be just as important as his play on it.
Robert Nkemdiche is 6’3 and 296 pounds and is more than willing to out power any offensive lineman in his way. Following the suggestions of his coaches after his freshman year, Nkemdiche gained weight to allow him to be more of a threat as a defensive tackle. Which his unnatural athleticism for a man of his size, playing as a defensive end on some plays, in addition to the plays as running back and receiver are great examples of this fluid athlete.
Robert Nkemdiche makes his money typically as a 3 technique (outside eye OG), but on long distances can be anywhere from a NT on a three man line to a 7 technique end on a 3 or 4 man line. When playing the run he is violent, using his hands, speed and even at times spin moves inside to collapse the blocking into and at times onto the runner.
When I’m looking at a player, if there is a chance, I look for games against teams that are going to imitate looks he’ll see in the NFL. A team like Alabama is perfect, given their pro style and ace talent in their own right. Look what Nkemdiche does on this play:
This is textbook fighting a double team with pressure and getting skinny through it for a tackle, for loss in this case. Having the power to fight through the double and the speed to get to the back afterwards is going to be a joy to watch in the NFL.
This play, where he’s fighting through a chop block on his way to another TFL is another good example:
Pass Rushing Ability
Much like in the run game, Nkemdiche’s power and scary speed allows him to take advantage of a bad set by his guard. Note here vs. Auburn how he dominates his man, forcing the QB into a bad situation:
Or take a look here vs. Florida. Nkemdiche not only walks the guard back, he pushes through a back’s chip assist and gets a lick on the QB. This play would result in a touchdown, but not for Robert’s lack of effort.
Potential Fit with Buffalo Bills
On the Bills I’d see Robert in a role similar to Kyle Williams – inside at 3 technique typically in 4-3 looks, but when Rex goes exotic, he could be anywhere, including Sam linebacker. In the Ryan system, Rex asks that players at times sacrifice their own rush for the sake of getting another player open and I don’t forsee that being an issue with Nkemdiche.
However, the issue would lie with his availability. With the mystery still surrounding his hotel room fall and the allegations of marijuana, Nkemdiche will have to have a clean combine drug wise to help his case. Right now with all the negative attention and the focus on these issues, I could see him taking a Warren Sapp-esque tumble into the teens as the NFL seeks to clean up its players’ images. Players such as Richie Incognito, Karlos Williams and Ronald Darby brought into the fold last year with a varied set of questions character wise kept clean last season; I can see Rex wanting to give this talented lineman a chance to prove the same should he be there at 19.