I feel like I need to remind people before reading this breakdown on Robert Nkemdiche that my assessments don’t take into account off-field issues at all. These are projections based strictly on how I view each prospect as a player and whether I think their skill sets should transition well to the NFL. A guy can play like a top-five pick, but we all know that character issues could potentially knock them down draft boards.
Nkemdiche did play like a first-round pick in the five games I watched. That doesn’t mean he was perfect or even close, but he showed me enough in those five games that I can foresee Nkemdiche being a force on the next level. I think a team with an attacking style 4-3 defense (where “attacking” means they want their interior defensive linemen to get up the field and rush the passer just like their defensive ends) would be the perfect landing spot for him.
That doesn’t mean he can’t play well in other schemes, too. I just personally believe his greatest chance for success in the NFL is as an undertackle/three-technique. Sure, he could be a five-technique in a 3-4 and maybe even a nose tackle in a 4-3, but I don’t think a team will get nearly as much bang for their buck in those positions as they would if they put him at undertackle.
Nkemdiche is definitely going to need a lot of technique work, however. I don’t think I saw him play a single reach block by, you know, not getting reached in five games. He did make some plays with a backdoor (allowing yourself to get blocked inside so you can go behind the blocker to make the play) on reach blocks on several occasions, but as you might imagine that approach was kind of hit-or-miss. The chances of him winning with a backdoor on every reach block will go down significantly once he reaches the pros and has to face more athletic guys.
Well except for this one game …
Now, I haven’t done any breakdowns of Alabama offensive linemen this offseason, so I’m not 100 percent sure how good they were this past season. What I do know is that those guys were a lot harder for Nkemdiche to beat than the offensive lines on the other four teams. Alabama’s offensive line was much more physical with Nkemdiche, as well.
All of a sudden, Nkemdiche was the one getting knocked on his ass instead of the other way around. Not all the time, but definitely some of the time which wasn’t something I saw much of in the other four games. He still ended up making some nice plays against Alabama, including a sack off a pretty spin move near the end of the game, which is why not being quite as dominant against those guys wasn’t really that alarming for me.
Watching him get moved around more than usual did reiterate to me how important it will be to get his technique flaws ironed out.