In the upcoming NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos are looking to replace defensive end Malik Jackson, who left for Jacksonville on a $90 million contract. One prospect who could fill that hole is Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche. The Broncos brought him in for a pre-draft visit Thursday.
Once considered the top 3-tech defensive tackle prospect when he signed with Ole Miss, Nkemdiche is a consensus first round talent. At 6-foot-3, 294 pounds, he has the athleticism and versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line.
For 3-4 defensive coordinators, Nkemdiche has proven that he can penetrate — a required skill-set in Wade Phillips' attacking one-gap system.
However, character concerns and lack of production — namely, sacks — have caused Nkemdiche to plummet from what would otherwise make him an early selection. He only notched 6.5 sacks over his three-year career at Ole Miss.
The Broncos are picking at No. 31 in the first round. If Nkemdiche slides that deep, and depending on which quarterback prospects are still on the board, he would fit Denver's system. John Elway has an impressive track record of taking chances on defensive players with characters concerns (Bradley Roby & Shane Ray).
Since Elway took over the Broncos, he's taken a defensive player with the Broncos first pick in all five of his drafts. But, he's facing an unprecedented QB situation. If a guy like Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch were to inexplicably fall to No. 31, it would be hard to believe Elway wouldn't pull the trigger.
More likely, however, the Broncos will again take a defensive player in the first round and target a guy like Dak Prescott, Connor Cook, or Jeff Driskel in rounds 2-4. As for Nkemdiche, he shares a similar trait with the guy he could conceivably replace if the Broncos selected him.
Malik Jackson managed just 14 sacks in his four years with the Broncos. You don't typically see defensive ends sign $90 million contracts who aren't statistically prolific. However, there is more to a player's production than is seen on the stat sheet and Robert Nkemdiche exemplifies that coming out of college.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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