The focus on the Buccaneers' 9th overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft has already started swirling around a few specific names.
After a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence became a popular pick for the Bucs in mock drafts. Of course, we discussed the possibility of Spence to the Bucs before Senior Bowl week even started.
Other names associated with the Bucs' 9th overall selection include Oregon DE DeForest Buckner, Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves, Clemson DE Shaq Lawson, and Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley. I caution Bucs fans to not get locked in on just one or two players, but to keep an open mind on other players who make a surge, in the media, into the top 10 picks.
After watching a lot of film on the defensive linemen in the 2016 NFL Draft this week, I became a bigger fan of some and soured on others. The more I watch of Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah, the less I like. That's a story for another day. On the other side, every time I click to watch some of Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche, the more I find myself saying, "wow."
While Nkemdiche is a special talent to watch on film, I'm sure his detractors are ready to attack. Arguments against Nkemdiche include a lack of production in his statistics, questionable work ethic, and questionable off-field character. It doesn't help Nkemdiche that he was suspended for this past Sugar Bowl after smoking synthetic marijuana and falling from a hotel window.
Many of you reading this are slamming down on the breaks, and probably saying there's no way this guy can be the Bucs' pick in the 1st round.
"I look forward to sharing with NFL general managers and scouts what a unique and talented individual he is," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said via the Clarion-Ledger. "Robert has made an immeasurable impact on our program, and we are forever indebted to him. He and his family will always be part of the Ole Miss family. We will continue to support him as he prepares for the next chapter in his life."
Character is an important aspect when deciding on a player you want to join your franchise. However, it should not be the deciding factor. Ultimately, talent should be the most important aspect when deciding if a player is good enough to join your organization. After that decision is made, then character should come into play to see if the team is willing to tolerate a player with questionable character.
For me, different positions come with different levels of tolerance. With defensive linemen, I don't think a little crazy and a bad attitude is necessarily a bad thing, as long as they can channel that attitude to the football field.
Nkemdiche's mom left him when he was in 8th grade. He spent his high school years living with his defensive line coach and head coach of his high school football team, along with his quarterback's family. Robert would join his older brother, Denzel, at Ole Miss. Both of the Nkemdiche's have made mistakes, but the potential to correct those mistakes off the field and the tremendous potential of Robert Nkemdiche on the field far outweigh the concerns that may surround him during the draft process.
Nkemdiche has outstanding size (6'4'' 296 lbs), room to get bigger, tremendous strength, and has the quickness and speed of a defensive end. He can and has been used all over the defensive line. With Mike Smith now in charge of the Bucs defense, adding a talented player like Nkemdiche would allow Smith to get creative with how he'll use him. Another factor will be Bucs' DL coach Jay Hayes, who has dealt with unique talents with character concerns during his days with the Bengals. Nkemdiche would have an excellent chance of reaching his very high potential with Hayes coaching him up.