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Kiper Mocks DL Nkemdiche To Eagles

Posted Jan 16, 2016

For the draftniks among us, January through April is a special time. Now a week out from the East-West Shrine Game, two weeks out from the Senior Bowl, and three-and-a-half months out from the big weekend itself, the attention of the 24 fan bases whose teams aren’t playing has turned primarily toward the 2016 NFL Draft. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. released his first mock draft of the year, picking Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa as the first overall pick by the Titans and selecting another defensive lineman at No. 13 for the Eagles, Ole Miss junior Robert Nkemdiche.

"Whether Nkemdiche is a great fit in Philly depends a little bit on what kind of system the new coaching staff will want to run, but with Cedric Thornton an unrestricted free agent, they'd be wise to add another talented piece to the D-line puzzle to take some pressure off Fletcher Cox, who has turned into an absolute star," Kiper wrote. "Nkemdiche has that potential - he's a top-5 talent, really - but will need to maintain his focus off the field."

The Nigerian-American 300-pounder is an athletic freak who maxed out with a 400-pound bench press and 500-pound squat and also recorded a 34-inch vertical and 4.7-second 40-yard dash during preseason testing. Nkemdiche, a standout on both sides of the ball while in high school, has played both defensive end and defensive tackle in three seasons with the Rebels and has even been used occasionally as a rusher out of the backfield in short-yardage situations.

In 2015, he notched 26 tackles, seven of which came behind the line of scrimmage, and three sacks. He also scored two goal-line touchdowns on the ground and also scored on a 31-yard reception out of the backfield during a 76-3 rout of UT Martin. Some, including Mel Kiper’s partner at ESPN, Todd McShay, had projected Nkemdiche as a top-5 pick at one point earlier this year. But that changed when the 21-year-old was arrested on drug charges last month and suspended from playing in the Sugar Bowl.

For Nkemdiche, who has otherwise stayed out of trouble during his three years in Oxford, pre-draft interviews figure to play a major role in determining where he is selected in this year’s draft. But if executives believe that this isolated incident is something the standout defensive lineman has learned from and moved past, he could be a steal for the team that selects him.

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