NFL

Is Former 1st-Round NFL Draft Pick Robert Nkemdiche’s NFL Career Over?

When the Arizona Cardinals drafted Robert Nkemdiche, they thought they were getting one of the strongest defensive players in his class. However, once his career took off, his issues on and off the field made it hard for them to commit to him long term. Now labeled a bust due to his actions, Nkemdiche hopes to find his reentry soon, but the odds aren’t in his favor.

Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche

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Nkemdiche first made his name at the legendary football program at Ole Miss, details Sports Reference. Under the guidance of Hugh Freeze, he bolstered the defense of one of the best football schools. Although defensive tackles aren’t usually household names, a top-tier one can change a defense for years to come. 

At the time of the draft, many believed Nkemdiche had the talent for the NFL. But he also had some off-field issues that hampered his value for some teams. Just months before the NFL draft, he fell from a fourth-floor window in Atlanta. When police investigated his room, they cited Nkemdiche for marijuana possession. The defensive end apologized. While this made some teams think twice, the Cardinals chose him in the first round of the draft. 

Nkemdiche enters the NFL

The Cardinals hoped that Nkemdiche’s relentless defense would make up for any cause of concern. However, once the season started, he only played in five games off the bench, and injuries were not why. Still, many players fail to see the field early in their careers. However, Nkemdiche spent most of his second season coming off the bench, too.

After six starts with the Cardinals in 10 games, he both failed to impress them and tore his ACL. Then, after Nkemdiche arrived at training camp out of shape, the Cardinals cut him. He eventually went to Miami. Once there, he only appeared in two games and was cut by the offseason team, although an arrest for cocaine possession was likely the root of it.

Now, he’s awaiting his next chance in the NFL despite the season swinging into full gear. 

The NFL’s concerns about Robert Nkemdiche

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The concerns about Nkemdiche’s NFL career go back before he was even drafted, reports ESPN. While the incident in Atlanta appeared to be paled compared to more significant scandals, it raised some red flags. Even at the time, however, Freeze didn’t villainize his star defensive player. He chopped it up to being a minor gaffe. 

“Kids make mistakes all the time. I wish there was a pattern that says this is exactly what you do when this happens, but we don’t have one of those. So we’ll get all the facts. The first thing we will do is let our doctors look at him and make sure he is healthy and everything is well. It really is too hard to tell.”

Those facts may have been what made Nkemdiche slide to where he did and why he didn’t last in the NFL. Still, at just 26 years old, it’s not entirely over for the free agent. The tackle showed some promise, with 44 tackles, nearly five sacks, and ten QB hits during his limited time in the NFL, but up until the end, there was some concern/ Before he was let go by the Dolphins, the NFL suspended him two more games for undisclosed reasons. 

Despite some players opting out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, Nkemdiche is still awaiting his call. He’s reportedly hitting the gym and hoping to impress someone, but those hopes are likely to be put on hold until he can prove that he can survive a training camp. He might get another opportunity in the future, but until Nkemdiche can prove he’s not just ready for the NFL but good enough for a second chance, the wait may linger for a very long time.