McShay: Lions, others likely to avoid Nkemdiche in 1st round

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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The Lions will be looking for defensive tackle help in the draft this April, but they’ll likely avoid drafting one of the most talented players available.

Former Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was a likely top five pick as late as November, but after being charged with marijuana possession and falling out of a hotel window in Atlanta in December, his stock has plummeted.

Robert Nkemdiche of  Mississippi was considered a top-five pick in the NFL draft before off-field issues became a concern.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Tuesday that Nkemdiche is one of the five “most naturally talented” players in the 2016 draft, but based on his talks with teams, Nkemdiche could fall to the end of the first round or outside the first round completely and is an unlikely option for the Lions at No. 16.

At the combine, Nkemdiche admitted to being lazy on some plays, and he said he got the marijuana charge because other people in the hotel room wouldn’t take the fall. He also claimed that former teammate Laremy Tunsil, the potential No. 1 overall pick, was in the room with him.

“I’ll be honest with you,” McShay said on a teleconference. “It’s hard to get somebody to say something really positive about Nkemdiche right now from the league. There’s a lot of specifics that I’m not privy to in meetings, and different teams will react differently to the information. But, Robert Nkemdiche, in talking to maybe six or seven representatives from teams whether it’s scouts or GMs or coaches, he did not do himself any favors at the combine, and there’s enough concern — ultimately, it’s about trust.

“Do you trust this individual to handle … more fame than he’s ever had before in his life, more money than he’s ever had before in his life and more free time than he’s ever had before. And I think there are a lot of people in the league — decision makers — right now really questioning that.”

The Lions have avoided taking players with off-field issues the past few years. New general manager Bob Quinn said he’ll have a zero-tolerance policy for players with issues related to domestic violence or weapons, but Nkemdiche still might be a big risk.

McShay has Lions taking Ohio State OT Decker

In his latest mock draft, McShay projected the Lions to pick former Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker at No. 16. He also has Nkemdiche falling to No. 26 with the Seattle Seahawks.

“I think for Detroit sitting at 16 with some other guys in such a deep defensive tackle class, and with some possibilities at offensive tackle … there’s enough other options where I would guess that Detroit would wind up passing and not take that boom or bust option at No. 16,” McShay said.

In 2015, Nkemdiche had 26 tackles, seven for loss and three sacks. He tested well at the combine with a 4.87-second 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical jump and 28 reps on the 225-pound bench press at 6-foot-4 and 294 pounds.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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