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Robert Nkemdiche drafted late in first round by Cardinals

The Cardinals took a risk on the talented defensive lineman late in the first round.

With the No. 29 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals have selected Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. The Georgia-born son of Nigerian immigrants, Nkemdiche is one of the most talented players in this year's draft. But he's also one who drew heavy criticism in the pre-draft process for his part in a December 2015 incident that ended with him in the hospital.

Nkemdiche concluded his third season with Ole Miss by being named to the All-SEC first team, but also by being suspended for the 2016 Sugar Bowl, a game that his teammates won without his help, 48-20, over Oklahoma State. His suspension came on the heels of the December incident.

Nkemdiche fell from a fourth-floor window at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, Ga. He was conscious and in stable condition when officers arrived to the scene, at which time he was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital. Fortunately, Nkemdiche was fine after the incident, but police found marijuana in his room, which led to him being charged for possession as a result.

For his part, Nkemdiche claimed that the marijuana found in his room didn't belong to him. He reiterated this claim at the NFL Scouting Combine, but also revealed that teammate Laremy Tunsil, who went to the Miami Dolphins earlier in the draft, was there in the room with him that night.

He did not specifically say that the marijuana belonged to Tunsil, but after claims of having been drinking before falling out of the window, he said that there were "more people" in his room.

"The hotel was under my name," Nkemdiche said. "Nobody wanted to take the fall. It had to go under my name. It just happened to play out like that."

Fortunately, Nkemdiche isn't putting all of the blame on others. He took responsibility for his actions and for putting himself in a position where the events that transpired were able to transpire.

"I told them the truth," Nkemdiche said of NFL teams asking about his December incident. "It was a rash decision by me. Uncharacteristic and not who I am. That's not what I stand for, that's not what my family stands for."

Most of the questions Nkemdiche fielded when interviewing with teams at the combine revolved around his character. Another concern that teams had was that he may have lacked effort on the field and that his play was inconsistent. He himself admitted as much, saying there were times he "didn't finish" and that he was "lazy."

On the stat sheet, Nkemdiche was an underachiever for his physical assets. A five-star defensive tackle often tagged with the "athletic freak" descriptor, Nkemdiche put up just 16 tackles for loss in three college seasons. He didn't dominate for any long stretches of time, and was inconsistent at the best of times.

But teams were unable to ignore his raw talent.

That's Nkemdiche getting close to the quarterback in the center of the rushers, jersey No. 5. But him getting close to the quarterback isn't the main event in the above clip. The fact that he absolutely annihilated a hapless offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback is what's impressive.

But it also serves as a reminder that Nkemdiche can be his own worst enemy at times, and if he channeled less of his energy into slamming into the offensive lineman, then he might not have went down himself and could have prevented that pass from being attempted. Right off the line, Nkemdiche makes the guard stumble, but instead of using that to get around him or over him in a sensible manner, he recklessly crashes into him.

Still, Arizona was willing to take a flyer on his potential and see past the issues with effort and his off-field incident. The marijuana arrest is a red flag, given the high profile players serving suspensions for violation of the league's substance abuse program in recent years, but his new team has to be confident that the incident was a one-time situation.

The Cardinals are the same team that took a risk on former New England Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones, trading for the talented player, despite off-field concerns. The Cardinals will hope similar concerns about Nkemdiche don't turn out to haunt them.