Mel Kiper Jr. released the second version of his 2016 mock draft on Thursday morning and the ESPN draft analyst tabbed Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche to the Seattle Seahawks with pick No. 26 in the first round.
The pick is an audible from Kiper's original mock draft that had Seattle selecting Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple, who Kiper sends to the Oakland Raiders with pick No. 14 this time around.
Nkemdiche, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 296 pounds, was one of the nation's top recruits coming out of high school, and according to Kiper, would likely be considered a Top-10 talent if not for off-the-field issues.
Kiper's analysis of the draft's initial round requires an Insider subscription, but here's what he wrote about the possibility of Nkemdiche to Seattle:
If a player like Cody Whitehair is still available at this point, you could see the Seahawks looking to address an immediate need on the offensive line. If not, Nkemdiche is more than a consolation prize if he can stay focused and put major off-field questions to rest. He's a top-10 talent but could see his stock slip if teams don't trust him, especially in a draft that is loaded with future impact starters on the defensive line.*
At Ole Miss, Nkemdiche recorded just seven sacks and 19 tackles for loss in 35 games played through three seasons. But as Kiper and fellow draft analyst Todd McShay discussed in a Thursday interview on ESPN Radio, Nkemdiche's production at the college level "can be a little bit misleading."
"I understand the production isn't ideal," McShay said. "When they moved him to defensive tackle a year ago everyone complained his stats were down. I went and watched the tape, and the guy was a monster."
McShay went on to compare Nkemdiche's perceived lack of production to that of Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who tallied just five sacks this past season for the Buckeyes but is still the top-ranked player on McShay's big board.
"The guy's taking on two and three almost every single play," McShay said of Bosa, who Kiper has going to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 6 overall. "He's hustling, he's fighting through, and he's creating opportunities for other guys. He's still getting close and moving the quarterback and all those sorts of things, so sometimes the production can be a little bit misleading."
Brandon Mebane, age 31, and Ahtyba Rubin, age 29, are scheduled to become free agents this March. If the Seahawks are unable to keep those players in the Pacific Northwest, the club could look to reinforce the position group in the early rounds of the draft. If he's available, Kiper and McShay agree that Nkemdiche would make a lot of sense.
"I think it's a really good fit," McShay said. "If he's still on the board there, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Nkemdiche becomes a Seattle Seahawk."
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