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Will the Redskins believe Nkemdiche's upside is worth the risk?

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Will the Redskins believe Nkemdiche's upside is worth the risk?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 66 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players Scot McCloughan will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Robert Nkemdiche
Defensive end
Ole Miss

Height: 6-4
Weight: 296

What they’re saying
Production was definitely minimal, but Nkemdiche offers plenty of disruption potential. After playing outside early in his career, Nkemdiche looks at his best inside. His natural athleticism is an advantage there, winning around heavy footed offensive linemen off the snap or through weaker opponents.
Josh Norris, Rotoworld

How he fits the Redskins: It’s no secret that the Redskins want to start to rebuild their defensive line. In the past they have done so mostly through free agency; the last defensive lineman they took in the first round was end Kenard Lang in 1997. Scot McCloughan believes that the draft is the lifeblood of the organization and there’s no doubt that he will look to build the defensive line there. This year’s first-round pibk would be a good place to start.

Is Nkemdiche (pronounced kim-DEE-chee) the guy McCloughan wants to be the cornerstone of the line? He certainly has the physical tools to do so. He has the athleticism and quickness of an outside player but the size and toughness to play inside. He received second-team All-American honors from multiple media outlets as both a junior and as a senior.

Potential issues: Although he looks good both getting off of the bus and when he gets in his stance on the line he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of numbers. Last year as he was earning those All American honors he posted just three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. Those are not the gaudy stats you might want from a top draft pick.

And there is the little matter of the end of his career at Ole Miss. A about 10 days before the Rebels were schedule to play in the Sugar Bowl, Nkemdiche fell out of the window of an Atlanta hotel and suffered mild injuries. That was not a big issue; the marijuana found in the room was a problem. Nkemdiche was arrested for possession and was suspended from the Sugar Bowl. After that he decided to enter the draft.

Bottom line: The on-field numbers won’t make McCloughan pause if he likes what he sees on tape. But the arrest in Atlanta raise questions about how important football is to him.

If the Redskins find Nkemdiche’s on-field talent to be good enough to pursue then they will start looking into his background to see if the incident in Atlanta was an aberration or part of a pattern.

If I had to guess, I’d say that if the Redskins had, say, the No. 10 overall pick they wouldn’t consider Nkemdiche very strongly. There could be better options that have fewer question marks. But if he slides in the draft due to the production stats and the arrest in Atlanta McCloughan could find himself looking at a top-10 talent at pick No. 21. If character concerns are minimal might McCloughan overlook his weak statistical output and make his pick based on Nkemdiche’s high ceiling and can do in the future? We could find out.

Previously in Combine Countdown:

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.