It seemed like everyone knew it was going to happen. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche fell down the draft board before the Arizona Cardinals took him with the 29th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. There were character concerns. He fell out a hotel room window and there were drugs in his room, leading to an arrest on drug possession.
But the Arizona Cardinals appear unconcerned after they did a lot of looking into the enigmatic defensive stud.
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said, "we spent more time with him personally than anybody else in this draft process." They spoke with him in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine. They brought him in for a visit at the team facility, where he met all the staff and even Tyrann Mathieu. They went and spent some time with him on campus at Ole Miss. Then, just days before the draft, Keim and team president Michael Bidwill went out to Los Angeles to spend even more time with him.
"He is a guy we fell like we've gotten to know extremely well," he said.
Beyond the time with him, Keim also said they spoke with college coaches, his former high school coaches and even the coaches he trained with for eight weeks at EXOS leading up to the draft. "Every report we got was very, very good," he said.
So what of this strange hotel incident?
Nkemdiche himself called it "a true accident" and "a blunder."
"It's not who I am, and over time they will see that I'm a great person," he told reporters after he was drafted. "I'm a great dude and I was a perfect pick for them."
He callls himself "a good person." Bruce Arians said Nkemdiche "comes from a great family."
"He had a really bad night one time, but the rest of his career has been pretty solid," he said. "I felt very, very comfortable the fourth time I sat down and went through his story again, of what really transpired and where he comes from and what he's all about."
one of the biggest things Keim hit on was the fact Nkemdiche is "remorseful."
"The incident happened and he's paid for it," Keim said. "He paid for it (on draft night)."
Arians said "he owned up to his mistake and has obviously been working hard to regain his family name."
Keim and the Cardinals now have a reputation for being willing to take on guys with some questionable issues. Tyrann Mathieu is an example. They traded for Chandler Jones with a weird incident allegedly with synthetic marijuana. Now there is Nkemdiche. But Keim says it isn't just they are willing to take chances.
"There are guys in this draft who we didn't feel comfortable with and that were off our board," he explained. "(Nkemdiche) wasn't one of them."
Mathieu worked out well. The Cardinals seem pretty sure Nkemdiche will, too.