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Mock Draft Rewind: How did the experts do in predicting Cardinals’ selection?

Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (5) runs a drill before an NCAA college football game against Fresno State in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Mississippi won 73-21. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

Since January 14, ArizonaSports.com tracked 258 NFL mock drafts.

After months of preparation and prognostication, the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft commenced Thursday night in Chicago. A total of 31 players were selected, including the Arizona Cardinals taking Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche with the 29th pick.

Unlike the last few years — when the Cardinals moved down to take Washington State’s Deone Bucannon in 2014 and selected Florida tackle D.J. Humphries last year — many experts projected the correct player going to Arizona.

The first mock draft that had Nkemdiche going to the Cardinals was offered by Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union on Feb. 11. Carlyon wrote:

The Cardinals gambled on troubled defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and won big. General manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians could take a similar stance with Nkemdiche. He has top-10 talent, but was suspended for the Sugar Bowl after being cited for marijuana possession in December when he jumped from a hotel window 15 feet to the ground.

Nate Davis of USA Today was the next to jump on the Nkemdiche-to-Arizona bandwagon on March 1.

In all, 16 mocks tracked by ArizonaSports.com had the Ole Miss defensive lineman going at no. 29 to Arizona making him the third-most common projection behind Alabama center Ryan Kelly (37 mocks) and Eastern Kentucky outside linebacker Noah Spence (22 mocks).

Of the prominent national experts, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah was the most recent to nail the pick. His draft-day mock had Nkemdiche as a Cardinal.

“The Cardinals have the culture in place to help Nkemdiche excel,” Jeremiah wrote.

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