The Arizona Cardinals certainly believe in their culture, for if they didn’t there is little chance they would have chosen Robert Nkemdiche with the 29th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
In fact, they said as much shortly after making the selection.
“I think the culture of our locker room speaks for itself,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “We’ve got great leadership, young and old. When those guys meet with players, when we bring them in, they meet with a lot of different players we bring in.
“They know what they’re getting into, and we know what we’re getting into.”
Arians went on to explain that, when it comes to Nkemdiche, he comes from a great family and his off the field questions all stem from one bad night, which they don’t expect to be repeated.
“I felt very, very comfortable the fourth time I sat down and went through this story again, of what really transpired and where he comes from and what he’s all about,” the coach added. “He will fit our culture.”
A major part of the team’s confidence comes from Tyrann Mathieu, a third-round selection in 2013 who had been kicked off his college team but, with the Cardinals, has turned into one of the best defensive players in the NFL and a face of the franchise. The way he has turned his life around has led to GM Steve Keim taking a second look at players who are perceived as “troubled” when it comes to evaluating talent, and that way of business led the team to Nkemdiche, a talented player who fell to No. 29 for a reason.
And you know what? According to NFL.com college football writer Chase Goodbread, the defensive lineman is one of nine NFL Draft picks who landed with the ideal team.
Why he fits: Look no further than the Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu for an example of a player who has flourished in the NFL after entering the league with character concerns stemming from college transgressions. So, it comes as little surprise that Mathieu was part of the club’s vetting process on Nkemdiche prior to the draft. Beyond character concerns, however, Nkemdiche is a free spirit with a colorful personality, and the kind of guy who could succeed in a setting that allows him to be himself. Sound anything like former Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett? Even coach Bruce Arians embraced the comparison.
The Dockett comparisons are easy to make, given that the two play the same position and Nkemdiche will be wearing number 90 for Arizona. Though the rookie is larger in stature, they even look a little alike.
As for the “free spirit” part, Nkemdiche himself has said Arizona is the perfect place for him because the Cardinals allow players to be themselves rather than try to fit into some sort of box.
At any rate, both the Cardinals and Nkemdiche seem to have found what they were looking for in each other. For the Cardinals, they landed a potentially disruptive defensive lineman whose talent may belie his draft slot, and for Nkemdiche, he found a home that will accept him for who he is.
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