The perfect recruit: what happened to Robert Nkemdiche


A 1.0000, or a perfect five stars: the ranking of only 6 recruits of all time. Players like Vince Young and Jadeveon Clowney made up this elite class of players. These two went from college superstars to NFL bust quickly in their short careers. Rashan Gary, another former perfect five star, is now in the NFL but is recovering from a leg injury.

But what if I told you that there was a perfect five-star recruit who never lived up to the hype and failed once he started playing on Sundays? That player was Robert Nkemdiche.

Nkemdiche attended Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia. Nkemdiche did not just bring his talent on to the football field, but he also was a varsity basketball player while also running track. In his junior season, Nkemdiche registered 59 tackles, 18 sacks, 528 rushing yards, and 17 touchdowns. Every team was knocking on Nkemdiche’s door with scholarship papers ready to sign, but the young buck decided to attend the University of Mississippi after decommitting from Clemson University.

In his 2013 freshman season, he instantly gained time and started 10 out of the 11 games he appeared in. Nkemdiche recorded 34 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 3 quarterback hurries. His sophomore season would see very similar stats with 35 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, and a single pass break up. After the season, Nkemdiche was named AP Second Team All American and First Team AP All-SEC. During that same year, it was reported that Nkemdiche had fallen from a fourth-floor window after Atlanta Police Department reports stated that Nkemdiche “broke the window and then walked approximately 15 feet and climbed over a wall and fell approximately 15 feet.”  His junior year would be a bit of a disappointment. Nkemdiche only had 26 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 pass defended, but he did have a career-high 7 tackles for loss. Mississippi was slated to finish the season with a match-up against Oklahoma State University in the Sugar Bowl, but Nkemdiche was suspended from the game following a marijuana incident.

In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected Nkemdiche with the 29th pick in the 1st round. Nkemdiche was the sixth defensive lineman taken off the board after the Los Angeles Chargers selected Joey Bosa 3rd, the San Francisco 49ers selected DeForest Buckner 7th, the New Orleans Saints selected Sheldon Rankins 12th, Shaq Lawson by the Buffalo Bills at 19, and Kenny Clark by the Green Bay Packers with the 27th pick.

During the pre-season, Nkemdiche signed a 4 year, 8.60 million dollar contract with 8.15 million guaranteed. During his rookie year, Nkemdiche could not find a way to get on the field and only appeared in 5 games, managing one tackle.

The following season, Nkemdiche played in 12 games, but he still could not fill the stat sheet up. He only mustered up 11 tackles and one forced fumble during the year, and the Cardinals soon questioned the abilities of their second-year first-round pick.

In 2018, Nkemdiche upped his game recording 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and one force fumble, but this was not nearly enough for the Cardinals to put their faith in him. In 2019, the Cardinals first declined their fifth-year option on Nkemdiche, then went on to waive him after a failed physical.

In 2019, the Miami Dolphins signed Nkemdiche on a one-year 1.16 million dollar contract which only lasted 9 weeks before he was cast out of the NFL at the young age of 26. Nkemdiche was supposed to be one of the next NFL greats and was compared to many different Hall of Fame pass rushers. Guys in Nkemdiche’s draft class like Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner have gone on to become superstar pass rushers; now no one remembers the name Robert Nkemdiche. The last time Nkemdiche was involved with the NFL was when was reinstated from a two-week suspension that occurred on November 13, 2019. He now remains an unrestricted free agent.