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Combine Weekend: Defense to the fore


INDIANAPOLIS – Senior writer John Oehser takes a look at Friday and Saturday around the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine …

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The Daily Draw …

Friday was perhaps the '16 combine's biggest media day.

In what is considered a very good defensive draft, some of the draft's best defensive players spoke to the media at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday. They talked about their future, their potential and in many cases, a lot of what was discussed focused on the past.

That absolutely was the case with Robert Nkemdiche.

Nkemdiche, a defensive tackle from Ole Miss, is talented enough that NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said this week if not for off-field incidents and production issues he might be considered for the No. 1 overall selection.

Not unexpectedly off-field and production was a topic Friday.

The first topic was a December incident in which he fell from an Atlanta hotel balcony. He faces a marijuana possession charge from the incident, but said Friday while he was drunk when the incident occurred, he does not use drugs.

"There were more people in my room," Nkemdiche said. "The hotel was under my name. Nobody wanted to take the fall. It had to go under my name. It just happened to play out like that."

Nkemdiche was asked what he has told NFL people this week regarding the incident.

"I tell them the truth," he said. "It was a rash decision by me. Uncharacteristic. That's not who I am. That's not what I stand for. That's not what my family stands for. It was embarrassing for me and my whole family, the Ole Miss family. I tell them that's not the kind of player they're getting.

"They're getting a straight-forward player. I'm never going to return to that. I'm just moving forward and embracing this moment."

Nkemdiche said Friday the media has done "a tarnish" on his name since the incident. He also said while teams have asked questions regarding his sometimes inconsistent play at Ole Miss, the toughest questions he has faced this week have focused on character.

"I'm doing everything I can to make teams believe me and believe the person I truly am," he said. "I made a mistake as a 21-year-old. I've just got to keep moving forward and hopefully they believe me and I can do what I have to do on Sunday [in on-field workouts at the combine] to make them see my athleticism. Hopefully I will go as high as possible."



Around the NFL …

*Coaches and general managers finished speaking at combine podiums Thursday. Among highlights earlier in the week was the Wednesday appearance of Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians, who was asked the key to fixing the NFL's controversial catch rule. "Common sense," Arians said. "It wasn't a big problem 10 years ago. Then instant replay has gotten so good with the ball moving this much. Is it a catch? A guy runs into the wall in the back of the end zone, drops the ball, he's about to break his neck, it's not a catch anymore. Two feet on the ground and possession of the ball should be a catch." …                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


Position-by-position will wrap Combine Daily each day breaking down the day's featured position groups, examining how the Jaguars might address the positions during the draft …

Defensive tackle.This is considered one of the best defensive tackle classes in recent memory, with DeForest Buckner of Oregon the consensus choice as the top prospect at the position. While Nkemdiche's off-field issues make it difficult to project his status, he is expected to go in the first round along with Sheldon Rankins of Louisville and Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson of Alabama. The Jaguars absolutely could go this route and selecting Buckner at No. 5 shouldn't be ruled out.

Defensive end.This isn't an elite year for edge rusher, though Joey Bosa of Ohio State and Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky are considered Top 10 talents. Shaq Lawson of Clemson and Leonard Floyd of Georgia are also first-round possibilities. If Bosa is there at No. 5, he could be very difficult for the Jaguars to pass.

Linebacker.Linebacker isn't always an elite position these days, but this could be a strong year for the position in Round 1. If Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith hadn't sustained a serious knee injury late in the season he almost certainly would be a Top 5 selection; he could still go in the top half of the first round. Another Top 5 possibility: UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, a versatile player and one of the best coverage linebackers to enter the draft in recent memory. It would be a bit of a surprise if the Jaguars went this route, but not a shock.

Safety.Free safety has emerged as a premium position, and without question the Jaguars have a need there. A slew of mock drafts have Florida State cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey projected to Jacksonville at No. 5. While many analysts project him as a corner, many others believe he is more of a free-safety prospect. Either way, he's a serious possibility for the Jaguars at No. 5.

Cornerback.Ramsey is listed by many as the draft's top corner. If he's not, then it's probably Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. The Jaguars seem more likely to address safety or edge rusher in the draft at No. 5, particularly if either Bosa or Ramsey are available at No. 5.

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