I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA - 6'0, 230 - RS Senior
The next in our line of linebackers who would not be classified as pass-rush threats - Paul Dawson, TCU, Shaq Thompson, Washington, and Denzel Perryman, Miami have already been profiled - is UCLA's Eric Kendricks who is the rare red shirt senior and therefore turns 23 before the draft. He won the 2014 Butkus award for outstanding linebacker play at the college level (Perryman was a finalist as well) and also led the FBS in tackles. He is a well-decorated college star who also has some family ties. It is certainly notable that Eric Kendricks has a big brother who is a very good linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and his father was a RB at UCLA before playing in Canada professionally. To profile Eric, I grabbed the Virginia, USC, and Texas games from this past season.
What I liked: I think this player is exceptional in many very translatable skills for the next level. He is absolutely exceptional in coverage when they ask him to take a shifty and quick running back out of the backfield on routes in a man to man situation, he can do what so many linebacker cannot - comfortably handle it. He moves smoothly and shifts his hips and can turn on speed that is clearly above average for the position. He also sniffs out plays enough to demonstrate that he is well studied and clear with what the opposition is trying to accomplish. You also have to be impressed with his ability to find his gap and shoot through with elusiveness and suddenness that generally can stop a running back in his tracks with a form tackle. I really left this study with a high regard for this player for what he was asked to do.
What I did not like: He is 230 pounds and plays so well as a linebacker in a safety's body that we will ask the questions about standing tall against power. He looks like he can do so, but we have to at least debate whether he needs a big 4-3 line to keep him clean. We all like speed at every spot, but if you put 11 out there, you will get steamrolled. The other thing with him is occasionally gets a bit too hands-on in his coverage and will contest all passes in a part of the field where they are looking for contact for flags. He does attract the occasional penalty for over-aggressive coverage. He is not much of a pass rusher, but does show the occasional A-Gap pressure as a changeup to the scheme.
Summary: This is another player where it is going to have to be the right fit. He is a good middle in a 4-3 or 3-4, but in those 4-3 schemes that want to just rush 4 and drop 7. I think he would be absolutely ideal for the Cowboys at the right spot because there are times those linebackers are attacked in coverage. Also, this is a clear all-situations guy (unlike Perryman) where you could leave him on the field regardless of situation because he has the skill set that can comfortably handle his responsibilities. I expect he will run a solid time at the combine and might be the top player of this grouping when draft day arrives. Very impressive player.