Every year, when the draft approaches, I ask Broncos fans on Twitter for certain players they’d like to see broken down in a scouting report. That includes positives, negatives and potential fit with the Broncos. Today, I examine UCLA LB Eric Kendricks.
Kendricks is yet another undersized ILB in this draft, like previous Draftable Broncos review Paul Dawson. Although there are few great options at the position in the draft, Kendricks possesses one of the better skillsets despite checking in at 6'0", 230 lbs.
Kendricks is a tackling machine, with 467 total tackles in his four seasons with UCLA. Against the run, he uses great technique, keeping his hips parallel to the line and running the play down. He has very high IQ and awareness against the run, able to sift through traffic and overpower lead blockers in the hole. He also squares well in the hole and delivers a nice pop. He takes good angles, hits the right gap, always is accurate with the play...I really can't say enough about how well he plays the run.
He is a form tackler able to drive up through the ball carrier, a trait which is sadly lacking in this draft. He has very good reaction time, athletic enough to make plays on batted-up balls or reverse directions on players across his zone. He is able to knife in and make a play when he recognizes a developing screen. He wasn't used to blitz often, but did show an effective spin move to shed blockers in the open field. He positions on receivers well and is able to undercut routes, with a good click and close.
Kendricks does have his struggles in coverage. He is foxed by players coming across his face and displays some rather stiff hips. He is a sheer liability in man as a grabby nature gets the best of him, and is a much better fit for zone. He has a tendency to overbite on the QB's eyes and just shows low coverage IQ overall. He could stand to get deeper zone drops, as otherwise, he will allow players behind him.
His greatest weakness, however, is against play-action passes. He is overly aggressive and has allowed big plays to develop due to that. His balance is questionable at times and he needs to re-anchor. I don't think I saw a single stack and shed from him, which is crucial for smaller players against the run.
Fit with Broncos:
Kendricks is an excellent run stuffer, but is not really a matchup LB in coverage. When used in a middle zone, he is quite effective, but can play undisciplined at times. In the Denver defense, he would be yet another Mo-sized body in the mix at LB, along with Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall and co. He does have a good skillset to play the 3-4 MIKE that Wade Phillips looks for, but his struggles in coverage are easily noticeable. I'd give Kendricks a second-round grade, but due to the depth of the class and the needs teams have, he'll probably go higher and even possibly into the late first. I like Kendricks as a prospect, but don't love him, and if Nate Irving is re-signed, Kendricks' draft stock in Denver is effectively a moot point.
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