Cowboys Draft Profile LBs Kendricks, Thompson

Eight of the Cowboys draft picks over the last two years were brought in for official visits. We take a look at two linebackers who are under consideration for the 2015 early rounds. ... plus the latest from inside Valley Ranch ...

While there is always going to be mystery when it comes to the NFL Draft, over the years the Dallas Cowboys have done their fans a bit of a favor and tipped their hands so to speak. Not only have they (not once, but twice) given us a look at their draft boards after that year’s draft was completed, but in their actions they’ve also alerted us to some key tells about their actions. In our must-read post from earlier in the off-season,"6 Draft Tendencies and Tells” we listed the following:

    5. Dallas uses their Valley Ranch visits very wisely, and will most often select players throughout the draft that visit team headquarters through the 30 National invites of Dallas Day visits.

This is by no means an end-all be-all list. Morris Claiborne wasn’t invited to the Ranch, and Dallas spend two picks to acquire him. Maybe the lack of development their helped guide their hand recently, as eight of their picks over the last two years were in for official visits. In that vein, we’ll be bringing you in-depth looks at the draft candidates that Dallas schedules for visits, so that you can be better informed about the small sample size many of the next group of Cowboys will likely come from.

LB Eric Kendricks


Name: Eric Kendricks
Position: Linebacker
School: University of California-Los Angeles
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 232 LBs
Intangibles/Honors:
First Team All-American (USA Today, SI, Phil Steele, Scout, CBSSports) – 2014
Second Team All-American (AP, Walter Camp, FWAA, Sporting News) – 2014
Second Team All-PAC 12 (Coaches) – 2014
Lott IMPACT Award Winner – 2014
Team Co-Captain – 2013 & 2014
Winner of UCLA N.N.Sugarman Award for Best Leadership, Jerry Long Heart Award, Henry R. Red Sanders Award for Most Valuable Player, Bobby Field UCLA Captains Award, and Bruin Force Award – 2014
Winner of UCLA N.N.Sugarman Award for Best Leadership, Bobby Field UCLA Captains Award, and Bruin Force Award – 2013
Honorable Mention Academic All-PAC-12 – 2011, 2012, 2013
Honorable Mention Freshman All-American (College Football News) – 2011
UCLA Rookie of the Year- 2011
Charles Pike Memorial Award for Outstanding Scout Team Player (Defense) -2010
UCLA Athletic Directors Honor Roll – Fall 2011, Fall &Winter 2012, Winter and Spring 2013, and Winter 2014
Political Science Major
Born on Leap Day February 29, 1992
Son of former UCLA football player Marv Kendricks who played in the CFL
Brother of Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks pSparq Score: 132.6 Z-Score: 1.0 NFL Percentile: 84.3

pSparq is an approximation of the “Sparq Score” metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are “3 Sigma Athletes” in the NFL, JJ Watt, Calvin Johnson, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson, along with one from the 2015 draft class, Byron Jones. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out 3sigmaathlete.com


Measurables vs others at his position:

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Games Studied: Virginia, Texas

Run Game:

Eric Kendricks is a very instinctive linebacker who plays well downhill and sideline to sideline. He is a tackling machine who is around the ball on every play. Although he’s a smaller linebacker, he’s not afraid to stick his nose up inside and take on a lead blocker in the hole. He has the upper body strength to keep blockers off of his body, and the athletic ability and speed to outrun them to the spot. When he does get blocked he does a good job of disengaging and getting in position to make a play. His football intelligence gives him the opportunity to shoot gaps and be in position to make plays at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. He’s good inside out, doesn’t get out leveraged or over run the ball, has a relentless motor in pursuit, refuses to stay blocked and makes plays literally all over the field.

Passing Game:

Kendricks is the kind of linebacker who really thrives when he’s in coverage. He is an extremely good man coverage player on running backs and tight ends who will undercut routes and make plays on the ball. He is also comfortable in zone coverage, knowing where he fits, and squeezing the holes in the interior of the defense, making it difficult for QBs to get the ball inside, and limiting receivers to very little run after the catch. His read and react ability and football intelligence show up in the passing game as well as against the run. He’s a very good inside out defender on underneath passes and screens and will be around the ball anytime it’s thrown underneath.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

Eric Kendricks is clearly the number one linebacker in this class to me. His coverage skills and run and hit ability make him a great candidate to be a 3-down player as a 4-3 Mike or Will. However his size and lack of length probably prevents him from playing Sam in a base defense. I believe Kendricks will be in consideration when the Cowboys are on the clock at the 27th pick especially if the top players at other positions like running back, cornerback and defensive end are off the board. Kendricks would likely force the Cowboys to alter their plans at the position as Rolando McClain would likely have to move to Sam, to allow Kendricks and Sean Lee to fill the Will and Mike positions.

LB Shaq Thompson


Name: Shaq Thompson
Position: Linebacker
School: University of Washington
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 228 LBs
Intangibles/Honors:
First Team All-American (ESPN, SI, SBNation, Scout, CBSSports) – 2014
First Team All-PAC 12 (Coaches) – 2014
Paul Hornung Award Winner (Nations most versatile player) – 2014
Butkus Award Semi-Finalist - 2014
Walter Camp Award Semi-Finalist – 2014
Honorable Mention All-PAC 12 – 2012 &2013
Winner of UW Chuck Niemi Big Hit Award – 2013
Second Team Freshman All-American (Fox Sports Next) – 2012
pSparq Score: 119.6 Z-Score: -0.1 NFL Percentile: 47.4

pSparq is an approximation of the “Sparq Score” metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are “3 Sigma Athletes” in the NFL, JJ Watt, Calvin Johnson, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson, along with one from the 2015 draft class, Byron Jones. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out 3sigmaathlete.com

Measurables vs others at his position:

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Games Studied: Oregon State, UCLA (2013), Stanford (2013)

Run Game:

Shaq Thompson is a prototype run and hit linebacker, who is very instinctive in the way he plays, and attacks the ball when he tackles. He’s not a physical player in the way he takes on blocks, instead he uses his agility to attempt to run around blockers in pursuit. Thi can cause him to run himself away from the play at times, but when he is able to beat the blocker to his spot he brings some pop in the way he strikes runners. He is better when he’s going sideline to sideline that when he has to come down hill as he gets wiped out of plays when he gets blocked.

Passing Game:

Shaq Thompson’s skill set running east to west and making plays really shows up when he’s in coverage, he’s very good in underneath coverage, whether in man or zone. He diagnoses routes developing very well, and when he sees the ball going to a guy underneath him he attacks violently downhill with impact that often seperates receivers from the ball. He spent some time at safety in college which highlighted his abilities in coverage when he could play short areas, but doesn’t have the speed to cover wide receivers in man down the field.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

Shaq Thompson is the kind of run and hit, coverage linebacker that is the prototype for the Will linebacker in the Cowboys scheme. I worry about his ability (or lack thereof) to take on blocks and play downhill in the run game, but with an Under Tackle like Tyrone Crawford playing in front of him, along with the Cowboys looking to upgrade at the Nose Tackle position, I think he could be freed up to make plays. I believe Thompson (if available) will be in a similar spot as Eric Kendricks and will be in consideration when the Cowboys are on the clock at the 27th pick especially if the top players at other positions like running back, cornerback and defensive end are off the board. Drafting Thompson, again like Kendricks would likely force the Cowboys to alter their plans at the position as Rolando McClain would likely have to move to Sam, to allow Thompson to play Will leaving Sean Lee at Mike in what would be a very dynamic trio of base linebackers.




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