Inside LB Countdown: Eric Kendricks

UCLA's Eric Kendricks, toughened up by battles with his famous brother, was a tackling machine during a record-setting college career. Yeah, he's short, but it hasn't stopped him yet. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY)

Like most brothers who are close in age, Mychal and Eric Kendricks fought.

A lot.

Eric's got the scar on his left cheekbone — courtesy of a rock thrown by his brother — to prove it.

“We were 17 months apart, so we fought all the time,” UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks said at the Scouting Combine. “We competed in everything, including getting to the remote for the television. I was born in that environment and I still to this day crave it. I crave competition and I find it in every aspect of life. Competition is in my blood.”

The next competition will be waged in less than two months. In 2012, Mychal Kendricks was drafted by the Eagles with the 46th overall selection. With the 2015 draft set for April 30 through May 2, there’s a good chance that little brother gets the call before Mychal did three years ago.

“I have my own goals that I covet and I won’t stop until I achieve them,” he said.

Kendricks is the No. 1-ranked middle linebacker prospect in the draft, according to the new league rankings provided to Packer Report by the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas. He’s projected as a fringe first-round pick. Green Bay, which has a desperate need for a plug-and-play inside linebacker, owns the 30th pick in this year’s draft.

At just 6-foot 1/4, there’s a chance Kendricks won’t be a consideration for the Packers. Under general manager Ted Thompson, they’ve drafted only one linebacker shorter than 6-foot-1 — D.J. Smith (5-10 3/4) in the sixth round in 2011.

Kendricks has heard the questions about his height for as long as he can remember. He’s answered with dominating play.

“I’ve been playing at this weight my entire career,” Kendricks said. “It’s not a big deal at all.”

Many teams considered Mychal Kendricks undersized, too, when he was available in the draft. The second-round pick has started 40 of his 42 games with the Eagles and recorded 333 tackles (243 solos) with nine sacks and three interceptions in three seasons.

“Measurables are one thing,” Eric Kendricks said. “But you can’t measure explosion and you can’t measure certain other things that people bring to the table like natural instinct and getting to the ball. That’s what he has. That’s what I have.

Like his older brother, Eric Kendricks collects tackles like most kids collect baseball cards. With 150 tackles as a sophomore, 106 during an injury-shortened 2013 campaign and 149 hits last season, he joins safety Don Rogers (143 in 1983; 124 in 1982; 133 in 1981) and linebacker Jerry Robinson (161 in 1978; 147 in 1977; 159 in 1976) as the only Bruins to lead the team in tackles three seasons. Only six other UCLA players managed to lead the team twice in tackles during a career.

Kendricks established the school’s career record with 482 tackles, becoming the 15th player in Pac-12 Conference history to register at least 450 hits during a career. Among active Football Bowl Subdivision players, his 482 tackles and 307 solo stops lead that contingent. His average of 9.27 total tackles per game ranks fifth and his average of 5.90 solo stops per game ranks second on the active list.

Kendricks has etched his name into the FBS all-time record book, too. He ranks ninth in total tackles and fifth in solo stops. His career average of 5.90 solo tackles per game is 13th all-time and his 101 solo tackles as a senior stands 25th on the all-time list. He added 11.5 tackles for losses to become the first player in UCLA history to win the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s best linebacker.

“My tackling ability,” Kendricks said of the strength of his game. “My ability to track down the ball-carrier wherever he’s at and however I have to get there, I think it’s uncommon. I can’t explain how I do it. I just get to the ball.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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