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Eric Kendricks, the redshirt senior linebacker from the UCLA Bruins, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after one of the most prolific careers in UCLA football history. Kendricks started 42 games during his time as a Bruin, registering a school-record 481 tackles. In addition to the record-setting tackle numbers, he tallied 8 career sacks to go along with 5 INTs. In 2014, Kendricks was named First Team All-American by several national outlets and was selected Second Team All-Pac12. He won the Butkus Award and Lott Award for his efforts. On the season, he totaled 136 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 INTs while leading the Nation in solo tackles. In 2012 and 2013, Kendricks was an Honorable Mention All-Pac12 performer. His brother Mychal is an NFL linebacker playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. Physically, Kendricks is an undersized inside linebacker prospect, standing 6’0″ tall and weighing 230 lbs. He plays much bigger than his frame, as he displayed the kind of toughness and physicality to take on blocks and win in a phone booth. Kendricks plays with a very good football IQ, showing a high-level understanding for what’s happening around him; He quickly diagnoses the play and fires toward the ball. Kendricks is a plus athlete who has the speed and quickness to go sideline to sideline and is a sure tackler when he’s in position to finish. He breaks down well in space, fires through his hips and wraps like a wrestler. Kendricks’ history of production is evidence of his (+) instincts and nose for the football. He enjoys knocking his opponents to the ground and tussling with bigger linemen. At times, he struggles to work his way free from power linemen and can be driven off the ball. However, he takes good angles and has the kind of quickness and lateral agility to slither past the bigger and less athletic blockers. Kendricks recognizes the screen game quickly and closes on the receiver in a hurry, but he struggles when asked to drop into coverage, at times losing his man and looking lost in space. In addition, he tends to grab and pull his man in coverage which will be a liability for pass interference calls on the next level. He’ll have to work on his skill set in zone coverage to be considered a complete package at the linebacker position.
BOTTOM LINE: Eric Kendricks is a productive, athletic and fiery inside linebacker with the talent to start in the NFL. He’ll have to bulk up a bit in order to handle tight spaces on the next level, but he has an inherent understanding of the game that when combined with his (+) overall athleticism results in a playmaking linebacker capable of leading a defense. He has the talent to man the middle in a 43 front and I’m not concerned about him checking in about 10 lbs under the desired weight. His natural playmaking ability will trump his less than ideal size. At the end of the day, Kendricks is the kind of prospect that teams will want on their roster because of his pedigree, production, IQ and overall athletic skill set.
GRADE: 8.0 (First Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)