Summary: Kendricks has seen his stock steadily rise in the months since the end of the 2011 season. A tremendous showing at the NFL Scouting Combine really helped give his stock a nice boost. That showing caused Kendricks to stand out above other linebacker prospects. As teams have reviewed Kendricks' game tape, his stock has continued to rise.
Kendricks ran the 40-yard dash at 4.41 seconds, the fastest time for a linebacker at the Combine in the past 12 years. He also led all linebackers in the broad jump and the vertical leap. He also looked good in the field drills, moving around in space.
Kendricks has been a very productive linebacker for Cal over the past two seasons. In 2010, Kendricks was a rush linebacker in mostly a 3-4 set. He recorded 8.5 sacks with 15 tackles for a loss and 66 tackles. Kendricks showed that his blazing speed transitions to the football field with the way he rushes the passer and fires into the backfield.
Kendricks was moved to middle linebacker in his senior year and played well there, especially in the second half of the season. He notched 107 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two passes broken up and two interceptions. Kendricks was extremely active and disruptive. He routinely shot into the backfield to blow up runs, as his speed was too much for offensive linemen to take on.
Kendricks has knack for producing when he plays downhill. His speed and instincts allow him to function well as a read-and-react pursuit linebacker, but when he attacks the offense, he makes splash plays and puts a lot of pressure on the offense. He jets into the backfield to blow up runs and gets good pass pressure when he blitzes. Kendricks has the tools to be a good coverage linebacker, but he will need some development there as he did more pass rushing over his collegiate career.
There is one clear negative to Kendricks' game. He can struggle when blockers get to him at the second level. They can wash him out of plays and push him around. Kendricks' biggest weakness is his ability to shed blocks. In order to help him, he could be better off at outside linebacker where he will take on fewer blocks. Kendricks is a little undersized for the middle, and that won't help him to get better at taking on and shedding blocks against bigger offensive linemen in the NFL.
Some 3-4 defenses are considering Kendricks as a hybrid inside/outside linebacker. It would have to be a team that is comfortable with smaller linebackers. He should easily fit a 4-3 defense. Kendricks could be a backup early on as he develops. In that time, he should be a special-teams demon.
There is serious momentum for Kendricks' stock. It isn't out of the question for him to go in the top half of the second round.
Player Comparison: Bart Scott. Kendricks has some similarities to Scott. They both have the athletic ability to be good blizters. They have similar size. Scott (6-2, 242) is a good run defender and Kendricks could learn how to get better at shedding blocks by watching Scott. The Jets' veteran has had an excellent career after being an undrafted free agent from Southern Illinois. Kendricks has a good skill set with the upside and high ceiling to have a productive career like Scott.
NFL Matches: Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay
There are a number of teams that need linebacker help that could target Kendricks in the second round. The Falcons could use more youth in their front seven, and Kendricks could be their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Ravens lost Jarret Johnson in free agency, and Kendricks might be his replacement. The Steelers need to replace the released James Farrior, and Kendricks would be a strong candidate for them to consider. He would be a good scheme fit in Pittsburgh.
Houston traded away DeMeco Ryans, and Kendricks may be able to fill that void. The Rams need linebacker help. Kendricks may not grade out to be the 33rd-overall pick in the second round, but St. Louis could consider Kendricks with their second-rounder from Washington. Detroit and Tampa Bay both need linebacker help, and Kendricks could upgrade their speed and playmaking ability at outside linebacker.
Kendricks has pre-draft visits with the Falcons, Ravens, Texans, Steelers and Rams.