Eric Kendricks, Inside Linebacker, UCLA
Eric Kendricks played inside linebacker for the UCLA Bruins and put up incredibly impressive stats. Three times in his career he had over 100 tackles, including 149 in both 2012 and 2014. His senior season he also was able to sack the opposing quarterback four times and was credited for 11.5 tackles for a loss. Kendricks also grabbed 3 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
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The California native is a natural athlete with football in his blood. His brother Mychal Kendricks is a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and their father Marvin Kendricks was a running back for UCLA in the 1970’s.
Kendricks also showed off his athleticism by playing basketball and baseball in high school. He even showed his versatility in football before becoming a Bruin by playing linebacker, quarterback, running back, punter and kicker.
Linebacker was the perfect position for him to settle on as he racked up 480 tackles and five interceptions in his four seasons. His quick feet, ability to quickly read plays and his sideline-to-sideline speed make him an intriguing prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft.
He is described by NFL.com as an intelligent, downhill tackler that is always around the play. He is also considered to be a strong leader with great character. All these traits put together should make the second team All-American and Butkus Award winning linebacker a sure fire first round selection.
The one knock on Eric that could send him down the boards on draft day is his size. Listed at right around 6′ and 232 pounds, Kendricks may be a bit undersized to take the punishment of a traditional middle linebacker. Scouts see him best suited as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, as opposed to playing the inside of a 3-4, like Houston runs.
However, Kendricks is a good football player and should be able to adapt and succeed in a 3-4. Other “smaller” linebackers that have shown their lack of height was not a negative include former Miami Dolphin Zach Thomas (5’11” 242 pounds) and former Dallas Cowboys Dat Nguyen (5’11” 238 pounds).
Both those players performed admirably in a 4-3 and a 3-4 system, something I believe Kendricks would be able to do as well. If still available at pick 16 the Texans may want to seriously consider pairing him with linebacker Brian Cushing in the middle and making their defense even more formidable than it already is.