Former UGA and Clemson cornerback, Derion Kendrick has all the trappings of a boom or bust late round pick. He was highly regarded by some draft experts. Jeff Legwold listed him as an honorable mention prospect to his top 100 board and from the order of the names, implied that he was graded as high or higher than Cam Taylor Britt, who was a 2nd round pick. Bleacher Report had a 3rd round grade on Kendrick, ranked him 101st overall, and compared him to Stephon Gilmore, who was a top 10 pick in a stacked 2012 draft class.
My NFL comp for Kendrick is Alfonzo Dennard, who was a 7th round pick by the Patriots in 2012. Dennard's draft stock plummeted due to off field character issues and a poor showing at the Senior Bowl. He was charged with assaulting a police officer outside of a bar about a week prior to the draft. The summer of his rookie season, he was arrested again on a DUI charge. After the first 2 years of his career, Dennard appeared to be on the path towards becoming a starting CB. He had 2 INTs against Andrew Luck in a divisional playoff victory. Despite flashing potential, Dennard was frequently injured and reportedly had a poor work ethic. His career quickly fizzled out after a miserable 3rd season and he was cut by the Patriots. After bouncing out of the NFL, he later failed to catch on in the CFL or arena football.
A recent Ram who is comparable to Kendricks would be Marcus Roberson, who some experts saw as a Day 2 type talent, but who was an UDFA in 2014, in part due to a string of character issues while he was at Florida. Roberson played with the Rams for a couple of seasons, but didn't have much of an NFL career. He later played in the CFL.
Kendrick's 40 time was so spectacularly slow that I question whether he can stay at CB in the NFL. I think he might have to move to safety at some point.
Senior Bowl: 5'11 1/2'' tall, 202 pounds, 30 3/4'' arms, 9 1/8'' hands, 74'' wingspan
Combine: 5'11 7/8'' tall, 194 pounds, 31'' arms, 9 1/8'' hands, 74 3/8'' wingspan
Pro Day: 6' 1/8'' tall, 205 pounds, 31'' arms, 9 1/8'' hands, 74 3/8'' wingspan
Pro Day: 4.79 sec (40 time), 1.60 sec (10 yard split), 2.77 sec (20 yard split), 31'' vert jump, 9'6'' broad jump
Last year, I wrote a profile on Brontae Harris, an UDFA, and noted how he had an almost unbelievably slow 40 time for a CB at 4.87 seconds. His 10 yard split time was 1.63 seconds, barely behind Kendrick.
Brycen Hopkins had a 4.66 sec 40, with a 1.61 sec and 2.70 sec split times. Daniel Hardy, a DE, had a 4.69 sec 40 time, with 1.57 sec and 2.68 sec split times. So Kendrick as a CB runs slower than Hopkins (who isn't exactly a blazing fast TE) and Hardy (who isn't a blazing fast DE.) While I think that 40 times in general are overrated, in this instance we aren't talking about a CB who has 4.6 or 4.65 sec speed, we're talking about a CB who has 4.8 second speed in the 40. That is really slow. Matt Hankins, an UDFA CB from Iowa, ran 4.74 sec in the 40, with a 35'' vert jump and longer arms. What's the difference between Kendricks and Hankins? At his pro day, Kendrick claimed that he had a slight hamstring issue, but to me it just sounded like a lame excuse.
Was a QB, WR and S in high school in Rock Hill, SC. 5 star recruit, ranked among the top 30 recruits in the nation, a top 5 WR recruit, was compared to Sammy Watkins. Fathered a child as a junior in high school. Had a second son while at Clemson in 2019. Studied parks, recreation and tourism at Clemson.
As a backup WR in 2018 had 15 catches for 210 yards. Played CB in the spring of 2019 and made full time position switch that season. Per Sports Reference, had 43 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 2 INTs and 5 PBUs in 2019. Has 15 career KR and 10 PRs, averaging 23.3 yards per kick return.
Played in 9 games in 2020 with one INT and 6 PBUs, FR for TD, sack, 18 tackles, 1 TFL. Missed multiple games due to disciplinary problems. Dabo Swinney said regarding one of the suspensions that Kendricks was in the "love shack", which was just a nice way of saying that Kendricks was in the dog house. In September of 2020, Swinney made a vague reference to Kendricks not taking care of his academic responsibilities, and said that he was "in a bit of a hole" during the summer.
Kicked off of Clemson's team in February of 2021 after history of disciplinary problems. Kendrick claimed that the reason he hadn't been going to school was he had been going to the hospital to care for his sick son. To me that just sounds like someone making excuses, who isn't willing to take responsibility for his own actions.
In March of 2021, he was arrested for unlawful gun and marijuana possession charges. He was in his hometown and the police found him asleep in a car at 3 a.m. with a gun in his lap. He went into a pre-trial diversion program. He was expected to declare for the supplemental draft, but instead returned for another college season and transferred to Georgia.
In 2021, he had 41 tackles, 2 TFLs, 3 PBUs, 4 INTs in 15 games.
Les Snead called him "DK" in the draft call congratulating him on being picked. Turns 22 years old in August. Had a "lingering injury" early in 2019 season, exited one game with back spasms.
ESPN 246th overall (7th round). Smooth athlete, greasy hips, good body control, soft hands, aggressive playmaking instincts. Lacks top end speed. Pro day 40 tie a red flag. More aggressive in run support and tackling in 2021 than earlier in career.
PFF 204th overall (higher than Decobie Durant at 246)
PFN 173rd overall (late 5th round, higher than Durant at 177)
Lance Zierlein 5.96 grade (6th round projection, Darius Phillips comparison. Phillips ran 4.4 sec in the 40 at his pro day and is known more for being a kick and punt returner than a CB in the NFL.) History of struggling against top WRs. Lacks speed and strength to play on the outside, projects as a nickel CB. Excellent ball skills. Unreliable tackler. Maturity and character concerns. Kick return talent. Glued to WR blocks.
Oliver Hodgkinson (PFN): Has 1st round type talent, exceptional ball skills, patient and doesn't bite on fakes. Sticky in man. Click and close skills, scheme versatile, can play both man and zone, willing and physical in run support. Exposed by Chris Olave, ankle tackler, doesn't wrap up, hesitates in zone when presented with multiple threats.
Tony Pauline: Inconsistent game. Good recognition in zone, uses hands to disengage from blocks, has closing burst, tracks pass in the air, gets head around. Not disciplined in pedal, slow out of transition, uses side shuttle and is reluctant to pedal. Limited to system where he can play facing the QB.
At the Senior Bowl, Pauline said that Kendrick looked bad in practice, was lost in coverage, got turned around, and in one on one drills lost both to the inside and the outside.
Former WR who attacks the ball and thinks that the pass is intended for him.
Can extend his arms and catch the ball away from his body.
Good ball production in college, dangerous for QB to throw it into his area.
Prototypical size for NFL defensive back.
Normal age for draft prospect in a draft that was filled with overage players.
Will aggressively drive on slant routes and attack them.
Knocked WR to the ground with physical jam.
Beat Kyren Williams in pass protection to get a sack when Williams made a lousy pass block. Has size and length on blitz to get in passing lane and threaten to deflect passes.
Suited for a team that likes to play quarters coverage.
I'm not aware of him having any serious injuries.
Plays with confidence on the field.
Has some experience as a kick returner.
Former 5 star recruit who didn't unlock his full potential in college. If he could learn to work like a true pro, his best football could still be ahead of him.
Watching his 2021 games was very frustrating, because UGA had such a dominating defensive front that the QB frequently had no chance to do anything. Kendrick was protected by being on such a crazy stacked defense. His 2021 season might appear to be his best year in college, but it hard to tell whether this was actual progress for him as an individual player or more a reflection of how incredibly dominating UGA was on defense in 2021.
Gives up separation against releases at the LOS. At the Senior Bowl, Tolbert put him on his heels with a quick fake at the line, Kendricks had no burst to make up ground, so Tolbert was able to beat him over the top. Put on heels by TE on release. Burned by some fakes at the LOS. Playing as a slot CB, too upright in his stance and was beaten inside on slant route. Not disciplined in his footwork. Gives up separation against slants. Jams get knocked away or are weak and don't disrupt the release.
Can be beaten at the top of the route. Gets turned around by quality comeback routes. Lost contact when QB extended play. On in breaking routes the WR can gain leverage and create separation against him. Will grab the WR at the top of the route to try to stay attached.
Clumsy flipping his hips. Not only does he lack speed to make up ground once he falls behind, he loses ground in his transition, which gives the WR an additional advantage.
Too slow. When the WR goes in motion all the way across the formation, Kendricks struggles to run all the way across the field to keep up. Both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave got over the top of him and beat him deep. On his long fumble recovery for a TD, he got tracked down from behind by a WR who didn't have the angle.
Got a lucky INT when screen pass deflected off the hands of the RB and went right to him. Got INTs on terrible passes by QBs. His stat sheet isn't quite as impressive when you watch how he got some of his INTs.
He focuses on trying to get INTs, which can lead to him being beaten at the catch point. Instead of breaking up the pass by grabbing the WRs arm or getting his hand in between the WR's hands, he ignores the WR and tries to go directly for the ball, which opens up opportunities for strong or bigger WRs and TEs to jostle him or get to the ball first and make a contested catch.
Doesn't play with good field awareness and IQ. He has safety help inside, but still misplays his leverage and gets beaten over the top when the WR turns slant into a corner route. Another play, spacing in zone was off, because he had safety help inside, but he still allowed the WR to gain outside leverage on him and win towards the sideline. If he has to switch from one receiver to another one in zone coverage, he's sometimes late to read the routes and make the switch in a timely manner. Timing of his blitz off. When he is a free help defender, lacks instincts to know how to move in relation to the route combination to take away the QB's passing window.
Late to read and react to some WR screens, doesn't process the formation and motion quickly enough to anticipate what is developing in his area.
Not a wrap up tackler. Weak tackle on TE in almost a sitting position. Pathetic attempt to tackle TE on another play.
Not good at containing runs when he is the force defender. Reluctant defending the run, passively hangs back and catches the RB instead of attacking downhill. Gets stuck on WR blocks. Not physical, tough and committed enough to set the edge and force the runner back towards help.
In an interview, said that "freedom of schedule" was the primary difference between NFL and college, which scared me, because he made it sound like he wasn't sure what he was going to do with with so much free time on his hands. Dismissal from Clemson's program is a red flag. Maturity questions.
Too many penalties. Unsportsmanlike penalty. Pass interference penalties. Grabs the WR to try to prevent them from beating him deep. Pass interference on slant route.
Lack of long speed could limit his utility on special teams units.
Troy Hill was a talented CB at Oregon, but one reason he was an UDFA was due to off field character concerns. The Rams were his 3rd NFL team. While with the Rams, Hill was suspended, likely for a DUI car crash. Not every player with character flags becomes a bust. Some of them manage to succeed in the NFL.
Derion Kendrick has the ball skills, INT hunter instincts and size to play in the NFL, but he needs to improve his technique and find a role that will hide his alarming lack of speed. Both Lake and Yeast have 4.6 second speed, so Kendrick is considerably slower than even those late round safeties.
I think it would be a decent outcome if Kendrick was at least as good as Kevin Peterson, who was an UDFA in 2016 originally with the Bears. Peterson did some decent things as a backup for the Rams in the preseason and when he got a chance to play in 2017, but he tore his ACL in 2018. He had about 4.6 second speed.
The CB I would have taken instead of Kendrick at that slot probably would have been Tariq Castro Fields from Penn State, who was selected by the Niners with the final pick in the 6th round. Lance Zierlein had nearly identical draft grades on Castro Fields and Kentrick, but projected Castro Fields as a 4th round pick. Daniel Jeremiah ranked Castro Fields 118th overall, which would have been a 4th round pick. Castro Fields ran 4.38 seconds in the 40. Alternatively, if we didn't limit ourselves to CB, I think a better approach would have been to take BPA at a different position, then either taken a CB late in the 7th or just signed another one as an UDFA. There were plenty of UDFA defensive backs who probably have just as much pro potential as Kendricks. The Rams did sign 3 UDFA CBs, but none of them were among the top 30 UDFAs at that position per Chad Reuter's list.
Derion Kendrick isn't the type of prospect who typically ends up as a career NFL backup. He fits the profile of a player who 3 years from now is either a starting CB (or safety) in the NFL or he's playing in the CFL.