The Rams selected Georgia cornerback and Clemson transfer, Derion Kendrick last year in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the 213th overall selection.
Kendrick tested very poorly in the draft process running a measly 4.79 forty-yard dash and finishing with a horrible 1.53 Relative Athletic Score which is one of the lowest in the entire 2022 draft class. However, with hard work, determination and a mixture of great coaching, Kendrick has rallied himself into an NFL starting cornerback and a good one at that.
Following last year, Kendrick left a lot to be desired. Many Rams fans including myself were very much out on him being a starter. The sixth-round pick was thrown into the fire last year and asked to play in 12 games. Here’s what his numbers were in 308 coverage snaps according to PFF:
T-60th in receptions allowed (39)
111th in snaps per reception (7.7)
T-85th in reception percentage (69.6)
97th in receiving yards allowed (571)
T-106th in snaps per target (5.3)
T-59th in Average Depth of Target (11.1)
97th in YAC allowed (228)
He was 103rd in passer rating when targeted (114.5)
Here’s what they have been this year in 230 coverage snaps according to PFF:
T-1st with Ahkello Witherspoon in receptions allowed with (11)
1st in snaps per reception (19.5)
2nd in reception percentage (45.8)
T-2nd in fewest yards allowed (130)
4th in snaps per target (8.9)
9th in ADOT (12.5)
10th in YAC allowed (52)
12th in passer rating when targeted (76.7)
Do you the difference? Kendrick may have fans in a frenzy over his tied for first in NFL six penalties thrown against him. However, if you are able to look away from that for a bit you can see this is actually a very good young cornerback.
Here’s his matchup history so far this season per PFF:
D.K. Metcalf: 1⁄3 for 10 yards, TD
Tyler Lockett: 0/1 for 0 YDs
Jaxon Smith-Njigba: 1/1 for 1 YD
Jauan Jennings: 0/1 for 0 YDs
Brandon Aiyuk: 1⁄2 for 12 YDs
Deebo Samuel: 0/1 for 0 YDs
Christian McCaffrey: 1/1 for 1 YD
Ja’Marr Chase: 1⁄2 for 11 YDs
Tee Higgins: 1⁄3 for 8 YDs
Kylen Granson: 0/1 for 0 YDs
Michael Pittman Jr.: 0/1 for 0 YDs
A.J. Brown: 2/2 for 48 YDs
D’Andre Swift: 1/1 for 7 YDs
DeVonta Smith: 1⁄2 for 6 YDs
Derion Kendrick: 1⁄2 for 26 YDs
He’s predominantly a zone corner that has the tenacity to play against anyone in the league. We have seen it against guys like A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel and some of the more physical receivers, he’s not afraid and will not back down against anyone. He also has the snap-to-snap short-term memory that makes him more stable as a cornerback. It’s hard to keep your eye on the next play and not let last play’s failure eat you up. Kendrick, however, does a great job of moving on and taking everything one play at a time.
What’s the conclusion here? Kendrick is a very good zone corner that has the ability to play in man coverage and its evident on tape but he struggles more often than not in man because of his lack of confidence in his man coverage technique. When the ball is in the air and it’s a big play in the end zone he tends to grab instead of trusting his technique and placement. Right now, he’s where he needs to be, he gets in good positioning and just needs to work on playing the ball better. I do believe with time that will come around.
Currently, Kendrick has a targeted passer rating of 119.8 while deployed in man coverage and he has given up four of his eight targets for 70 of his 130 yards in that coverage scheme. However, in zone he has given up a targeted passer rating of 44.1 with only 4 of 12 passes going for 40 yards all according to PFF.
If you think that the zone defense this year is the reason for his success pump the breaks for a second. Last year no one played zone defense more than the Rams cornerbacks. The offense last year was much worse which meant the Rams defense had to spend more time on the field and play more snaps which could have something to do with the down rookie year but I don’t think so. Kendrick had an over 100 targeted passer rating regardless if he played man or zone last year.
It’s definitely fair to get on Kendrick about his six penalties especially when two of them against Super Bowl contenders nonetheless sparked a second half surge from both of them, however, you also should be giving praise for the other things he has taken in stride and succeeded at.
Kendrick was a 213th overall pick, he tested horribly, he has been through his bumps in the road but at the end of the day the second-year Rams starting cornerback continues to get better and it leads me to believe the Rams might have themselves something special here if they can develop his play discipline. Derion Kendrick is having a very good season, it’s been leaps and bounds ahead of his rookie year last year and that should make fans excited about what’s to come.