NFL Combine 2012: Luke Kuechly and Mychal Kendricks Better Than Advertised
Monday at the NFL scouting combine was a day for the big guys to strut their stuff. Defensive linemen and linebackers got to take their turn running, jumping and, occasionally, standing still.
Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and Cal middle linebacker Mychal Kendricks did all of the above, better than everyone else.
Kuechly in particular had a lot of questions to answer on Monday. In the months and weeks leading up to the combine, nobody questioned Kuechly's smarts or his instincts. What people were questioning, however, was Kuechly's athleticism.
Kuechly answered those questions with a performance that was surprisingly good, showing everyone once and for all that, yes, he is an above-average athlete.
Few expected Kuechly to light up the 40-yard dash, but he did. Per NFL.com, Kuechly checked in with a 40-yard dash time of 4.58 seconds, third-fastest among the linebackers who ran on Monday. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be slower than your average linebacker.
As if that wasn't good enough, Kuechly also had a vertical leap of 38 inches, third-highest among his fellow linebackers. He added a 123-inch broad jump, fifth among linebackers.
So despite all the negative vibes surrounding Kuechly's athleticism, it turns out he's actually very athletic. And since we can now add top-notch athleticism to his profile, there's no reason whatsoever for Kuechly to not go in the first half of the first round on draft day.
As good as Kuechly was, though, he had nothing on Kendricks.
Everyone expected North Carolina outside linebacker Zach Brown to run the fastest 40-yard dash, but Kendricks topped him with a 40 time of 4.47 seconds. He moves a lot faster than you would think given his stocky frame.
Kendricks also jumps a lot higher than you might expect. He had a 39.5-inch vertical leap, tops among linebackers. He added a 127-inch broad jump, longest among linebackers.
Maybe it shouldn't come as such a surprise that Kendricks was so impressive at the combine. After all, you can't win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award without a little athleticism.
Despite his impressive showing, it's tough to figure where Kendricks may end up going in the draft. We know he's athletic, but Tony Pauline of SI.com maintained that Kendricks' height will hurt him in the draft.
"Kendricks' sub-6-foot height means he won't be a player for everyone, but a creative defensive coordinator will turn him into a productive pro," wrote Pauline.
On the bright side, Kendricks may get some extra looks thanks to Vontaze Burfict's poor showing at the combine. Billed as the best middle linebacker in the 2012 class not too long ago, Burfict performed like one of the worst at the combine. His already-waning stock is going to keep sliding.
There's still a lot of time left between now and the draft, but unless something unexpected happens, you can rest assured you haven't heard the last about Kuechly and Kendricks. They opened a lot of eyes on Monday.
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