Mychal Kendricks is one of the fastest risers heading into the 2012 NFL draft, for good reason. This is a prospect who has everything teams looks for in a stud linebacker in the National Football League.
I remain strong in the stance that if Kendricks was playing for a higher profile college football team, he would have been considered a top 20 pick. He'd likely go earlier than some prospects rated that high right now, but Kendricks just happened to play an unenviable position on a West Coast team.
Kendricks brings a wide array of different skills at the linebacker position. This article is going to focus on six reasons why the Cal product is going to be a dominating force at the next level.
Mychal Kendricks did play, and flourish, in a 3-4 defense at Cal. This doesn't mean that the talented young linebacker will be forced to play that scheme in the National Football League.
He has the capability of playing both inside and outside linebacker positions, which will give him some tremendous value in the second round.
This is a prospect that played with his hands down for the Bears last season, and he was able to switch it up and play inside later during the same game.
You just don't see this too often with young linebackers.
He'll probably be best suited as a 4-3 outside linebacker or a 3-4 inside linebacker.
This is an aspect of Mychal Kendricks' game that is vastly underrated.
He is one of the best linebackers in the 2012 NFL draft when it comes to shooting the gap at the line of scrimmage and taking out the ball carrier before he can get started.
It is also a trait that is extremely hard to come by.
Being able to read what the offense is going to do before the snap and utilizing natural instincts to draw out the play is a special thing. We see it with some of the best linebackers in the NFL, and now, Kendricks can join the group.
How many times did your Pop Warner coach tell you to get low on the tackle? Seriously, this was repeated ad nauseum when we were tykes.
Still, some of the best defensive players in the NFL don't even do this all too well. Get your pad level low, take the running back or receiver out below the numbers and drive with your feet.
This basic concept is lost on a majority of professional football players.
As you can see with the embedded photograph, Kendricks is all aces when it comes to this. He will rarely get driven past because this technique is already so sound. He has the ability to maintain his positioning at the point of contact and drives the offensive player into the ground.
Reminds me a great deal of NaVorro Bowman in this aspect of his game.
Playing either inside or outside really doesn't matter in regards to coverage, and Mychal Kendricks will be asked to drop back playing both positions.
He will be tasked with doing this because he is already damn good at it. As I noted before, Kendricks reads the offensive formation prior to the snap. This helps a great deal against the run, but it is also an important aspect of the game in pass defense.
He has fluid hip movement dropping back, recognizes where the ball is going to go and doesn't get lost down the field.
You either have a diversified portfolio in terms of athleticism or you don't; it's really that simple.
Mychal Kendricks is as versatile as any linebacker you will find. He is also as athletic as any defensive player in the entire 2012 NFL draft.
He can cover running backs and tight ends down the field, has a tremendous push when pass rushing and fills the gaps between the hashes.
Kendricks ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which was simply dazzling.
Adding to the equation, the Cal product showed tremendous athleticism in the skill-specific drills in Indianapolis, and he didn't let up any at his pro day either.
Now that I have written at length about what Mychal Kendricks brings to the table in regards to run defense and pass coverage, it's time to talk about his ability to get to the quarterback.
Although he isn't going to be a player that acquires double-digit sacks in the NFL, Kendricks has a surprising ability to get to the quarterback.
The primary reason is an extraordinary initial step off the line. He can blow by slower offensive linemen in a heartbeat, and he consistently beats them off the snap and winds up in the offensive backfield.
This usually occurs when Kendricks is playing with his hands down from a defensive end position.
Now, imagine that first step when he is coming on a blitz from either linebacker position. It requires the offense to shift blocking his way and opens up lanes for other oncoming pass rushers.
This also enables the defense to shift their focus on other aspects of the play, allowing Kendricks to go after the quarterbacks, which he can do on a consistent basis.