To say I'm intrigued with this year's linebacker/defensive end class would be an understatement. We here at Field Gulls will surely be getting more into that as we go along prior to the Draft and identifying players that might fit with the team, but right off the bat I wanted to throw one name out there for the Seahawks. As Tarryhawk said yesterday - "Mychal Kendricks - remember that name".
The surprise of the inside linebacker group was California's Mychal Kendricks (5-11 1/8, 239), who absolutely crushed his workout. Kendricks had the top 40 (4.47), vertical (39 1/4) and broad jump (10-7) in the group, and was in the top five in the short shuttle (4.19). He was also above-average on the bench with 24 reps.
Kendricks' explosiveness showed up during drills, when he stayed low to the ground, showed quick feet and was effective shaving the edge as a pass-rusher. He was under control at all times, and this performance combined with good things seen recently on film give him a realistic shot to come off the board late on Day 2.
Kendricks was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year for the Golden Bears, with 107 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and three sacks. At 5'11, 239, he's a tad undersized for the position, but then again, he's roughly the same size as possibly departing starter David Hawthorne and dearly departed Lofa Tatupu. A more intriguing comparison though, is to 6'1, 240 pound 49er ILB Patrick Willis, the guy that Kendricks models his game after.
"That's who I look up to," Kendricks said. "I feel like I can move the same way. Very fast, very quick, catlike. That's my style of play. I look at him, and it'd be nice to be a fraction of what he is."
When asked about his skills, he replies - "My speed, my lateral quickness. I can get underneath everyone who is trying to block me. I'm smart, I make good decisions. I'm a team guy. I'm always communicating. It's not too often where I let my team slip. I think I have the biggest (heart) out there, just because of my stature, and I've proved myself so far. I don't see why I can't prove myself at the next level."
"I'm a hard worker, tough, I want to win ... I'm a competitor."
The linebacker corps for next season really is probably the most intriguing positional group to watch, maybe other than running back or quarterback, with last year's starters Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne possibly on the outs. Seattle has some young, athletic linebackers with some potential that I'll be very interested in watching, but not really so much at the middle linebacker spot. Dexter Davis, Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Allen Bradford, even Jameson Konz - all these guys are very athletically gifted and very versatile - but none are really ready, probably, to make the jump to full-time starter in the middle going forward. They're more likely rotational outside linebackers and situational pass rushers - but time will tell.
People have talked about putting K.J. Wright in the middle, which might be a good option, but Pete Carroll seems reticent to make that move. When asked about it recently, he responded:
"We'll have to wait and see what happens. We've got some free agency issues that we're dealing with right now, and he gives us some flexibility, so we'll just have to wait it out. If I had my way I'd let him play where he finished up outside. I think he has the versatility to do that, and it gives us the opportunity to move him around and to pressure him, and to drop him out under coverage and also do some things inside at times with the way we move our defense that you can take advantage of all that."
So, if Hawthorne leaves - and John Clayton said on the Calabro show the other day that he doesn't believe that Heater will get the offer he's hoping for and may look elsewhere - that leaves a pretty big hole in the middle. Matt McCoy is a free agent. The players I listed above are young and untested. Carroll would prefer to leave Wright on the outside because of his versatility in rushing the passer, dropping back, or moving around. That leaves free agency and the Draft.
Would Kendricks fit? He's certainly got the speed and athleticism you look for - at 5'11, 239, he ran a 4.47 40, had a 39.5" vert, put up 24 reps on bench, had a 10'7" broad jump, and a 4.19 mark in the short shuttle.
For those of you keep track at home, that is the top 40-time for all linebackers, the top vertical jump for all linebackers, the top broad jump for all linebackers, and fifth in the short shuttle in that grouop.
In terms of game speed, I've seen reports that say he matches his timed speed with his on-the-field speed so he's not likely just a workout warrior. He has been lauded for his instincts and diagnostic skills, but gets knocked for his size and a few character concerns (he's been suspended a few times from Cal's team). He is a riser, but won't be in the first round discussion, so if the Seahawks are looking to add an inside linebacker on day two, Kendricks might be their guy. He honestly reminds me a little bit of Mason Foster - both a tad undersized but very productive and athletic Pac-12 middle linebackers. Foster was an All-American and went in the third round so I wouldn't be surprised to see Kendricks go in that range, or later. Foster went on to start in his rookie season for the Bucs, as we well know.
Anyway - getting the ball rolling with the post-Combine analysis and Kendricks was one player that certainly caught my eye for the Seahawks in the round 2-4 discussion. Thoughts?