With the regression of David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber set to hit the free agent market, the New Orleans Saints should probably consider taking an interior linebacker in the 2015 NFL Draft. UCLA ILB Eric Kendricks fits the script for the Black and Gold in the second round as mentioned in my seven-round mock draft.
Brother of Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks, Eric was named the Butkus Award winner (nation’s top linebacker) to cap off his career with the Bruins. He offers great football instincts, explosiveness and an aggressive motor.
He’s been one of the most proficient tacklers in the NCAA for the last three years while also displaying excellent man-to-man coverage skills and good zone awareness — all are elements New Orleans has been lacking.
NFL Scouting Combine measurements:
Weight: 232 LBS
Arm length: 31 inches
Hands: 9 5/8 inches
40-yard dash: 4.61 secs (6th among LBs)
Bench press (225 LBS): 19 reps
Vertical jump: 38.0 inches (5th)
Broad jump: 124 inches (5th)
"2010 – Did not see game action in his first year in the program … Defensive winner of UCLA’s Charles Pike Memorial Award for Outstanding Scout Team Player.2011 – Saw action in all 14 games and started the final three contests … Ranked second on team in tackles (76), tied for second with 2.0 sacks and tied for fourth with 4.5 tackles for loss … Named an honorable mention Freshman All-American by collegefootballnews.com … Named to honorable mention Pac-12 All-Academic team … Earned John Boncheff Jr. Memorial team award for Rookie of the Year at the annual team banquet … Led team with seven stops vs. San Jose St., one sack … Four tackles v. Texas … Made seven tackles in first start at USC … Five tackles at Oregon … Tied for team lead with 10 tackles vs. Illinois, 0.5 for loss.2012 – Starter in all 14 games … Led the Pac-12 in tackles with an average of 10.64, a mark which ranked 11th in the nation … He is the first Bruin to lead the conference in tackles since Spencer Havner in 2004 … Kendricks also returned two fumbles for touchdowns (Houston, at Washington State), blocked a punt (USC) and made his first career interception (USC) … His total of 150 tackles was the most by a Bruin player since Jerry Robinson registered a school-record 161 stops in 1978 … He recorded nine games with double-digit tackles, including in each of the last seven games of the season … He had a best of 17 tackles at Arizona State … Made 15 stops in games at Washington State and versus Stanford … Forced a fumble vs. USC and in the Holiday Bowl vs. Baylor … He was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after the USC and Arizona wins … Named honorable mention All-Pac-12 by the coaches … Received the Donn Moomaw Award for Outstanding Defensive Player Against USC at the annual team awards banquet … Honorable mention academic all-conference.2013 – Starter in all 11 games he played in … Team co-captain … Honorable mention all-conference … Led the team in tackles for the second straight season … Ranked third in the Pac-12 in tackles average with a 8.8 per game mark. … Blocked a punt in the Washington game … Had four double-digit tackle games topped by 13-stop efforts at Utah and at Arizona … Honorable mention all-conference academic team … Presented the N.N. Sugarman Award for Best Leadership on defense, the UCLA Captains Award and the Bruin Force Award at the team banquet .2014 – Became UCLA’s first winner of the Butkus Award … UCLA’s second straight winner of the Lott IMPACT Trophy … Finished his career as the school’s all-time leading tackler (481) going past Jerry Robinson, 1975-78, in the fourth quarter of the Stanford game … First-team All-America selection by USA Today, si.com, Athlon, Phil Steele … Second-team All-America pick by AP, Walter Camp, FWAA and Sporting News … Second-team All-Pac-12 selection by the coaches … Became just the fourth defender in school history to record at least 400 tackles during the Oregon game … Versus Arizona, he became the third Bruin to reach the century mark for tackles in three straight seasons … Established a school record with 11 double-digit tackle games … Second on the all-time list with 25 career double-digit tackle games … Made 42 career starts … Registered his third career defensive score with an interception return at UVa … Named National Defensive Player of the Week by Nagurski, Walter Camp, Athlon and Pac-12 Player of the Week after Virginia game in which he recorded 16 tackles, an interception return for a touchdown, a forced fumble which was returned for a touchdown by Randall Goforth … Team co-captain … Presented the N.N. Sugarman Award for Best Leadership, Jerry Long “Heart” Award, Henry R. Red Sanders Award for Most Valuable Player, Bobby Field UCLA Captains Award and Bruin Force Award at the team’s annual banquet."
UCLA’s all-time leading tackler is a bit undersized and lacks the ideal length coaches look for in linebackers. He has problems getting into the backfield, but that’s really not what the Saints need out of their interior linebackers.
Kendricks plays the run well, after line penetration, covers the field sideline to sideline and shows excellent man-to-man coverage abilities with high upside in zone awareness. With first-round potential, the New Orleans Saints would be foolish not to steal the talents of Eric Kendricks if he falls to the Black and Gold in the second round — he could be the perfect complement alongside Curtis Lofton.
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