The college football landscape always finds different ways to use players. After playing most of their middle and high school years playing both ways, players find themselves typically only on one side of the ball. Derion Kendrick played quarterback in high school, went to Clemson to play receiver, and played cornerback for Clemson and Georgia. The former four-star recruit and number one receiver in the state of South Carolina switched to cornerback for what was supposed to be a temporary transition before his sophomore season at Clemson but surprised and secured a starting spot.
In 24 games at Clemson, Kendrick totaled 61 tackles, 11 pass deflections, three interceptions, and two touchdowns. While Kendrick could’ve entered the NFL, he was dismissed from Clemson following unlawfully carrying a handgun. During his time at Clemson, it seemed as though he was on Dabo Swinney’s bad side and was benched numerous times throughout the 2020 campaign. Before 2021, he entered the transfer portal and found himself on the Georgia defense, which has multiple other potential high draft picks this year. The Georgia cornerback has quite the crowd hyping him up on draft Twitter, so let’s see if is warranted.
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Name: Derion Kendrick
Jersey: No. 11
Weight: 190 lbs
Games Watched: Ohio State (2020), Miami (2020), Kentucky (2021), Clemson (2021), Alabama (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Man Coverage (10.25/15)
One play, Kendrick will make a great play, and the next, he’ll allow a 30-yard pass or 60-yard touchdown. There is no consistency in his man coverage, and most of his man coverages come in press-bail or when playing off the line. It is quite concerning how much bail coverage he plays. Unfortunately for Kendrick, he’s had to go against some of the best receivers in college football over the last three years, including Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, and John Metchie.
Zone Coverage (12/15)
Kendrick is better in zone coverage than he is in man. When working in zone coverage, Kendrick doesn’t have to necessarily turn his back to the quarterback and worry about a pass going past him downfield as it has against Ohio State. In zone coverage, he can keep his eyes tracked on the quarterback and have the action play out in front of him. While Kendrick can do better in all coverages with more experience at the position, his instincts are improving. Kendrick still has plenty of room to grow.
For a player still learning the cornerback position, Kendrick is doing well. He has a great crossover step in press coverage that puts him in an excellent position against receivers. While he may be a bit underwhelming in terms of his speed, he knows a lot of what receivers are trying to do, considering the fact he is a former receiver. Kendrick trusts his eyes more than anything in zone coverage, which is why he can consistently sense where the ball is going. It has brought him good ball production, specifically this weekend in the semi-final game against Michigan.
Ball Skills (9.25/10)
As a former receiver, Kendrick has above-average ball skills. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn into a large amount of ball production throughout his career up until the semi-final game this weekend. He does a great job of tracking the ball in the air and making a play on it; even if the receiver does catch it, Kendrick can knock them down almost immediately. He has seven interceptions in the last three years and 14 pass deflections.
The higher-grade in this portion comes from his press coverage experience. His physicality is yet to be established. There are some great plays of Kendrick playing well in a press-bail scheme at Georgia, and while that may not be translated to most NFL schemes, it could be something teams use him in a bunch as a rookie. Most of his reps were in some sort of press coverage, be it in either man or zone coverage.
Long Speed (5/10)
Kendrick’s biggest weakness is his speed. His 40-yard dash times range between 4.5 and 4.8. The worst part about that is that it shows up time and again when watching film. Olave burned him in the semi-finals of the CFP in 2020 numerous times, and it happened again this year with Jameson Williams.
If college teams have already started taking advantage of the lack of speed that Kendrick has, NFL teams are sure to take notice of the fact that he was consistently beat in one-on-one situations with receivers. His 40 time at his pro day wasn’t good, so this grade was adjusted accordingly.
Tackling/Run Support (6.5/10)
Kendrick is a bit lackadaisical in this regard. He seems to catch the blocker and get blown back at times. In the game against Ohio State, there were a few times where Jeremy Ruckert bullied him in the run game. Even in 2021, Kendrick seemed timid at times and jogged near the play instead of running. He took some confusing angles that led to chunk gains and even missed plenty of tackles due to not wrapping up.
Kendrick has a good amount of athleticism. He has fluid hips that enable him to challenge receivers as they are getting in and out of their breaks, and his short-area burst is excellent when he’s making a play on the ball. Although his athletic testing on his recruiting profile wasn’t the best, Kendrick does seem to have improved in this regard immensely.
Change of Direction (4.5/5)
The term easy-mover is one that accurately describes Kendrick. He has a lot of help in this regard for when he used to be a receiver where he could stop and turn on a dime and cut in and out of routes with ease. His change of direction was shown throughout this weekend’s game against Michigan, including his two interceptions.
While Kendrick isn’t the tallest, either being just a touch under six feet or exactly six feet, he seems to have long arms, which gives him an advantage in press situations, which is one of the best things he did during his time this year at Georgia. Kendrick being about six feet tall could cause some struggles in the redzone against taller receivers, like how Ruckert once again bullied him for a touchdown in the semi-final game.
Kendrick is a player that needs some fine-tuning to his game. Unfortunately, he doesn’t necessarily have a specific trait that screams that defensive coordinators and defensive back coaches can key on and work to that strength. For playing the position for only three years, Kendrick has done more than enough to secure a selection on the second day of April’s draft. His performance in this weekend’s semi-final game was great to see.
Unfortunately, there seem to be some glaring concerns. Kendrick’s speed is perhaps the biggest of them, with him consistently getting beaten downfield time and time again and his minimal effort against the run. Kendrick is also quite grabby in man coverage and has gotten away with it more than a time or two at the collegiate level. He is best fit in a heavy zone coverage scheme early on in his career as a boundary cornerback.
Rookie Projection: Backup Outside Cornerback
Third Year Projection: Second Outside Cornerback
Final Grade (77.25/100): Mid Third Round
Player Comp: Kelvin Joseph