According to a story posted late last night by Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times, the Baltimore Ravens have scheduled to bring in Cal inside/outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks for a visit with the team.
As one of the recent prospects that the Ravens have brought in for visits, Kendricks is an interesting talent that the Ravens will surely give a good long look. Standing at 5-11 239 lbs., Kenrdricks put up some eye-popping numbers at the NFL scouting combine:
40-yard dash: 4.41 seconds
225 lbs. bench press: 25 reps.
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches
Broad jump: 10-7
Kendricks is a versatile linebacker with the ability to play both inside and outside backer. Last season at Cal, Kendricks played inside and registered: 107 tackles/14.5 tackles for a loss/3 sacks/2 INTs and earned the Pac-12 defensive player of the year award. Before last season, Kendricks was used primarily as an outside linebacker and during his junior campaign burst onto the Pac-12 scene as a solid pass rusher notching: 66 tackles/15 tackles for a loss/8.5 sacks.
The Ravens have a need at linebacker and will surely be evaluating this year’s draft crop very closely and now it seems as though they’re taking their process of evaluating individual talents like Kendricks just a bit further by brining him in for a visit.
Other than the Ravens, Kendricks is scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, and St. Louis Rams. Currently, Kendricks holds a 2nd-3rd round grade.
(After the "Jump", a little more on Kendricks and how he could "fit" with the Ravens)
The Ravens covet versatility. Players that can contribute on special teams, play out of position, and generally line up most anywhere throughout their complex defensive scheme. Kendricks has played at both inside and outside linebacker throughout his career, excelling at both positions. The ability that Kendricks brings is his flexibility: his ability to play inside and outside means that he could fill several needs for the Ravens as a pass-rusher and a run-stuffer.
With only two cemented starting inside linebackers heading into next season in Ray Lewis and newly extended Jameel McClain, the Ravens will be looking to add solid depth for the future to deploy when Ray Lewis decides to hang ‘em up.
Though the Ravens’ linebackers are extremely adept at defending against the run, they lacked a bit this past season when it came to defending against the pass and some of the league’s more "elite" tight ends. Simply put, the Ravens could use some speed on the inside to keep up with some of the freakish athletes that make their money catching passes over the middle. This is where Kendricks starts to make up for some of the concerns surrounding his size at just 5-11. His closing speed is very good and he excels at moving from sideline to sideline, an area in which the Ravens could greatly improve upon by having a speedy backer to chase down those pesky, shifty slot receivers and bigger, faster tight ends.
After watching a bit of Kendricks’ game, here are some of the pros and cons that are worth mentioning:
- Great speed, moves very well from sideline to sideline with a very good ability to chase ball carriers down from behind.
- Reads plays well pre-snap with great anticipation. Reads quarterbacks well
- Times his blitzes well and has deceptive closing speed especially when running "downhill".
- Good awareness when dropping into coverage and picking up his assignment.
- Due to his smaller stature, doesn’t get off of blocks well or consistently enough; can get handled by some of the bigger offensive linemen.
- Doesn’t attack "downhill" against the run enough. Waits for the play to come to him instead of attacking the running backs in the gaps.
- Despite his great speed, can get beat by some of the longer-striding receivers.
The Ravens already have two run-thumpers in Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain. What’s needed now is a linebacker that can drop into coverage when needed to take away teams’ short to intermediate passing game, particularly over the middle of the field. The Ravens will have several linebacker prospects to choose from in the upcoming draft, and bringing in Kendricks for a visit seems like a start.