NAME: Derion Kendrick
HEIGHT: 5’11 5/8″
WEIGHT: 190 lbs
HOMETOWN: Rock Hill, SC
HIGH SCHOOL: South Pointe
Five-star recruit in the 2018 class out of South Pointe High School. #26 overall player, #4 WR, and #1 player in South Carolina according to 247Sports composite rankings. Received 16 offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma before committing to Clemson in January 2018. Played 15 games at wide receiver as a freshman before injuries in the program forced him into an emergency CB role that resulted in an All-ACC campaign in 2018. Dismissed from the program by Dabo Swinney in February 2020 and transferred to Georgia, where he’s started all 13 games on the outside thus far.
GAMES WATCHED: 2021 – Clemson, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee
For an explanation of Alex’s grading scale, refer to this article.
Man Coverage – 60 (Above Average): Kendrick is sticky in man when Georgia actually runs it, which isn’t particularly often. His background as a wide receiver and high school quarterback shows up in his understanding of route concepts and timing, which makes it child’s play for him to disrupt opposing offenses. However, a lack of elite or even great speed over the top will leave him susceptible to deep shots if left 1 on 1.
Instincts – 75 (Elite): Again, that experience playing multiple positions shines through. Kendrick is always around the ball when the play ends, even if it means he peels off his man or shades out of his zone to make a play. He rarely does so without any help for his responsibilities and causes a ton of impact plays as a result.
Zone Coverage – 70 (Star): This is going to be Kendrick’s calling card for a long, long time. He has the click and close ability to play deep zones and keep everything in front of him, but also has the short-area athleticism to erase short and intermediate route concepts. You’re rarely going to get any RAC off a throw towards Kendrick, because he’s always right on top of receivers as soon as they get the ball.
Ball Skills – 70 (Star): Kendrick was set to be Clemson’s WR3 in 2019 behind Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, so it’s not like he was a slouch before moving to the opposite side of the ball. Remember, this is a five-star receiver recruit we’re talking about. Kendrick has retained a receiver-like catch radius that allows him to chase big plays, even if his modest production (5 INTs in 3 seasons) doesn’t show it.
Tackling/Run Support – 65 (Star): Corners don’t usually participate as willingly in the run game as Kendrick does, which is a big little thing NFL teams will notice. He’s constantly fighting to get off blocks when in positions to make a play and frequently is able to shut down screens and outside runs one way or another. One small flaw I noticed was that while he’s a solid tackler, his tendency is to go for ankles, which may not translate quite as well to NFL athletes. Perhaps he’d be better served adding 5-10 lbs of strength and learning to consistently wrap up.
Physicality – 55 (Above Average): The first thing that comes to mind when talking about physicality for corners is press, which Georgia runs almost none of. So, this score is more of an extrapolation based on other areas. At the top of routes, Kendrick is a menace: you’re going where he wants you to go, even if that means taking a detour on your route. He’s also physical at the catch point, a trait that led to more than a few incompletions or shorter-than-they-should’ve-been passes.
Change of Direction – 70 (Star): You don’t play three positions at high levels between high school and college without being a great athlete, and Kendrick proves that. His short-area quicks are surprising for someone without a reputation for speed, but he’s just so fluid that you hardly notice. There’s plenty of times on his tape that he looks completely out of position before flipping his hips and revealing that actually, he’s directly in the path of the ballcarrier.
Long Speed – 45 (Fringe Average): If I had to guess, I think Kendrick will run in the mid to low 4.5s. His acceleration gets him up to top speed quickly, but he seems to lack that second gear to really hang with the game’s true speedsters. It hurts his projection in man-heavy schemes due to the risk of getting burnt over the top, as he did a few times against Chris Olave and Ohio State back in 2020.
Recovery – 65 (Star): Athleticism is a big factor here: in zone, Kendrick has the innate ability to drive on throws and get back to the receiver just as the ball does. I don’t think I caught a single penalty on him in the four games I watched, simply because his timing is so good every time. If receivers do get into any kind of space, Kendrick does a great job angling them back into the teeth of the defense if he isn’t the one to make the play himself.
Frame – 50 (Average): Kendrick is built like a typical corner at a shade under 6′ and 190 lbs. He’s never going to be the kind of player a Seattle covets because of his average dimensions, but his size won’t hurt him further than that. As mentioned above, another 5-10 lbs of strength might do him well, but isn’t necessary for his success if used correctly.
Red Flags – 9.5/10: While he was dismissed from the Clemson program, there don’t seem to be many hard feelings from Dabo Swinney’s perspective. Kendrick, for his part, has explained that his dismissal stemmed from a lack of communication regarding his son’s medical situation at the time. It’s a situation that I think he’ll be able to smooth over fairly easily in interviews if given the chance. However, he’ll also need to answer questions about the March 2020 weapons charge he picked up.
Final Grade (w/o RAS): 8.01
Round Grade: 2nd
Summary: I came away from my evaluation thinking much more highly of Kendrick than I expected to, if only because his name is associated with getting toasted by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. A year later, Kendrick has the opportunity to turn that reputation around with a semifinal versus Michigan and a possible rematch with Alabama in the title game. Against receivers that win with physicality, Kendrick has the capability to be a primarily man corner. But natural separators have shown to make him a bit more cautious about getting beat over the top, which inevitably slows the processes that make him so great underneath. The safer, and in my opinion better, route is to put Kendrick in a primarily zone environment on the outside. His instincts are among the best in college football thanks to a multi-positional background, and playing him in zone allows him to best utilize those skills to read and react.
It’s a crowded CB class, especially at the top. While Kendrick isn’t the same caliber as Derek Stingley Jr., Andrew Booth Jr., or Kaiir Elam, I think you could make the argument that he belongs in tier 2 with guys like Trent McDuffie or Sauce Gardner. The slight character concerns may delay his NFL dreams until Day 2, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Kendrick has the longest career of the 2022 corners. He’ll be quite the consolation prize for teams that miss on the top tier in this upcoming draft.
Follow Alex on Twitter @alexkatson.