The Las Vegas Raiders have drafted several cornerbacks over the past few years with mixed results, but the Raiders could still use more depth at the position. They’ll likely turn to the NFL Draft to solve that problem and Georiga’s Derion Kendrick has the athletic potential to be a solid mid-round pickup.
CB | Georgia | 5’ 11.5” and 202 pounds | Rock Hill, SC | August 24th, 2000 (21.5)
Derion Kendrick originally went to Clemson as a five-star recruit and the sixth-ranked wide receiver in the country for the 2018 class, per 247 Sports. He had 15 catches for 210 yards as a true freshman before switching to cornerback where he was a starter as a sophomore and a junior.
However, he was suspended for four games in 2020 for what was referred to as “disciplinary reasons” and was later dismissed from the team by head coach Dabo Swinney. A few weeks later, Kendrick was arrested for unlawful carrying of a handgun — a misdemeanor in South Carolina — and was issued a citation for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Both charges were eventually expunged from his record.
He ended up transferring to Georgia and finished his college career with 104 total tackles, a 49.6 percent completion percentage and 918 receiving yards allowed, 10 pass breakups and seven interceptions. The Rock Hill native played in two complex/NFL-level defensive schemes under Kirby Smart — head coach at Georgia — and Brent Venables — former defensive coordinator at Clemson and current Oklahoma head coach.
- In press coverage, he gets his hands on the wide receiver's chest when jamming and shows patience by waiting until the receiver commits before opening his hips to turn and run.
- Displays good route recognition to break shortly after the receiver does and stay in phase, his background as a wideout helps here
- He has pretty impressive change of direction skills, he can turn on a dime to cover 90-degree or more routes and stay attached on scramble drills
- Good speed to stay on top of wide receivers and doesn’t let them stack him when they run vertical routes
- In zone coverage, he’s disciplined with his eyes to key the quarterback and find receivers coming into his area, and he shows the ability to read the quarterback's eyes and recognize when he can come off his man to go make a play on the ball and help his teammates
- Stays home and doesn’t take the cheese as the underneath defender in Cover 2
- Understands when he has safety help and can play from a trail position, and he adjusts his leverage to force the wide receiver into his help
- When click and closing, he stays within his tube for quick transitions and has good acceleration to close on the pass-catcher. This helps him cover slants when playing off coverage.
- Uses the sideline as his friend to help get force outs when playing near the boundary
- With his back to the quarterback and in-phase with the receiver, he turns his head to locate and make a play on the ball
- Decent hands to get interceptions, another area where his wide receiver background comes in handy
- Solid effort overall against the run, he’s not going to come up and mix it up on every run play but isn’t afraid or doesn’t back down when the offense tries to run at him
- He works wideouts’ hands well to get off blocks as a run defender or against screens
Areas of Improvement:
- Stops his feet when jamming in press coverage, making it harder to recover if he misses or gets his hands swiped away
- Not aggressive or strong with his punch when playing press, bigger wideouts will bring the fight to him and overpower him at the line of scrimmage, and he doesn’t force re-routes in the five-yard window or when playing an underneath zone
- In man coverage or as the deep third defender in cover three, he can be over aggressive and bite on jab steps at the top of routes and double moves
- Struggles to navigate through the trash against pick routes when playing man, he locks onto his man and gets tunnel vision
- He does have lapses in match coverage if the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers switch post-snap, meaning he locks onto pre-snap No. 1 when that receiver becomes final No. 2 post-snap instead of passing that receiver off and pickup up final No. 1
- Similar to his issues at the line of scrimmage, he’ll get pushed around by bigger/more physical receivers and fall out of phase
- His size and strength issues also show up when trying to play press coverage against slants in the red zone or near the goal line, he struggles to disrupt timing at the line of scrimmage and will get boxed out
- He likes to grab onto the receiver when he gets beat which makes him a risk to get called for pass interference
- Doesn’t use his arms well at the catch point and is often late with his timing to get pass breakups
- As a run defender, he lacks the strength to constrict rushing lanes and physical wide receivers or tight ends will be able to push him around
- Takes too shallow of an angle in pursuit
- Likes to dive at the ball carrier’s feet when tackling, leading to misses
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 58th, 2nd round
To be honest, I’m much lower on Kendrick than where the consensus seems to be. Granted, I don’t think I’m that far off as I’d probably put him in the late third- to early fourth-round category, but the Day 1 projections that have been popping up lately seem a little far-fetched to me. For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler doesn’t even have Kendrick in his most-recent top-100 list, and PFF has him ranked 99th overall.
All that being said, I do think the former Tiger and Bulldog would be a great value pick for a team that plays a lot of off coverage and/or cover three. He certainly has a lot of athletic tools to develop into a sticky No. 2 corner at the next level, and if he can add some strength and improve in press coverage, he’ll be even more scheme versatile.
What do we need to know?
Has he learned from his mistakes and matured? Yes, there are questions about Kendrick on the field, but that’s not going to matter if he hasn’t changed his ways off of it. As mentioned above, he has a checkered past that has already cost him some playing time and that’s going to be a major red flag during the draft process.
Everyone deserves a second chance and I got an opportunity to sit in on a press conference with Kendrick at the Senior Bowl, where he talked about how he’s grown as a person and wants to put the past behind him. That’s a great mentality and sounds like he’s on the right path, now it’s just a matter of proving it by staying out of trouble, and convincing NFL coaches and general managers that he’s changed.
Fit with the Raiders:
Given how this past year has gone for the Raiders with young players getting involved in off-the-field incidents, I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to look elsewhere for cornerback help in the draft. However, a new regime is in charge and Kendrick would be a good scheme fit and fill a need in Las Vegas.
While he does have limitations in both types of coverage, the Clemson and Georgia product is versatile enough for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to use him in man and zone coverage, as Graham’s scheme is known for using multiple looks. Also, the Raiders have a shortage at cornerback with Casey Hayward set to hit free agency next month and Trayvon Mullen’s contract expiring at the end of next season. Desmond Trufant and Keisean Nixon are also scheduled to hit the open market this offseason.