When you’re talking about the top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, don’t forget to mention Georgia’s Derion Kendrick. The former Clemson wide receiver may not have traveled a conventional path to the NFL, amidst position change, team change, and overcoming multiple challenges during his football career. However, he’s been a cornerstone of a title-winning team, and his scouting report showcases the talent to be successful on Sundays.
Derion Kendrick NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Georgia
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’11 1/2″
- Weight: 202
- Wingspan: 74″
- Arm: 30 3/4″
- Hand: 9 1/8″
Derion Kendrick Scouting Report
Since Kendrick arrived on the college football scene, Clemson (where he began his college career) and Georgia have sent six cornerbacks to the NFL Draft. In that time, the two schools have boasted two first-round selections in A.J. Terrell and DeAndre Baker. Does Kendrick have the ability to join those two as Day 1 picks?
There’s no doubt Kendrick’s scouting report has some first-round elements to it.
As a former wide receiver, Kendrick exhibits exceptional ball skills. The Georgia cornerback can pluck the ball effortlessly out of the air with an impressive catch radius. His combination of decent length and solid hands make him a nightmare for opposing pass catchers. Furthermore, his coverage ability is aided by his understanding of route concepts from playing the WR position. He’s also excellent at tracking the ball in the air.
Coverage ability is defined by more than just interceptions and pass breakups, however. Yet, Kendrick passes the eye test here, too. The Georgia cornerback is a patient operator who isn’t easily sold by fakes. He has the athletic ability to be sticky in man coverage, showcasing excellent footwork and fluidity alongside his football intelligence.
A versatile cornerback with an excellent NFL Draft outlook
This mix of football intelligence and athletic ability is also evident in zone coverage. Kendrick showcases excellent click-and-close skills to neutralize the threat of anyone that enters his domain. While he won’t break any records in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the Georgia cornerback plays with excellent play speed.
Kendrick projects as a scheme-versatile outside cornerback at the next level. He’s equally proficient in both man and zone coverage. He routinely forces his man up the sideline when covering outside, shrinking the quarterback target area.
Another mandatory element of a cornerback scouting report is run support. Here, Kendrick is both willing and physical. He isn’t afraid to take on a ball carrier and is often seen sniffing around the box, looking for opportunities to make a play.
At present, Kendrick is the 47th overall prospect on the Pro Football Network 2022 NFL Draft Big Board. Furthermore, he’s the CB7 on that board. However, in a tightly packed group with both Washington cornerbacks and Auburn’s Roger McCreary, he has the potential to elevate that standing with an impressive pre-draft process.
Areas for improvement
While Kendrick’s scouting report reveals first-round traits, there are areas of improvement and concern for the Georgia cornerback.
As was brutally revealed by Ohio State WR Chris Olave last season, Kendrick lacks elite speed. While he is explosive and has decent long speed, he can be exposed downfield by faster wide receivers.
While Kendrick’s football intelligence and wide receiver experience enable him to be an excellent cover corner, there are some areas for improvement here. He can be guilty of being hesitant in his decision-making process when presented with multiple threats in his area of responsibility in zone coverage.
Finally, Kendrick needs to work on his tackling technique. While he’s not afraid to do the dirty work, he’s prone to ankle tackles rather than wrapping up his opponent. Improving his technique will allow him to flourish in run support.
Kendrick Player Profile
Although Kendrick should be considered one of the top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, his high school career saw him dominate on the offensive side of the ball. A wide receiver as a sophomore at South Pointe High School in South Carolina, he transitioned to being a dangerous dual-threat quarterback for his junior season.
A true weapon in the air and on the ground, Kendrick amassed 5,308 passing yards with a 59:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio combined with 1,682 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns over his final two years at South Pointe.
Kendrick’s immense athletic potential was obvious. South Pointe played him all over the field, and he even saw snaps as a situational safety throughout his career. Having coached Stephon Gilmore, South Pointe head coach Strait Herron knows a thing or two about elite defensive backs and heaped praise on Kendrick’s defensive ability, even while attempting to carve out offensive opportunities at the next level.
“Honestly, I think he would be one of the best safeties or corners that we ever had.”
Despite those defensive compliments, Kendrick was committed to becoming a pass catcher. The Gatorade South Carolina Player of the Year was a five-star wide receiver and the fourth-best at the position in the 2018 class. Despite attracting offers from Alabama, Georgia, and Notre Dame, Kendrick went from Rock Hill to Howard’s Rock with his early commitment to the Clemson Tigers.
Kendrick’s career at Clemson
With athleticism, explosiveness, and catching ability, Kendrick quickly drew comparisons to a former Clemson legend — Sammy Watkins. With limited playing time and a deep well of talent in the WR room, Kendrick wouldn’t live up to Watkins’ 1,000-yard freshman season. However, Kendrick did average similar yards per catch and rushing yards per carry figures.
Kendrick was expected to emerge as the WR3 alongside Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins for the 2019 season. Yet, an injury crisis in the DB room led to a career-altering change of position. Kendrick excelled against the receiving talent he’d been meant to be lining up alongside during spring practice.
Within months, Kendrick went from emergency cornerback to a second-team All-ACC selection. He made 15 starts as Clemson embarked on the defense of their national championship. Kendrick returned his first-ever interception for a touchdown against FSU, adding another interception against South Carolina. Furthermore, he flashed potential against the run with 3 tackles for loss among his 51 total tackles.
Although he missed some game time in 2020, Kendrick developed into a genuine NFL Draft prospect through his junior season. He added another interception to his résumé against Miami (FL) while coming up big with his first career sack in the ACC Championship Game. Finishing the season with 20 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 6 pass breakups, and the interception, Kendrick earned first-team All-ACC honors.
The highs and lows of a college football career
Considered a potential early-round prospect, Kendrick decided to return to school instead of the NFL. However, he wouldn’t return to Clemson. The playmaking cornerback was dismissed from the program and entered the transfer portal.
Confusion surrounded his dismissal until Kendrick broke his silence on the subject. He called it a “breakdown in communication” with the school while he prioritized looking after his hospitalized son over being present on campus.
An arrest for drug and weapon violations also shrouded his football career in mystery. As a result, Kendrick remained in the transfer portal until June.
That’s when he found a new home. The Georgia Bulldogs had pursued Kendrick as a high school prospect. With the majority of their secondary departed to the NFL, the move made too much sense for both sides. The Bulldogs got a playmaker, and Kendrick got a new start and an opportunity to elevate his NFL Draft stock in the 2021 college football season.
Reestablishing himself as one of the best in the nation
The move has matched expectations with results in a season bookended by personal and professional revenge. Kendrick opened the season by gaining revenge over former team Clemson, the Georgia defense suffocating an offense that had received significant preseason hype. The season ended with Kendrick playing a pivotal role in Georgia gaining SEC revenge over Alabama to land their first national championship since 1980.
In between, Kendrick reestablished himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Against South Carolina, he secured his first interception of the season. The Georgia cornerback added another regular-season snag in a win over Tennessee. With 2 interceptions against Michigan in the Orange Bowl, Kendrick was key to the defensive success in returning a title to Athens.
His performances earned him an invite to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. With an impressive wide receiver class in Mobile, Kendrick has the opportunity to prove he can cover anyone at the next level. Through all the ups and downs of his career, the Georgia cornerback is on the verge of completing his comeback as one of the best in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Derion Kendrick
Positives: Nice-sized corner with an inconsistent game. Physical, breaks down well, and effectively uses his hands to disengage from blocks. Possesses a closing burst to the ball, works to get his head back around, and tracks the pass in the air. Very effective facing the action, efficiently covers receivers on crossing patterns, and shows good recognition in zone coverage.
Negatives: Tends to side shuffle down the field and must be more disciplined backpedaling. Reluctance to backpedal hurts his ability to plant and explode to the ball. Slow out of his transition and ends up trailing defenders downfield.
Analysis: Kendrick looked like an up-and-coming cornerback prospect early in his career at Clemson, but his game has since leveled off. He possesses solid size as well as ball skills. But based on the way he’s played the past two seasons, Kendrick must play in a system that has him facing the action.