One player is likely to be a first round pick, the other is hoping to be taken early in round two. There’s a lot of people making a case for Luke Kuechly to Seattle with the #12 pick, but others will argue there’s better options later on. Following on from yesterday’s debate about Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram, I wanted to look at another position of need today that is likely to be addressed in the first three rounds.
This is a slightly different discussion from yesterday. For starters, Upshaw and Ingram are competing to possibly be Seattle’s favored choice at #12. Here, we talking about the pro’s and con’s of taking a linebacker in round one or waiting until later. Is the MIKE vital enough to warrant a big investment in round one? Is Luke Kuechly so good, you just can’t pass? Or do you see a lot of similarities between Kuechly and Mychal Kendricks and would rather target a different need in round one? Maybe you think Kendricks is the better player?
Neither has elite size. Kuechly has the edge here because he’s taller at 6-3 and at least has the potential to gain extra weight (currently 242lbs). Kendricks is shorter at 5-11 and his frame already looks maxed out at 239lbs. Both players performed well at the combine – Kendricks in particular – and teams may consider a moving either to the outside in a 4-3 scheme where the size issue is less of a concern. Indeed Kendricks has real potential to move to the WILL (he only moved inside as a senior) and that adaptability could interest a team like Seattle, wanting to use different looks.
Kuechly’s read and react skills are among the highest you’ll ever see for a middle-linebacker prospect and although he’s not a big hitter who makes a lot of highlight-reel plays, he’s constantly around the ball carrier. This is the main difference between the two and although Kendricks is far from reckless, he does tend to suffer from ‘tunnel vision’. If you’re looking for an intense individual who plays with attitude, Kendricks is your man. If you’re looking for ice-cold leadership and consistency without much in the way of the spectacular, Kuechly’s your man.
There’s also some difference between the two in terms of leadership. Kuechly is a consomate pro, worshiped by his coaches at Boston College and most people expect he’ll be a team-leader even as a rookie. Kendricks had some minor issues at California, including unspecified low-key suspensions and nobody’s quite sure why he didn’t attend the Senior Bowl. At the same time, we’re talking about the PAC-12 defensive player of the year and although he’s not necessarily the blue-collar leader Kuechly is, nobody can deny Kendricks was the heart and soul of the Golden Bears defense.
I’ve included tape of three games for each prospect below. Take a look, make your vote and then back it up in the comments section.