One of Bret Bielema’s first calls when he got the Illinois job was to Kendrick Green, offering the big man a chance to come and back re-join Illinois for the 2021 campaign. Green understandably declined. He was ready to go through the NFL Draft process and is now on the eve of becoming a pro.
Do not be fooled by the photo above, Kendrick Green is not a ball carrier. He’s a large offensive lineman.
As a Recruit
Kendrick Green was part of the 2017 Illinois recruiting class — Lovie Smith’s first full recruiting class in Champaign. A high 3-star recruit who was listed as a defensive tackle from Peoria, Green was the 14th best player in the state of Illinois in his class, per rivals.com. Unlike many of Lovie’s recruits, Green was a sought-after player on the national stage. He held Power 5 offers from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri (yuck), Rutgers and Syracuse plus a nice Group of 5 offer from Central Florida. He took visits to Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and UCF before ultimately committing to the Illini just before Christmas 2016.
His quarterback at Peoria High was none other than Coran Taylor, a player currently fighting for his spot on the quarterback depth chart.
The Measurables at Pro Day
At his Pro Day, Green measured 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds. His arms are 32.25 inches and his hands are 10.125. He ran a 4.85 4-yard dash and lifted 25 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
As a jumper, his vertical is 35.5 inches (that’s really impressive for a 300 pounder) and he pulled off a 9-foot-11 broad jump.
The Switch from Defense to Offense: A Ton of Playing Time
In 2017, Green redshirted his freshman year and that was when he officially switched from the defensive line to the offensive line. In 2018 he started 12 games at left guard and was part of a rushing offense that finished second-best in the Big Ten.
In 2019 as a redshirt-sophomore, Green once again was a regular starter along the offensive line. He started all 13 games: 12 at left guard and 1 at center. Entering the Redbox Bowl against the California Golden Bears, Green was rated as the sixth-best offensive guard in the country by Pro Football Focus and second-best offensive guard in Power 5 football. Those accolades meant that heading into 2020, he was a legitimate pro prospect.
In 2020, his final season, he started all eight games, including three games at center when Doug Kramer was sidelined because of COVID-19 protocol. He was named a Second-Team USA Today All-American and earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors.
In total, Green started 33 games switching from guard to center and back on a regular basis. That versatility coupled with the fact that Green was a defensive player all throughout high school meant that his flexibility as an athlete and his knowledge of the game only continued to grow throughout his young football career.
An NFL Prospect
Pro Football Focus predicts Kendrick Green will go in the fourth round. NFL.com has Green as its seventh-best offensive guard in the draft, and his ability to play guard and center increases his value.
SB Nation’s Cincy Jungle projects Green as a late-third, early-fourth round pick. Any team with interior offensive line issues will find Green to be an intriguing, worthwhile gamble in those middle rounds.
He’s a better run blocker than pass blocker, and his lateral quickness and athleticism is a major asset, but the knocks on him are that he’s not quite the bulldozing run blocker, and his upright stance will need work in the pass-protection game. The frame is there. The intangibles are there. He’s actually a quicker snap athlete than Nick Allegretti was at this stage.
Like Nick Allegretti, he initially projects as a backup but could very well improve and gain enough experience as a filler for some injured players to be a full-fledged NFL starter at multiple positions by his second or third year. Also like Allegretti, Green was a track & field athlete and wrestler in high school. It shows in the tape:
Get Kendrick Green in a zone scheme, preferably at center. Please and thank you. pic.twitter.com/jubr3wZRVP— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) April 12, 2021
Interior offensive linemen do not get as much draft love as tackles do, but if there’s a team out there that can use a center or a guard — why not pick a guy who can do both for you?