Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas
Weight: 250 pounds
40 time: 4.71
One of the top pure pass rushers in this year’s draft, Sergio Kindle enters the NFL looking to follow in the footsteps of his former teammate Brian Orakpo who went on to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
A two-year starter for the Longhorns, Kindle leaves Texas having recorded 168 tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, and seven passes broken up over the course of his career in Austin; as a starter the last two years, Sergio has tallied 115 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, and six passes broken up.
An electric player off the edge with a terrific burst to close, Sergio Kindle played in a bit of hybrid role for the Longhorns, in which he spent half of his time at defensive end with his hand down while he also spent plenty of time playing linebacker and playing in open space. Kindle has the explosiveness as well as the quickness and agility that I look for in a pass rushing prospect.
He has the type of frame that will give him versatility at the next level, as he could potentially play a number of different positions at the next level; he also has the long arms needed to create separation from the offensive lineman at the point of attack as well as to bat balls down at the line of scrimmage. Kindle has deceptive strength with the ability to bull rush the offensive tackle in addition to having very quick hands with the swim and rip moves needed to consistently get into the backfield; he’s also shown that the can make a big hit when the opportunity presents itself.
Sergio has outstanding athleticism and has shown the flexibility needed to dip his hips, lower his shoulders, and beat the offensive tackle to the outside using his great speed and quickness off the edge. His range in the open field is excellent and he’s shown a nice ability to pursue the ball down the field. Sergio has the raw athleticism needed to drop back into coverage at the next level; while he has experience doing this in college, he is going to need further coaching at the next level if he is going to do this consistently. Sergio lacks the size and bulk needed to consistently hold up against the run at the next level; he isn’t big or strong enough to take on and shed blockers in the run game, and he’s better at using his quickness to avoid the blocker rather than take him on. This is one reason why he projects better as an outside linebacker than as a defensive end in the NFL.
For as much as there is to like about Kindle, there are also a number of major question marks. Sergio is a rather inconsistent player who tends to disappear from games; he has games where he is on and is nearly unblockable, whereas there are also times when he won’t show up and will only produce two-or-three tackles in a game; in 2009 alone he had seven games with four or less tackles (he had eight of these games in 2008). From a scouting perspective, that’s not exactly what I’m looking for in an elite prospect who ranks as the top player at his position in the draft; he only had five sacks as a senior, and two of those came against UTEP and UCF. In addition to his inconsistent play, his durability is also a question mark after dealing with ankle, knee, and neck injuries during his career with the Longhorns. Off the field character and decision making will also be under the spotlight by teams at the next level; in 2007 he was suspended for three games after being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in July; in June of 2009 he drove his car into a building while texting on his phone and left the scene, however no charges were filed. These are two incidents that figure to draw several questions from decision makers in the NFL. I project that Kindle will be drafted in the mid-to-late first round.
Sergio Kindle is a terrific talent on defense who will offer a playmaker capable of taking over the game as a pass rusher to a team at the next level. While he has some question marks that he brings with him, he’s likely worth the pick in the first round with how talented he is. His best fit at the next level will come as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker; I could see him playing weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 or I could also see him bulking up and adding 15-20 pounds and attempting to play defensive end in the 4-3. Wherever he ends up playing, Kindle has the talent, upside, and potential to develop into being a Pro Bowl-caliber player. With how talented he is, and considering he played inconsistently in college, his best football could still be in his future.
Notes: Sergio was named third-team All-American and first team All-Big 12 in 2009 and he was also named first-team All-Big 12 in 2008. One of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, Sergio was rated as the No. 1 player in the state of Texas, as well as the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 5 overall player in the country by Rivals.com. As a senior in high school, Kindle was named the Parade AFL Iron Man as the best two-way player in the country. Over his final three seasons in high school, Sergio rushed for 5,632 yards and 86 touchdowns while also recording 411 tackles and 55 tackles for loss. As a prep, he was also the starting center on his high school basketball team and was a successful runner in track.
Kindle has the innate ability to find the opposing QB and make tackles behind the line of scrimmage. But his average burst and sideline-to-sideline speed will make him an average tackler in the NFL.
Kindle isn’t an ideal fantasy LB, as he won’t rack up the consistent tackle numbers. But he has some upside (think Demarcus Ware as an absolute high point) and will be a mid 1st or early 2nd round draft pick next week. In the right system, with the right amount of playing time, he could be a solid backup fantasy LB.