As the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft approached and the New York Giants where on the clock, they took a flier on athletic linebacker from USC, Devon Kennard. As the off-season strolled on, Kennard continued to showcase his capabilities during training camp and looked the part as a future playmaker for NYG defensive unit. He had to make his way up the depth chart as the Giants were ready to roll with veterans heading into the season with Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams. Kennard then injured his hamstring, which caused him to miss up to week seven, where he was able to get in 22 snaps and record 4 tackles.
Devon Kennard graded out at PFF with a 4.7 rating while playing 338 snaps on the season. During his six starts, he saw roughly 66 percent of the snaps, had a 1.1 rating against the run, 3.2 pass rush rating and 1.0 coverage rating. Throughout his starts, he saw five at WLB (weak-side linebacker) and one at SLB (strong-side linebacker) and naturally will be a SAM LB in the future.
As unpolished as Kennard was, getting as many snaps as he could can only help. He made the best of it with each snap — he got playing behind the depth chart. As injuries started to build up for the Giants LB unit, Kennard finally got the start in week 11 against the 49ers, racked up nine total tackles and one tackle for loss. He wasn’t asked to drop back into coverage much (just short zones), but he did get after the QB, as he recorded 4.5 sacks (including back-to-back 2-sack games) in the last five games of the season. He missed week 17 due to injury.
Overall Kennard had a pretty good rookie season, the 4.5 sacks in 5 games is impressive for sure and he has to continue to work hard this off-season to gain the trust from the coaching staff and improve in coverage to be a mainstay as a 3-down LB. The Giants lack playmakers on defense, and although they’ve signed J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas, look for Kennard to not only start (NYG would be foolish not to start him) but get close to 85 percent of snaps in 2015. That SCREAMS breakout potential and a must grab as your LB4 with LB2 ceiling (through weeks 11 – 17 he was the LB22).
With Spags back calling the shots, expect him to use Kennard’s versatility to give him even more value, not only at SLB but lining up down as a DE because Kennard’s length and strength allows him to push through the line and disengage blocks at will. His burst and initial quickness are underrated right now and that’ll help him excel in coverage too. Another underrated trait going for Kennard is his athleticism and high football IQ. It looks like NYG got a steal in the draft.
Look to grab Kennard late in your draft now but don’t be surprised if he starts rising up draft boards as off-season progresses. I’ve been targeting him in drafts as well as trades, if you’re able to pay a decent price you better do it now. I believe if he can get at least 85 percent of snaps. He’ll have a Suggs-like IDP profile, where he’ll give you something like 65-70 tackles, 8-11 sacks and create a handful of turnovers.