Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft getting underway this past Thursday night, I certainly didn’t have Illinois offensive lineman Kendrick Green as one of the higher profile centers in this year’s class. After all, Green is considered undersized at 6017 with 32 1/4-inch arms. Not only that, but Illinois primarily used Green at left guard, playing him all of about five games at center. On Monday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was on the Stan Savran Show on ESPN Radio and he was asked if Green was considered in the organization’s eyes as being one of the higher profile centers in this year’s draft class.
“Yeah, he was,” Colbert said. “You know, Kendrick, he’s unusually athletic for that position. He ran 4.89 [seconds]. He had some explosive jumps. But you know, we don’t draft off of just workouts or speed or physical makeup but if you see those traits in his play, it certainly helps to enhance his value. So, he played very athletic, but he did also play very physical.”
Colbert also went on to talk about Green being undersized.
“He’s not the biggest guy,” Colbert said. “He’s going to measure right at that 6020, 6017, 6021 range but his athleticism stood out. I mean, his ability to make in-line blocks that a lot of centers can’t make just because they can’t get there physically was very impressive.”
Colbert then addressed the fact that Green now enters the NFL with minimal experience at the center position.
“And he is still learning the position,” Colbert said. “I mean, he hasn’t had a lot of starts at the center position and quite honestly, had he been a center his whole college career, he may have even gotten drafted higher because we think we’re only starting to see his ability as what we believe is his best position and that will be center for us.”
Green has said that he likes to play nasty. Because of that, Savran asked Colbert on Monday if the young offensive lineman’s self-described demeanor factored any into the team drafting him on Friday in the third round.
“Well, you know, I don’t take into account too much what the player will say, because they’re all gonna say the right things,” Colbert said. “But I think it was more evident in how he played the game.”
If Green is going to open the 2021 NFL season as the Steelers’ starting center, he’ll need to beat out veteran B.J. Finney for the job this summer in training camp. That means he’ll need to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Colbert said as much on Monday when talking about how physical a player Green was at Illinois.
“And again, there was some things he did where he looks a little bit uncertain with his hand placement and things of that nature at the center position, but those are all teachable,” Colbert said. “The athleticism was what stood out and, you know, the fact that he says he was physical, he backed that up on film, which was enticing.”
Green might also need some work when it comes to his snapping, especially whenever the quarterback is not in the shotgun or pistol.
“They were mostly shotgun [at Illinois],” Colbert said. “We had Adrian Klemm at his [Green’s] Pro Day and they did some work with, you know, quarterbacks under centers and taking snaps so on and so forth. But in all honesty, the center-quarterback in college football, most of these guys, it’s probably 75% of the time, the quarterback is not under center. So, it’s pretty common right now. So, if a guy hasn’t done it, we’ll work with them if we can get to them on their Pro Day just to see and feel and look at what he’ll be able to do in that regard.”
Green certainly has big shoes to fill after veteran center Maurkice Pouncey retired earlier in the offseason. If that’s not enough pressure on Green, the Steelers have a long history of drafting some great centers in the Super Bowl era dating back to Mike Webster in 1974. Webster and another former Steeler that the team drafted, Dermontti Dawson, are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.