Kendrick Green is headed to Pittsburgh.
The former Illinois offensive guard was selected Friday evening in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft with the 87th overall pick. For just the second time in the last four years, Illinois football has a player selected in the draft with the last pick being offensive lineman Nick Allegretti being selected in the seventh round by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Green, a Peoria native where he was watching the draft Friday night, is the first non-senior Illini player to be drafted since Akeem Spence went with the 100th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Green's lateral get-off makes him a natural fit for teams heavy into outside zone as a primary run scheme,” NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein said in his evaluation of Green. “He can get to play-side reach and back-side cuts and he specializes in washing his defender out of the play once he's engaged on the move. He plays a little too upright at times and lacks the length and drive power in his lower half to move one-on-one blocks around with adequate sustain. The run blocking will stand out to evaluators, but recognition inconsistencies in pass protection might cause some concerns. His center/guard flexibility is an advantage and teams could go either way with how they want to use him. Green has the potential to become a starter at the next level.”
Green was an first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection following the 2020 season and the first Illini offensive lineman to earn such an honor by either the coaches or the media since Martin O’Donnell in 2007.
“He can play guard. He can play center. He’s a little bit undersized but man, this dude is quick,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on the broadcast Friday night.
Green, a 6-foot-4 and 315-pound offensive lineman, earned Pro Football Focus All-America honors as a sophomore and according to PFF data, Green didn’t allow a sack last season in 226 passing snaps.
It is thought by several professional scouts that Green can immediately put himself in a position to contribute at any of the three of the interior positions in Pittsburgh’s offensive line as NFL Network analysts Joel Klatt and Charles Davis debated whether he fits better at guard or at center, which Green made four starts at Illinois.
“I think (at) guard because of his ability to pull with that athleticism,” Klatt said. “He actually was recruited as a defensive tackle...and was the number two rated defensive lineman out of Illinois behind A.J. Epenesa.”
“I think his best place to compete is at center because J.C. Hassenauer is there,” Davis said. “At guard they have (David) DeCastro and last year they ended up picking up Kevin Dotson, who played well. So, I think his best spot to compete early is center even if guard is his best spot.”
Green arrived at Illinois in 2017 as a defensive tackle but then-Illinois head coach Lovie Smith moved the highly recruited prospect to offense after spring drills of his redshirt freshman season.
"He took to the offensive line. He jumped up on the radar after he got over there. It’s not like he went through a long transition period,” Smith said. “He was one who right away you saw the potential to be an outstanding player. Nothing has said otherwise."
Green is the highest selected offensive lineman drafted by Pittsburgh since 2012 when DeCastro was picked in the first round with the 24th overall selection.