Cal Bears NFL Draft Profile: Defensive End Kyle Kragen

Dec 29, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; California Golden Bears defensive end Kyle Kragen (13) celebrates recovering a fumble in the second quarter against the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; California Golden Bears defensive end Kyle Kragen (13) celebrates recovering a fumble in the second quarter against the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Cal Bears‘ defensive end Kyle Kragen hasn’t gotten much draft attention, but he has helped his stock rise.

As the 2016 NFL Draft approaches, Golden Gate Sports will profile some of the California Golden Bears’ potential draft picks. Everyone knows about quarterback Jared Goff, who declared for the draft a year early and will almost certainly be one of the first few players off the board when the 81st annual draft kicks off on April 28th. But the Bears, who finished 8-5 this past season and beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, have other intriguing prospects. The first profiled here is defensive end Kyle Kragen.

Kragen, hailing from Danville, California, stands 6’2″, and tips the scales at about 245 pounds. He began his college career at Diablo Valley College, a junior college in Pleasant Hill, California, where he played two seasons. Over his career there, he totaled 19.5 sacks, 28.5 tackles for loss, and eight fumble recoveries. In his second season, Kragen totaled a school-record 14.5 sacks, and added 17 tackles for loss, two forces fumbles, and two fumble recoveries en route to being named the team’s defensive MVP, and earning First-Team All-Mid Empire League honors.

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Kragen transferred to Cal in 2013, and played in all 12 games, including five starts, for the 1-11 Bears. His three sacks matched Jalen Jefferson for the team’s lead, and he added five tackles for loss. Kragen missed the entire 2014 season with mononucleosis, which caused him to lose 25 pounds, but redshirted to earn another season of eligibility. He came back strong in 2015.

The Cal defense was much-improved in 2015, and Kragen was a big part of that. He was the team’s best pass rusher, picking up a team-leading seven sacks, while also adding eight tackles for loss, as well as two forced fumbles and a recovery. For his efforts during Cal’s week four win over the Washington Huskies, which included 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a defended pass, Kragen was named the Pac-12’s defensive player of the week. After the season, he was named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.

Following the conclusion of his senior season, Kragen accepted an invite to participate in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a postseason All-Star showcase game. Playing for the National Team, Kragen was a defensive star, accumulating three sacks, including a strip-sack which he recovered himself, leading to the game-winning field goal. The National Team beat the American Team 18-17.

On the first sack, Kragen used a bullrush, pushing Memphis left tackle Ryan Mack (6’5″, 310 pounds, graded sixth-round pick) straight back and into the lap of Utah quarterback Travis Wilson. The second sack came from Kragen pursuing Wilson out of bounds, resulting in a one-yard loss.

Kragen’s third sack, and the most important of the day for his team, came with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. With pressure coming, Wilson broke the pocket, and had to escape the grasp of Washington State defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao. After spinning through the hit, Kragen pushes forward and very quickly punches the ball from Wilson’s grasp before falling on it to complete the turnover, which led to the National Team’s game-winner.

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Entering the week prior to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Kragen was projected to go undrafted, but his great performance in the game will surely generate some buzz. With good workouts and pro days leading up to the draft, Kragen can continue to make a case to be drafted in the late rounds by a team looking for defensive end or outside linebacker depth. Even if he still goes undrafted, Kragen has certainly showcased himself well enough to get a shot as an undrafted free agent.

Kragen isn’t a particularly athletic individual, but he is an extremely intelligent player. Like his father Greg Kragen, who played 13 seasons in the NFL and made three All-Pro teams, the younger Kragen puts himself in great position to make plays, even if he is beat by his blocker. He is what can be described as a “motor player”, with a non-stop motor that comes from pure effort. Even on outside runs to the opposite side of the field, Kragen is always pursuing the play in hopes of making something happen.

Besides his potential draft status, the biggest question surrounding Kragen is where he will play at the next level. He is a bit undersized for an NFL defensive end, but he would seem to be athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In college, he was good at setting an edge against the run as well as rushing the passer, so he could be a serviceable backup outside linebacker in his first season.

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After missing an entire season because of an illness, Kragen came back strong with a very nice senior season. With an offseason full of pre-draft workouts, a determined Kragen can keep pushing his draft stock skywards.

Here is a  highlight reel from Kragen’s senior season at Cal: