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A Simple Scout’s Look at Takkarist McKinley
The “Simple Scouting” articles are done with an eye towards simplifying a sometimes complicated scouting process. All clips are courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com.
There could be a number of pass rushers taken in round one of this year’s NFL Draft, and likely a large number taken in the first two days. As guys who can get to the quarterback become more and more of a premium at the next level, they’ll more and more often be chosen ahead of equal talents at other positions. In this year’s draft, a strong class of edge players will vie for those early spots. Takkarist McKinley is a popular name who is in that mix.
McKinley’s numbers speak for themselves. After a solid season as a junior, he exploded in 2016. This season, he recorded 18 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, 6 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. His big numbers certainly grabbed people’s attention, and he has risen up draft boards as the draft season goes into full swing. Many have him going as early as in the middle of the first round.
Is McKinley worth the first round hype? Does he have translatable skills that will make him a success in the NFL? A closer look can show where he wins, and where he struggles.
In terms of raw athleticism and skill, McKinley has the look of an NFL pass rusher. He has good burst off the line, and can get around the outside if he gets the jump on the blocker. He’s fast, and has terrific closing speed once he gets the edge. Here, he beats the right guard to the spot, blows around him, and simultaneously makes the hit on the passer, and goes for, and gets, the strip and recovery all at once.
He also has the quickness to make blockers miss by starting one way, then changing direction to get to the quarterback. Here, he once again lines up outside of the right tackle and gets a good jump. However, this time, he makes a sudden move back inside, leaving the blocker grasping. McKinley cleanly gets the sack.
The issue with McKinley as a pass rusher is that he’s inconsistent with his technique. If he doesn’t win with his quickness and speed, he doesn’t win at all. A double-team isn’t usually required, as once a blocker gets his hands on him, he’s taken out of the play. He can utilize a bull rush at times, but otherwise doesn’t have a lot of moves. At the next level, he’ll need work to develop a better pass rush repertoire. He had 10 sacks, but 3 of those were in one game, and more than one was a result of him being unblocked. In the NFL, he won’t get those same free rushes.
Against the run, McKinley is better than many of the other top edge prospects. The biggest reason for that is his ability to make the right read, and get to the ball quickly. He also holds his ground against run blocks pretty well. In the passing game, standing still means he’s been stonewalled, but in the run game, it means he’s not allowing his man to blow him off the ball to make room for the ball carrier. Here, he is engaged immediately by the tackle, but is strong enough to hold his position, and when the running back tries to get outside, he sheds the block and drives him back inside.
Perhaps McKinley’s best attribute is the relentlessness with which he plays. He never gives up on a play, and gives everything he has on every play. In the following play, he puts that on full display. He’s blocked to the ground, but bounces back up in impossibly quick fashion and still makes a play.
There’s a good chance that McKinley gets drafted on day one. He’s raw as a pass rusher, but he’s clearly a terrific athlete with tremendous upside. The determination he plays with is certainly admirable, and his physical traits make him an intriguing player. He’d be best served to be taken by a team that runs a 3-4 defense where he can stand up and take advantage of his quickness. He gets a second round grade here, but will probably go earlier due to demand.