College: Mississippi State
McKinney is a very good athlete with the ability to close on the ball and accelerate extremely fast. He has good balance but will lounge into blocks/ballcarriers, he needs to play stronger at the POA. He has active and quick feet that enable him to get off the ball very quickly, get around OL in space, and to avoid letting OL lock on. His COD is average at best which is due to stiffness in hips and the need to lose some weight. He would be better off at 240 instead of 250, he’s approaching DE size and it affects his ability to recover when he over pursues (which he does too much). He has a good nervous system response (coordination) that he showcases in reading/reacting. In the ’14 Auburn tape he was in zone coverage and he read the QBs’ eyes as he was dropping back, while in his backpedal he leapt and got his fingertips on a ball way over his head. He is very smooth in his movements but isn’t that twitched up.
Section Grade: 6.6
Pride / Quit
McKinney shows toughness in fighting through blocks and being a very aggressive tackler. While he is aggressive at the POA, he is a below average tackler for a number of reasons we’ll get to later but this leads to some blown opportunities in crucial situations. In the ’14 Auburn tape QB Nick Marshall scrambles up the middle right where McKinney is. McKinney does a great job identifying it quickly, fighting through an attempted block, and putting himself in proper position. On contact he left his feet too early, lounged (a reoccurring theme) to bring Marshall down but missed the tackle, which resulted in a first down on a crucial 3rd down play in the 3rd quarter. McKinney never posted 50+ solo tackles in a season in three years as a starter, a red flag indicating my aforementioned statement. He isn’t a true snap-to-whistle guy either. He generally plays hard and has the capability to outrun angles but a couple times a game he lets up before the whistle.
Section Grade: 6.4
Learn / Retain
Instinct / Reaction
McKinney is a very aware player on the field with good enough instincts to sniff out screens, read/option plays, and PA efficiently. His instincts really shine in identifying blockers, disengaging them quickly, or avoiding them altogether. He dropped an easy INT in the ’14 A&M game. The biggest issue in terms of retaining information & learning from mistakes is I repeatedly see easy tackles missed at least 2-3 times in every game I watched. Either he isn’t taking coaching well or he just really struggled to grasp depth perception and the coordination to bring his feet with the rest of his body when tackling.
Section Grade: 6.3
Strength / Explosion
Benardrick is very well-proportioned with long arms and unteachable size (6-5). His weight (249) is spread out nicely throughout his body but since his freshman year (216 pounds) he has gained too much weight to be able to maneuver as well as his athleticism indicates. He is very smooth and fast so he hides some of his limitations on the surface but in watching the tape his inability to change directions could hurt him on the next level, particularly if he’s asked to work in space a lot. He should stay under 245 in the NFL. He has been very durable in his career, missing just three games in as many seasons. He doesn’t possess a ton of raw explosion in his hips which effects him in plugging holes and turnover creation (one forced fumble in three years). He does however read/react very well and is comfortable in traffic (I think partially from his basketball background). While he doesn’t have a ton of pop, he is a very strong player and can hold his ground at the POA. He bullies TEs, WRs, and RBs when they have to block him.
Section Grade: 6.9
7 Read & React
He reads/reacts to the read/option, PA, and screens very quickly/efficiently
6.5 Initial Quicks
Has very quick feet and hands to get off blocks and avoid them in space
7 Play Strength
Very strong at the POA in holding his ground
Inconsistent tackler due to anticipating contact too early, lounging, sloppy feet. Has the tools (long arms, speed, strength) to develop in this area
7 Shed Blocker
Does an excellent job of getting OLs’ hands off his body quickly
6 Run at Him
His strength is a plus when head up but he tends to anticipate contact which results in ugly missed tackles
7 Pursuit / Range
Initial quicks are very good but takes some time to reach top speed. His top speed is more than adequate enabling him to even outrun angles at times
7 Closing Burst
Has outstanding ability to close gaps fast on ballcarriers due to instincts & athleticism. Once he shores up his footwork (keep his feet underneath him) this will be even better
7 Zone Coverage
He is fluid dropping in coverage and comfortable in space. Basketball background and top-notch athleticism alleviate discomfort here
6 Man Coverage
Haven’t seen him enough here to give a grade, but with his athleticism, length, and background I would venture to say he could excel vs a variety of TEs
6 Pass Rush Ability
He has 7.5 career sacks and the ability to rush the edge using his length, strength/speed combo. A move to an edge rusher in the future isn’t out of the question
Too many times he missed easy tackles and anticipated contact. Needs to correct this issue because he just isn’t a very good tackler right now.
Section Grade: 6.5
7.5 ATH ABILITY
6.5 INITIAL QKS
7 PLAY SPEED
7 PLAY STR
Section Grade: 6.8
Overall Grade: M 6.6
Great overall size (6-5/249), basketball background with excellent athletic ability for his size. Balanced body weight, strong upper body, and long arms. Has good top speed to give him sideline-to-sideline range. Has the agility/coordination to knife through holes on the blitz and to be smooth (comfortable) in space. Excels in the spy role. Disengages OL very quickly, has fast hands and feet. Closes the gap quickly and has the ability to deliver big blows from the backside. Has the tools to develop into an effective pass-rusher off the edge.
Needs to refine his footwork, particularly on contact. Misses 2-3 tackles every game due to over pursuit and lounging. Anticipates contact from blockers/ballcarriers. While very smooth with good top speed, he isn’t twitched up and doesn’t didn’t deliver many big hits head up. His inability to shore up his tackling ability over the course of three seasons is disconcerting.
McKinney primarily plays ILB in the team’s base defense and stays on the field for all three downs. Miss St runs a lot of nickel and one LB looks, which is always McKinney’s spot. He also is lined up on the edge in a 2-point stance, often times to blitz. McKinney is an RS Jr and finished his career with above average numbers: 34 starts, 243 total tackles, 122 solo, 19.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 7 QB hurries, and 0 INTs. As with most prospects, the numbers don’t paint the entire picture of his production as McKinney led his team in virtually every defensive category the last three seasons and was the best LB on the team. However, 122 solo stops in three seasons is concerning, especially when compared to other top ILB prospects like Eric Kendricks (101 solo tackles in ’14 alone) & Denzel Perryman (234 career solo tackles).
McKinney has excellent size for the position (6-5/249) and has a very well-balanced distribution of weight that he generally carries well. He is a very smooth mover who isn’t very twitched up or explosive on contact. He has a quick initial burst and impressive top speed, but he’s a little slow reaching it. I think he needs to drop a few pounds to be most effective (I wouldn’t want him above 245). He is strong at the POA not just based off upper body strength (which is very good) but he has very long arms to keep OL off his body. His closing burst & speed allows him to track ballcarriers down from behind, but his footwork (not keeping his feet underneath him) upon contact causes him to miss a lot of tackles despite being in position to make them. He tends to anticipate contact which results in some ugly missed tackles, typically 2-3 times in every tape I saw. This bad habit also results in lounging at blockers, causing him to get engulfed and stoned at the POA. His COD to recover from the disadvantaged positions he puts himself isn’t good either, another reason why I think losing some weight would help him. He isn’t a great downhill thumper due to footwork issues although he is comfortable sifting through the trash. The reason for this is his ability to diagnose plays and maneuver through traffic very well. He shows the ability to get off blocks very quickly with quick/aggressive hands but is inconsistent in using them to do so. He does an excellent job of locating the ball against the read/option, screens, and even in coverage. He tends to get lost when dropping back in zone but has shored that up from ’13 to ’14. I haven’t seen him in man coverage but he has the size/speed/length to stay with TEs if asked to do so. Overall, McKinney’s ideal position would be at ILB in the 4-3 defense. He has all the unteachable (size/speed/length) tools to develop into a solid starting LB with time, once he improves his tackling and footwork. I just am not sure if he will since he didn’t show much improvement in his three years in college.
Value – Day 2 pick
Projection – Top 40
Pro Comp – Rolando McClain