Monday, February 09, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #17 - Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
Find all the profiles here.
Benardrick McKinney, LB, Miss. St - 6'5, 249 - RS Junior
Mississippi State Bulldogs player Benardrick McKinney talks to the media during the SEC Football Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel on July 15, 2014. (Marvin Gentry / USA TODAY Sports)
There is one final inside linebacker (or non pass rushing LB) to add to our top group of possibilities that has to this point included Shaq Thompson, Denzel Perryman, Eric Kendricks, and Paul Dawson, which would be this highly touted Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State.  He was one of those that was projected highly before the season began, rather than a player who emerged onto the scene recently.  But, as you can see by his dimensions, he is pushing the envelope of how big we would want a middle linebacker in today's NFL.  Of course, the bigger they get, we assume the less their mobility would be.  To find out, we examined his work against Texas A&M, LSU, and Auburn from 2014.

What I liked:  First, it is rather clear that he was running the Bulldogs defense this year as he is quite demonstrative in pre-snap where he wants his troops.  Any middle linebacker better know clearly what the opponent is trying to do and it would seem he is a guy who studies hard and then takes that to the field.  He is a very big man and while it appears well sculpted, he is at his best when a play is between the tackles where he can charge ahead with confidence in confined spaces and lay the hit with abandon.  In short yardage, he really excels, for instance.  He also plays very hard and will give you ever bit of effort he has and is quite aggressive and enthusiastic in his play.  At times, they line him up on the edge to pass rush and although this is seldom their play, when it is, he looks way more comfortable making me wonder if you might experiment with him as a defensive end in your training camp.
What I did not like:  Unfortunately, there is quite a bit that is disconcerting.  He really doesn't move very well at that position in all of the directions that the job calls for.  He is very big in both height and weight to a point where he seems to be a Defensive End being assigned to play coverage in the middle of the defense.  This might be a result of Mississippi State taking advantage of the lack of sophistication in SEC offenses and passing games, but we can assure you that this won't work well on 3rd Down on Sundays.  He just doesn't possess the type of high end athleticism that we look for at this position relative to Dawson or Kendricks who are as athletic as the RBs they will deal with.  McKinney is also not great at working through tight spaces and is easier to block because, frankly, the target is larger for the offensive linemen to hit.  He also doesn't seem to get to the plays in time when the play goes outside the tackles.
Summary:  Overall, there are too many questions to value him in the Top 2 rounds (where you want a guy who you are sure can come right in and be a starter).  I have no doubts that he will be a useful roster player and may even overachieve as so many linebacker have over the course of time, and play a decade. But you want way more answers than questions if you take a guy at the top of your draft and I really don't feel comfortable tabbing him with a high investment.  I believe that he does not have enough top-end athleticism for assured success on Sundays.

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