UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
6-foot-2, 250 pounds
Key stat: McKinley improved his big-play production in each of his three seasons with the Bruins — from 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2014 (10 games, one start) to 7.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks in 2015 (12 starts) to 18 TFLS and 10 sacks in 2016 (11 starts).
The skinny: Cal signee failed to make grades coming out of high school, so he spent a year at Contra Costa College in 2013 before ending up at UCLA. Worked his way into the rotation as a sophomore and steadily improved over the course of his career, earning all-Pac-12 first team mention by averaging second in the conference in both sacks per game and TFLs per game.
Suffered a shoulder injury in a 2015 game against Arizona State and played through the injury for more than a year. Skipped the Senior Bowl with what was diagnosed as a torn labrum but opted to perform at the NFL scouting combine (and even lifted on the bench press), which he called a “dream come true.” Had surgery immediately following the combine to repair the labrum and a cracked glenoid and was expected to require rehab for the following 4-6 months. But McKinley vowed to be ready for training camp, which starts in late July, even though the long end of that timetable might knock out his entire preseason and put Week 1 in jeopardy.
McKinley turns 22 during the NFL season.
Best-suited destination: McKinley rushed as a down lineman from both sides and likely could do that in the NFL, although his lack of bulk might make him a pass-rush specialist in a 4-3 front or project him more to a 3-4 OLB position. We could see teams with a wide variety of schemes — such as the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and many more — being able to find good use for this raw but explosive edge rusher’s skills.
Upside: High-energy rusher who comes out ready to play every week. Seems to make at least one effort play per game, if not more. Tough player who played through shoulder pain for a season and a half, and improved performance over that time. Great burst and athleticism. Possesses the speed to blow by tackles before they get out of their stances. Can change direction quickly and has a spin move that is getting better. Long arms (nearly 35 inches) to swat down passes. Made a lot of plays near, at or behind the line of scrimmage. Repped out 24 lifts on the bench despite those long arms and the shoulder injury. Also ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, broad jumped 122 inches and looked shredded at the combine weigh-in. Has natural instincts for the position. Rushes with equal adeptness from either side and was used as a stand-up “Joker” rusher at times. Held up well in tough individual matchups.
Had three sacks (one a strip sack) and five tackles for loss against Utah, including some great head-to-head battles with Utes OT Garett Boles, a first-round talent. Here’s McKinley keeping his balance against the cut-block attempt of OT Sam Tevi, a mid-round prospect, and converting speed to power quickly:
Downside: Short height and limited bulk — he might be close to being maxed out, weight-wise — could limit his role in certain schemes. Injury timetable is a big concern for general managers and coaches, who might not be able to count on him being ready for the start of his rookie season. Can wear down by the ends of games and might not be a 60-snap-per-game pro. Appeared to be less effective in higher-paced games. Battles to a lot of stalemates, even against tight ends, backs and slower guards. Has trouble locating the ball at times. Several pressures came off second-effort plays (which is good but also shows he’s not winning off the snap as much as the numbers would appear) and quarterbacks holding the ball longer than they will against NFL rhythm passing games.
McKinley can go quiet for long stretches in games. Had strangely poor games against lesser talent. Still requires more core strength to hold up. Must develop countermoves and employ better hand usage. Not the most technically gifted rusher. Not yet a fully refined run defender and might never be great in that area. Turned in poor times in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the combine, which make a projection to a 3-4 OLB spot less obvious.
Scouting hot take: “I question the decision [to delay the surgery]. He could have had it as early as December, and he’d be better off. We now have to put a red mark next to his name on our board because we don’t really know where he’ll be at health-wise. We’ll know more at the [combine medical] recheck, but that’s still taking a risk. I am not sure who advised him on that.” — AFC college scouting director
Player comp: When we watched McKinley rush from multiple techniques, including as an “A gap” blitzer, we immediately thought of Whitney Mercilus, who took time to develop but now is one of the game’s best QB hunters and a very solid all-around defender.
Expected draft range: Top 40 picks
Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
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