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The Cowboys have been dancing around the safety position for years, but their free agency moves make it seem like they are finally ready to address it in a crucial way. Could that extend to the draft as well? Oregon safety, Verone McKinley is a native Texan, and grew up not far from the Dallas Cowboys’ headquarters. He attended Hebron High School and earned four-star honors coming out. Strangely though, he wasn’t listed as one of the participants in Dallas Day this offseason.
His first significant playing time came in his red-shirt freshman year and he put together quite the campaign. He finished the year with FWAA Freshman All-America team and The Athletic Freshman All-America second-team honors. His career seemed to stall after that in terms of accolades but he developed some ball skills registering an interception, two pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his second year. His junior season with six picks proved he’s ready to try the next step.
Measurables and Stats
Listed Height: 5-foot-10
Listed Weight: 198
Jersey Number: 23
Tackles (2021): 44 solo tackles, 77 total tackles
Impact Plays (2021): 1 tackle for loss, 6 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble
Film Study Information:
Games Watched: Cal (2019), UCLA (2020), Fresno State (2021), Ohio State (2021), UCLA (2021)
Best Game: Ohio State (2021)
Worst Game: Cal (2019)
Physical Skills Evaluation:
Range: Lacks true center fielder range, can be responsible for half the field in a two-high safety look, but will get beat deep if left as a single high safety. The preferred scheme for him is cover 3.
Versatility: Capable of playing corner in a pinch, but lacks the hip fluidity to flip his hips and stay in phase with a route.
Football IQ: Has high play recognition, quick to diagnose what is happening and adjust to the play. Communicator on the backend early on in his career. Makes sure everyone is in place. Adapt at disguising coverage pre-snap. He bats loose balls away from offensive players diving for it to put himself in a better position to recover the loose ball.
Tackling: Capable of coming downhill and making a tackler in the open field. Can break down too early and leave himself susceptible to cut or juke moves. Can over pursue on occasion.
COD skills: Slow to react to the ball leaving the QBs hands. Doesn’t have fantastic hip fluidity. Opted out of athletic testing at the combine other than vertical. Loses footing on occasion when coming down-hill.
Physicality: Not overly physical, contests the ball at the catch point, but lacks real physicality. Don’t see him in man real often so tough to see him be physical during the stem of the route.
Man Coverage: Saw him man up with some tight ends and carried their routes vertically well. Isn’t very reliable here, clearly prefers playing with his eyes back to the QB, and can lose his assignment on occasion.
Zone Coverage: Doesn’t always gain proper depth on his drops. Plays well over the top of tight ends who are carried by linebackers. Better playing in over-hang rather than back to the ball.
Run Support: Navigates the box at a decent level. Capable of being the last line of defense, but wouldn’t label him as overly reliable. Inconsistent in getting off blocks.
Ball Skills: More comfortable playing with his eyes back on the QB. Contests the ball at the catch point, fights to rip it away from the receiver.
Very high football IQ, good communicator on the back-end and saw it early on. Plays better with his eyes back on the QB. Has good ball skills, tallied 11 interceptions and 10 pass deflections in his career. Contests the ball well at the catch point.
Limited range, best suited for a cover two or cover three scheme. Looks to be slow on breaking on the throw when it leaves the QBs hands. Lacks ideal hip fluidity. Loses track of his assignment when in man coverage from time to time and his back pedal needs refinement. Didn’t see him in man coverage often, especially against receivers.
Fit with the Cowboys:
The Cowboys currently project to a three-headed monster at the safety spot. Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker were re-signed to modest multiyear deals after being brought in on trial runs in 2021 and proving their worth. Kearse led the team in tackles and Hooker worked his way into volume snaps the further he got away from his achilles injury. In addition, Donovan Wilson still exists, entering the final year of his rookie deal, still trying to shake his own injury narrative.
Behind them is Israel Mukuamu, a sixth-round pick from South Carolina who was converted from cornerback, and UDFA Tyler Coyle.
This is the tricky part, it is tough to see McKinley having a significant impact on the Cowboys defense early on. His back pedal needs refinement and he needs work on being aware of routes developing and not letting them get behind him. He contests the ball at the catch point well and finds the ball when it is loose on the ground. He brings a very high football IQ and would be an effective communicator. All in all he would be a developmental player, who can hopefully turn into a starter.
Run Support (10)
Ball Skills (10)
COD skills (10)
73.4, 4th round player