Over the next three months, we’ll be looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at wide receiver, tight end, and perhaps right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once the “official visits” start to leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
#98 - Takkarist McKinley, Defensive End, UCLA - 6-2, 258
- 2014 (Soph): 4 GP; 2.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble
- 2015 (Jr): 13 GP; 3.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 2 forced fumbles, 4 PD’s
- 2016 (Sr): 11 GP; 10 sacks, 18 TFL, 3 forced fumbles, 6 PD’s
Games Watched: Colorado, Arizona St., Stanford, Utah, USC
Pros: Very fluid athlete with good change of direction and natural bend. Explosive off the snap, and very sudden with impressive closing speed once he captures the edge. Uses his speed well to set up inside counter moves both against the run and the pass. Quick first step, active hands. Good length with long arms. Plays with more power than you’d expect for someone his size as he flashes an effective bull rush at times. Works his way back to the quarterback when initially beaten or pushed past the pocket, high-motor, high-effort player. Shows good timing/instincts as far as getting his hands into passing lanes for pass deflections, even when blocked. Inconsistent against the run when facing linemen, but he does flash power and the ability to stack/shed. Consistently defeats tight ends in the run game with speed and power. Has experience playing a variety of spots as far as standing up, with his hand down, and he has even shown enough athleticism to drop into coverage/play as a QB spy at times. Very impressive against possible first round left tackle Garrett Bolles (Utah) with a strip sack and forcing a holding penalty.
Cons: One-year wonder? Just one year of high-level production. Plays too upright at times. A little shorter than ideal at 6-2 with a frame that doesn’t look like it can add much more weight. I’ll be very curious to see how he measures at the Combine because his listed height and weight is all over the map. Engulfed by bigger linemen at times in the run game. Pass-rush technique is unrefined at this point in his development as he usually relies on pure physical ability and hustle to make plays.
Conclusion: This is an ideal candidate for the Cowboys late in the first round as McKinley shows all the physical talent to be a pure weak-side, “LEO” defensive end with speed, bend, and explosiveness. He is the type of quarterback hunter off the edge that this defense sorely needs, and he could provide an immediate impact as a rookie as part of the Cowboys defensive line rotation. He was slated to participate in the Senior Bowl next week but only recently decided to bow out because he is reportedly considering surgery to repair a torn right labrum in his shoulder, an injury that he has supposedly been playing with for years now. I believe this could benefit the Cowboys, because while he certainly seems destined to be a first-round pick come April (pending the prognosis following surgery), I think that he could have cemented himself in the top 15-20 selections with an impressive week at the Senior Bowl.
This looks like a player that could easily be the Cowboys best pass-rusher off the edge at some point during his rookie season. He may not be ready to start and play 40-50 snaps right away due to his size and considering that he struggles at times against the run, but he wouldn’t have to considering the heavy rotation the Cowboys employ. His natural pass-rush ability and long-term potential make him a very strong candidate if he is still available when the Cowboys are on the clock.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect. I started this odd fascination of mine in 2011 when I sent my breakdown and links to videos of Tyron Smith at USC to the excellent Cowboys blogger Bob Sturm (April 28, 2011 - Even More Tyron Smith Tape). Since then I’ve continued watching prospects closely, but I’ve never taken the initiative to actually formally write my thoughts until I became a writer for BTB. I hope that I can provide an interesting, and accurate perspective on prospects from a Cowboys-centric point of view.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more an in-depth look at this year’s prospects.