Man crushes are a real thing. And there is nothing like the spring-time air and several hours of Youtube videos that heightens those bromances as you dream of the day that your favorite draft prospect is united with your favorite football team. Last year for me that player was Ezekiel Elliott. If you read anything from me around this time a year ago, you are likely aware that I absolutely loved Zeke. And sure enough, the Cowboys made me one happy fan when his name was called.
This year, that player is Takkarist McKinley.
If you haven’t had a chance to familiarize yourself with this draft prospect, here is a little video that gives you a glimpse into his character.
This is a kid who was raised by his grandmother, whose passing now gives him motivation to push harder when times are tough. He had some academic issues that stymied an opportunity to play for the Cal Bears so he had to take the scenic route through community college before earning his way onto the UCLA squad.
And now, he’s focused. Focused on the task at hand, which is being the top pass rushers in the country.
Before talking about how great he is, let’s address the elephant in the room which is his shoulder injury. McKinley had been playing with a torn labrum and broken glenoid and had surgery after the combine. The recovery time is four to six months which will certainly hinder his opportunities in training camp and make him questionable for the beginning of the regular season. This is concerning for some, but let’s put this in perspective. First, he’s been playing injured for a while now and still produced at a high level.
“Played with it my entire senior year, never knew anything was wrong with it,” McKinley told reporters at the NFL Combine. “One day my agent asked me, 'Is there anything wrong?' I said I got this little shoulder that sometimes bothers me. Got an MRI. Doctor was pretty much amazed that I played with it. Me, I just told my trainers at UCLA just tape me up, I'm ready to go.”
Injured shoulder or not, he went out to the combine and fought through it.
Even with the knowledge that he was days away from surgery, McKinley participated in all drills at the event, including putting up an impressive 24 reps on the bench press.
Of course an ailing shoulder didn’t stop him from showing of his great speed as he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash (95 percentile). His wheels are impressive which have been on display while chasing down ball carriers.
He wasn’t able to catch the RB on this play, but look at the effort this kid gives.
Takkarist McKinley. I'll take effort and heart like this any day of the week. Football player. pic.twitter.com/yCQyevp2NB— Robbie Duncan (@DeadeyeDunkan) January 18, 2017
And sometimes he gets you.
My favorite McKinley play @MoveTheSticks - DE 98 at bottom- rush QB then make awesome hustle play 20 yds downfield - same EVERY snap... pic.twitter.com/tay3ZT9fcE— Mike Mayock (@MikeMayock) December 6, 2016
And speed is just part of it. McKinley exhibits great athleticism and can use it both against the pass and the run. He demonstrates patience in the running game and sets the edge extremely well. Of course his favorite thing to do is to thrash the quarterback.
UCLA DE Takk McKinley's effort is awesome! He's No. 98 at left defensive end. pic.twitter.com/nn8hUvukIC— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 27, 2017
He’s a quiet guy, but there’s a beast inside of him. Rushing the edge for the Cowboys is a great way for him to unleash his rage.
Even if the Cowboys have their sights set on McKinley, there’s always a chance he gets snagged before pick 28 comes along. He’s projected to go as early as the top 15 or as late as the second round. Many see him as a steal if he makes it past the top 25, but can he last that long?
Currently, he has private visits (PRI) set up with five teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals pick at 9 and he’s not likely to go that high. The Cleveland Browns would have to make him a second-round target if they wanted him. The Pittsburgh Steelers pick after Dallas, so the only one of the invite teams that are a real threat is the Baltimore Ravens who pick at 16. If McKinley makes it past Baltimore, he’s got a shot to be there when the Cowboys pick.
Everyone has their favorite draft prospect, but this fan has a plan. And that plan is to steal a perennial pass rusher that would come in oh, so handy in Dallas. Let people keep doubting this kid. Let the injury make his draft price slide. And all the while the Cowboys can step in and reap all the benefits.