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NFL teams are always in search of explosive edge rushers and they simply do not come much more athletic than McKinley, a former high school track standout who evolved into the most feared pass rusher in the Pac-12 in 2016.
McKinley flashed a year earlier, tying for third on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks among his 35 tackles but often drew favorable opportunities with UCLA's talented defensive tackles Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes (among others) drawing the bulk of opponents' attention. He became the top priority as a senior, however, registering career-highs in tackles (61), tackles for loss (18), sacks (10) and forced fumbles (three) over the regular season, dominating opponents with an explosive initial burst, bend off the corner and a relentless motor that projects very well to an increasingly pass-happy NFL.
Academics forced McKinley to take the junior college route out of high school and he earned first team all-conference honors with 33 tackles, including 18 for loss and 10 sacks in his only year at Contra Costa College. He did not officially join the UCLA program until the fourth game of the 2014 season, recording six tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in limited duty over 10 games. With only one standout season and a lack of ideal height, McKinley comes with red flags. His breakout 2016 campaign, however, gives "Takk" momentum that if built upon at the Senior Bowl and in post-season workouts, could vault McKinley into the first round conversation.
STRENGTHS: Twitched-up athlete with the burst off the ball to blow past offensive tackles as a speed rusher, as well as the disproportionately long arms to keep blockers from grabbing hold of him. Terrific balance and bend to dip under the reach of blockers and scrape the corner. Fluid change of direction, allowing him to project nicely as an edge rusher, spy on the quarterback or when dropping into coverage. Anticipates cut blocks and pulling guards, showing excellent body control to spin free from contact while keeping track of the ball. Good vision and motor for pursuit, often running 15+ yards downfield to get in on tackles even after initially rushing upfield. Active hands to slip blocks even when his initial speed rush is contained, incorporating swim and rip moves frequently. Shows good hand-eye coordination to slap away the ball from unsuspecting quarterbacks while still being blocked, as well as the explosiveness and timing to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. May just be scratching the surface of his athletic potential. Recorded a 10.58 second 100 meters in his first year of running track during high school.
WEAKNESSES: Stronger than he looks but lacks the bulk and power to hold up as a full-time defensive end in the NFL. Lacks the frame to add much weight, possessing a tapered frame, including narrow hips and relatively thin legs. Limited leg drive as a bull rusher and can get tied up by tight ends an even fullbacks who hit him square. Allows his pad level to rise as he tires and gets too far over his skis, at times, making him off-balance and too easily knocked off his feet. Could use to gain greater upper body strength as too often runners are able to break through his arm tackles.
IN OUR VIEW: McKinley possesses the burst, bend, long arms, motor and experience rushing out of two-point (standing) and three-point (hand in the dirt) stances to earn a high draft pick and provide an immediate impact as an edge rusher. He is more agile than powerful, however, and could prove a liability against the run when opponents are able to latch onto him.
COMPARES TO: Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans: After a couple of relatively ho-hum seasons at Illinois, Mercilus rode a splashy junior campaign (22.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles) into the No. 26 overall pick in the 2012 draft. McKinley has enjoyed a similar sharp ascent up draft boards, projecting as an impact edge rusher due to his initial burst, bend and tenacity.
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