If Takkarist McKinley slides to the Miami Dolphins and the 22nd pick in the NFL Draft, there will be incredible temptation.
McKinley is an edge rusher and the Dolphins badly need a developing edge rusher.
McKinley has raw explosiveness, track speed, long arms, versatility and a desire to smash quarterbacks that look like and throw like Tom Brady.
And McKinley, who arrived on the scene — and we mean really, really, frequently arrived in Pac-12 backfields in 2016 — is a 6-feet-2, 250-pound product of UCLA boasting tenacious, relentless effort.
Miami’s front office digs effort.
“I’m young and I feel like I got a motor that’s probably the best in the class right now,” McKinley said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I’m hungry. I’ve got a lot to improve on, technique-wise, but once I improve on my technique, with my motor and my hunger of the game, I feel I’ll be unstoppable.”
McKinley, a high school track star, ran 40 yards in 4.59 seconds in Indianapolis.
That’s blazing fast for a defensive end. But the tape helps McKinley, too.
With the help of UCLA coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, McKinley developed into one of the most feared pass-rushers and game-disruptors in college football last season.
McKinley showed promise as a pass rusher in his junior season. As a senior, he was first-team Pac-12, posting 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 6 pass breakups.
“I’m here to get the quarterback,” McKinley said. “The league now is a passing league. They need young guys who can get to the quarterback and I feel I’m the best pass-rusher in this draft class to do that.”
According to a consensus ranking by the Daily Dolphin of defensive ends in the NFL Draft, McKinley was fifth.
The top players at the position seem likely to be gone before Miami picks: Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Jonathan Allen and Derek Barnett.
Other players who may be available when Miami picks include Taco Charlton, Charles Harris and Jordan Willis. While Charlton and Willis may be more sturdy and complete defensive ends, McKinley and Harris would be light, quick, speed-rushing demons.
McKinley seems to have learned a thing or two about how to read offensive clues to help his pass-rush chances.
“First thing I’m doing is looking at the quarterback,” McKinley said. “That starts with film. I’m looking to see if his stance is staggered or if his stance is parallel. If his stance is staggered, it’s a pass. If it’s parallel, it’s a run… Most guards or O-line in college, they tap the center and then they hike it…. That’s the biggest thing as an edge rusher, you’ve got to have a good get-off. You’ve got to get off that ball, you gotta go. And once I go, it’s all hand movements, it’s all technique, it’s all heart, it’s all desire to get to that quarterback.”
It’s worth watching every snap from UCLA’s loss to Utah last season. McKinley had five tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups, often matched against the Utes’ projected first-round tackle Garrett Bolles.
According to a scouting report by NFL.com, McKinley is a “relentless worker bee on the field,” “refuses to give offensive tackles a snap to catch their breath,” “makes as many effort plays as anyone in the Pac-12” is “unusually adept at bouncing off of blocks and maintaining play focus” and “saw 36 percent of his tackles come within two yards or less of line of scrimmage while sack total spiked considerably.”
Most all evaluators agree McKinley is an unfinished product.
McKinley’s moves are somewhat raw and he could stand to add some weight and strength. There is also a health concern. McKinley had shoulder surgery after the NFL scouting combine, though says he’ll be ready to return in July.
“I got to get healthy,” McKinley said. “There’s a lot of talent in the NFL. When you get to the NFL, everybody’s big, everybody’s strong, everybody’s athletic, so it’s all about your technique. Once I get healthy, once I get the right coaching and once I get the right technique, I feel like for years to come I’ll be one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.”
In a scouting report by Pro Football Focus, it is mentioned that McKinley has “burst off the line of scrimmage,” “special straight-line speed when chasing down plays,” is “extremely active hands,” has “fantastic length (34 3/4 inch arms)” and “plays with good leverage against ball carriers.”
Among the NFL players McKinley has been compared to: Tamba Hali, Shane Ray and Whitney Mercilus.
Any of those players would have made a major contribution to a Dolphins’ defense in need of a youthful injection in the defensive front seven, particularly a player who can rush the passer with his hand on the ground at defensive end as well as occasionally standing up from a linebacker position.
McKinley promises that as he refines his game as an NFL player, one thing he won’t relent on is effort.
“To me (motor) means play until you hear a whistle,” McKinley said. “You never know how a play will end up. With my speed I always feel I can catch somebody. If a running back is 20 yards, 10 yards downfield, I feel that motor, that speed I have, that track background, I’ve got a chance to catch him. Even if I don’t catch him it still looks good on film, like this big guy has got that motor, that non-stop, that competitiveness, that never give up.”
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