The NFL draft begins on April 27th in Philadelphia and the Redskins have the No. 17 selection in the first round. This is the ninth in a series of stories analyzing 15 players who could be a good fit for Washington at that position.
It was a simple play in a game against Arizona State early in his junior year. UCLA linebacker Takk McKinley went to make a tackle and a teammate slammed into his shoulder. He didn’t feel right for the rest of that season or the next. But McKinley never missed a game because of that right shoulder pain. It was only after his senior season, when his agent asked if there was anything physically wrong, that McKinley mentioned his shoulder. He underwent an MRI exam and, much to his surprise, it showed a torn labrum and a fractured glenoid bone.
But, McKinley figured, he’d played through the pain for two seasons. He might as well compete at the NFL Combine, too. It was only after the Combine that McKinley underwent the shoulder surgery that will keep him out four-to-six months. That will cause some teams heartache, but McKinley is one of the best pass rushers in this draft class with 10 sacks as a senior.
How he fits: The Redskins’ need at outside linebacker is clear. Preston Smith took a step back last year, Junior Galette hasn’t played a game since 2014 and Trent Murphy is suspended the first four games of 2017. McKinley would help address that lack of depth opposite Ryan Kerrigan. He has an explosive first step and long arms and takes a straight line to the quarterback. Willing to play through pain and with the shoulder cleaned up, he could quickly reach a higher ceiling by his second year. McKinley had 18 tackles for loss as a senior. Lauded for his relentless style of play. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, which was the third fastest time of any defensive end, defensive tackle or edge rusher.
Questions: McKinley wasn’t asked to drop into coverage much at UCLA, but he insists he can do it – even if he’s better going forward. The injuries have to be a concern. McKinley might not be ready for the start of training camp or even the season. Long term his shoulder should be okay, but in the short term he’ll at best enter his rookie year getting thrown into the fire. McKinley has endured multiple concussions, too. He can be a little stiff and like all young pass rushers has technique issues to clean up.
McKinley’s take: “My thing is I played with this [shoulder] injury for two years, dating back to 2015, my junior year. Never knew something was wrong with it. Played with it my entire senior year, never knew anything was wrong with it. 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. So why get surgery right before the Combine? I mean, this is a dream come true for me. I’m here to knock it out.”
What they’re saying:
Mike Mayock, NFL Network
“He’s a little bit tight. But, again, when you’re evaluating 3-4 outside linebackers, there are three things they’ve got to be able to do, and in this order: Number one, they’ve got to be hellacious pass-rushers; number two, they’ve got to set a physical edge in the run game; and number three, they have to drop. So the ability to drop is number three, and by far the least important. I think Takk McKinley can do it.”
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