Prospect of the Day: Benardrick McKinney

View photos of Benardrick McKinney's football career at Mississippi State.

Mississippi State ILB/OLB Benardrick McKinney
6'4", 246 lb.
Junior

Bio
Played QB as a senior in HS - 1,334 passing yards, 702 rushing - 22 total TDs
Was the team's punter as well
One of the top 25 Most Wanted HS seniors in Mississippi (2011)
Was also a member of the Rosa Fort HS basketball team
Rivals.com 3-star recruit, but wasn't in top 30 prospects in Mississippi in 2011

Honors
1st Team All-America (2014 - ESPN, FWAA, Phil Steele, SI)
1st Team All-SEC (2014 - Coaches)
Bednarik Award Semifinalist (2014)
Butkus Award Semifinalist (2014)
Lombardi Award Semifinalist (2014)
SEC All-Freshman honors (2012)
1st Team Freshman All-America (2012)

Combine Measurements
Arms: 33"
Hand: 9"
40-yd dash: 4.66 secs
Bench Press: 16 reps of 225
Vertical Jump: 40.5" (top ten for LB)
Broad Jump: 10'1"
3-cone: 7.21 secs
Short Shuttle: 4.27 secs

Overall
Although it seemed as if McKinney had been at Mississippi State for years, he actually left after his fourth year on campus with one year of eligibility remaining. He left behind one of the most active and physical defenses in the SEC as McKinney was the ringleader of that bunch the past three seasons. He led the Bulldogs in tackles for two straight seasons (2014 and 2013) and was second on the team with 102 in 2012 as a redshirt freshman. But…

He always looked out of place to me, playing inside linebacker with an outside linebacker build. With 33" inch arms on a 6'4", 246 lb. frame, he seemed more of a fit as a 3-4 OLB or even a 4-3 OLB. But, he played inside for three years because that's what Mississippi State asked him to do. Later in his career, in pass rush situations, he did rush from the edge and that versatility opens up a number of different doors going forward if he can do that.

Imagine a guy that can be a three down inside linebacker at two, maybe even three, different spots. That's utopian for a defensive coordinator and it's got to be the conversation that teams are having currently. Where do we play this guy? Everywhere. But, does he have the toolbox to line up all over the defense? Some team is convincing themselves that he does, some are talking themselves out of it. Let's take a look at the full package.

Texans analyst and radio sideline reporter John Harris unveiled his top 100 prospects for the NFL Draft. (Photos courtesy of AP)

Quote
"I'm very energized and I play with a lot of juice. I try to play with passion and be a great leader on the field while flying to the ball and trying to make everyone around me better." - McKinney describing his playing style.

"Benardrick is a great leader, great player. Seeing him on the other side of the ball, I know he has the defense going with juice points and it's hard for me not to get the offense going. We just feed off each other" - MSU Heisman candidate QB Dak Prescott

What to like
--Definitely delivers on ball carriers - not scared to drop hat on guys
--Most impressively, he dropped a number of those hits on ball carriers out in the open field - WOW - the LSU game - a pair of hits on RB Terrence Magee and one on QB Anthony Jennings.
--Takes on blocks, knows how to manage interior blockers better than other linebackers in this class
--Seems comfortable out on the edge in 3-4 pass rush fronts
--Good understanding of run fits, being patient, not over-running the football
--Tracks the ball keeping leverage and run fit integrity.
--Extremely consistent tackling - hit, wrap and drive - a lost art that he's mastered

What needs some work
--Stiff hipped, straight linish player
--Takes a while to react to the ball - backside linebackers beat him to runs when he's on playside
--if he's going to transition out to 3-4 OLB, he needs to learn how to rush the QB with an asset other than speed (Hand placement, spin move, rip move, stab...something)
--Needs to breakdown in space when he hasn't "cornered his prey". Saw a few times on tape where he flew out of control and got jocked by a QB/ball carrier.
--Not a change of direction linebacker, doesn't flip his hips and doesn't redirect quickly at all.
--Has to quit backpedaling in coverage - TURN AND RUN!!

Projection
I can't honestly tell you how many hours of games I've watched over the past 12 months. That's really when I started focusing on this year's draft class. I bring that up because I can't remember ever being wowed by a prospect's physical, open field tackling like I was with McKinney. I'm audible when I watch film as I talk to the computer/TV as if it can hear me; it's like it's my silent partner in crime, if you will, plus I know it won't give me any lip in return and always agrees with me. But, watching McKinney, I let out a bunch of "WHOA"s when he struck ball carriers, way more than other prospects. He doesn't change direction well in coverage and whippet quick slot backs/receivers/jokers spin him around some in coverage. But, when it comes to delivering physically and effectively, there isn't another linebacker or player in this class at his level. The problem is, though, that it's not 1995 when teams' passing games weren't as sophisticated as they are now. The evolution of the passing game has put linebackers right square in the crosshairs too. That said, McKinney can answer the call by being a multi-use second level defender with first level size and versatility.

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