Cincinnati Bengals Draft Watch: Bernardrick McKinney

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Sep 20, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Benardrick McKinney (50) tackles LSU Tigers running back Kenny Hilliard (27) during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Take one look at the NFL and it is no surprise which direction offenses are headed. Everyone wants that elite wide receiver and strong armed quarterback, but more importantly that big athletic tight end who can make plays in a pinch. Look no further than this Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals take on the New Orleans Saints, and watch the spectacle that is Jimmy Graham. Graham is a matchup nightmare. Not only is he a towering 6’7”, and a bulldozing 265 pounds, he also catches anything thrown his way. If the Bengals want to be a serious contender, they’re going to need a player who can matchup size-wise with the giants that are today’s NFL tight ends.

One player, who certainly has the size to do this is Mississippi State’s redshirt junior linebacker Bernardrick McKinney. McKinney is a 6’5”, 249-pound wrecking machine, which anchors the defense of the top team in the nation. McKinney certainly has first round size, but many are concerned about McKinney’s overall coverage ability.

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Put a guy like McKinney in the NFL on a team like the Bengals with Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur, and even Rey Maualuga, and he might be the missing piece to that linebacking core. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, formerly the linebackers coach, could really mold a guy like McKinney into what the Bengals need on defense. He’s big, he’s fast, and most of all, he would match up well versus the big tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas.

Bernardrick McKinney may have a few question marks here and there, but he’s gone through the SEC gauntlet and come out shining. McKinney really has a chance to shine today at 3:30pm (CBS) as the undefeated Bulldogs play at Alabama. This game has so many implications for how the college football season will go. It will be interesting to see how McKinney and the Bulldogs do in such a bright spotlight. Watch for McKinney to step up and show why he could ultimately be the best linebacker in the nation.

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