Kiper Tabs McKinley As Bengals First Round Choice

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October 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) brings down Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
October 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) brings down Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mel Kiper recently released his 3.0 Mock Draft predictions. According to Kiper, the Bengals will go defensive lineman and draft UCLA standout Takkarist McKinley. If this is indeed the pick the Bengals make, should fans of the Men in Stripes be pleased?

In a culture driven by “what’s next,” fans are anxiously awaiting the NFL draft. In particular, fans of teams like the Bengals who are in need of young talent. Helping to fuel the anticipation, Mel Kiper recently released his 3.0 Mock Draft predictions for each NFL team. According to Kiper’s mock, Cincinnati will end up with UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley. Should Bengals fans be excited about this?

Going into the 2016 college football season, Mckinley was on the radar of NFL teams but wasn’t necessarily pegged as a first round pick. His performance during the season elevated him from possible sleeper to top prospect. In 2015, his stats were somewhat average collecting 28 solo tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. In 2016, he exploded for 50 solo tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks. Even more impressive was the fact that McKinley played in two fewer games in 2016 than in 2015.

Analyzing McKinley

McKinley’s 6’ 2” 250 lb frame puts him in that middle zone between outside linebacker and defensive end. For the Bengals, he would most likely play on the defensive line due to their 4-3 defensive scheme. At UCLA, he played as an outside rusher coming off the edge. He utilized speed and natural athleticism to overcome a lack of some technical skill.

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NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein described McKinley as a “relentless worker bee on the field.” This alluding to McKinley never taking a play off and continuing in pursuit even when he seems to be out of the play. However, Zierlein also cited a potential downfall to the quick pass rusher, stating that his “hand skill and overall usage is completely uncultivated.” While this flaw may limit his immediate impact to some degree, it is not to say that he could not develop that skill with coaching and practice.

Comparisons

When looking at McKinley’s general size and style of play, Zierlein made the comparison to Tamba Hali. At 6’ 3” and 275, Hali has more of a power game than McKinley does. However, if McKinley can bulk up and work on his game, he could eventually turn into a player similar to Hali. The closest comparison, past or present may be former Green Bay Packer Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.  At 6’ 4” and 249 lbs, Gbaja-Biamila used his speed to become an elite edge rusher in the same way McKinley has at UCLA. Gbaja-Biamila ended up in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Bengals fans would appreciate a similar player.

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What It Means

The defensive line is certainly a need for the Bengals, so taking a premier pass rusher makes sense. However, they may opt to look for an offensive lineman instead. If McKinley does get drafted by the Bengals, he will most likely be a nice complement to a defense that just a year ago was one of the best in the NFL. The problem with the pick could be that McKinley will need time to grow as a pass rusher to truly become an impact player. This means the Bengals would need to get more help if they plan on becoming a real contender in 2017.

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