Cowboys Draft Profile: LB Benardrick McKinney

Eight of the Cowboys draft picks over the last two years were brought in for official visits. Bernardrick McKinney could be the solution to one of the questions Dallas has in the linebacker group, for 2015 and beyond.

While there is always going to be mystery when it comes to the NFL Draft, over the years the Dallas Cowboys have done their fans a bit of a favor and tipped their hands so to speak. Not only have they (not once, but twice) given us a look at their draft boards after that year’s draft was completed, but in their actions they’ve also alerted us to some key tells about their actions. In our must-read post from earlier in the off-season “< a href=“” target=”_blank”>6 Draft Tendencies and Tells” we listed the following:

    5. Dallas uses their Valley Ranch visits very wisely, and will most often select players throughout the draft that visit team headquarters through the 30 National invites of Dallas Day visits.

This is by no means an end-all be-all list. Morris Claiborne wasn’t invited to the Ranch, and Dallas spend two picks to acquire him. Maybe the lack of development their helped guide their hand recently, as eight of their picks over the last two years were in for official visits. In that vein, we’ll be bringing you in-depth looks at the draft candidates that Dallas schedules for visits, so that you can be better informed about the small sample size many of the next group of Cowboys will likely come from.

Name: Benardrick McKinney
Position: Linebacker
School: Mississippi State University
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 246 LBs
First Team All-American (ESPN, FWAA, SI, Phil Steele) – 2014
Second Team All-American (AP, Sporting News, Walter Camp) – 2014
First Team All-SEC (Coaches) – 2014
Second Team All-SEC (AP) – 2014
Bednarik Award Semifinalist – 2014
Butkus Award Semifinalist – 2014
Lombardi Award Semifinalist – 2014
First Team Freshman All-American (CBSSports, Fox, Phil Steele, College Football News) – 2012
All-SEC Freshman Team (Coaches, ESPN) – 2012
Industrial Technology Major
Played QB, LB, and Punter in High School
pSparq Score: 127.1 Z-Score: 0.5 NFL Percentile: 70.9

pSparq is an approximation of the “Sparq Score” metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are “3 Sigma Athletes” in the NFL, J.J. Watt, Calvin Johnson, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson, along with one from the 2015 draft class, Byron Jones. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out

Measurables vs others at his position:

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Games Studied: Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M

Run Game:

Benardrick McKinney is a very good downhill player against the run. He fills the hole with gusto and brings a load when he makes contact, either with a blocker or a ball carrier. He does a good job of using his hands to stack and shed on blocks in pursuit, although he can struggle when guys go low to cut block him when he’s going sideways and winds up on the ground a little too often in that situation. He doesn’t miss many tackles but when he does it’s when he’s isolated in space against a superior lateral athlete. Showed a couple of times that he is capable of scraping down the line, and driving on the RB in the hole for a tackle for loss on off tackle and outside runs, and when he sees the play developing he will attack it hard inside or out.

Passing Game:

McKinney is a guy who can be influenced by mis-direction or play action, and isn’t an extremely agile stop-start athlete, which makes him vulnerable in the middle of the field in coverage especially against smaller, more athletic players running double move routes across the field. In zone he does a good job getting to his land mark, and getting his eyes to the QB, but doesn’t necessarily have the instincts to get into a position to impact plays in coverage. He was asked to either blitz or rush as part of the base four man rush in passing situations and shows promise in this area. He is good coming forward, gets off the snap well and his ability to get off blocks puts him in position to influence the passer.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

McKinney is an interesting evaluation because there are several “WOW” plays that he has put on tape in multiple games. His projection to the next level however is difficult because I don’t see him as a 3-down linebacker who I’m comfortable playing in coverage. In most cases this would significantly de-value a player for me. However, due to his height/weight profile, and his impressive jump numbers, he projects as someone who could play the “Sam” linebacker role in a base defense, while rushing the passer, which then bumps his value back up. McKinney will likely be drafted somewhere between the 25th and 50th pick, and could be an option for the Cowboys at 27 if the other positions (CB, RB, DE) that they target there are all picked over. If he falls to the 60th pick he should be in serious consideration for that spot.

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