NFL Draft Report Super Sleeper: CB McGill

Utah's Keith McGill is an imposing-looking cornerback who came on strong during his senior season after settling in upon moving from safety. NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas analyzes this defender, who garners obvious comparisons to Richard Sherman, in 14 phases.

While Utah's Keith McGill has made a rapid rise on team draft boards since the end of the 2013 season, he is still a relative neophyte at the position, having spent his entire high school career and first three seasons on the field for the Utes as a free safety. Looking to insure that their best players were on the field, McGill seemed to thrive when taking over left corner duties last season.

With teams like Seattle making the big, physical, imposing hitters in the secondary handle man-coverage assignments, McGill certainly fits the bill for what other teams are looking for — a tough hitter who knows how to make plays in front of him, thanks to his years of attacking the ball as a safety. He is a player with Cover-2 linebacker size, as he measured in at 6:03.3 and weighs 211 pounds; excellent lift-off, possessing a 39-inch vertical jump and an equally impressive 10'09" broad jump; and great foot speed, having been timed at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

McGill is an imposing-looking figure playing along the boundary. He has the "big mitts" you look for to not only come up with the interception, but also grab and reroute his coverage assignments (hands are 10 1/2-inches). He also has that condor-like wing span (80 1/2-inches) and long arms (33 1/2-inches) to combine with his leaping ability, to easily win jump-ball battles, especially vs. the smaller receivers.

The change in positions was actually just a way to ease McGill back into the game of football during 2013 fall camp, as he missed the 2012 season dealing with a years-long shoulder injury that also sidelined him after the first five games of the 2011 campaign. Based on his dominance taking on receivers in practices, the coaches decided to make the move permanent and installed their former junior college All-American at left cornerback for the entire season.

While McGill first thought he was a "fish out of water" playing on the outside, he turned into a "ball shark" on the field, earning all-Pac 12 Conference honors while leading the league in pass deflections, as his 12 break-ups rank fourth on the school season-record list. He also ranked second in the conference with 13 passes defended, returning his only interception for a touchdown.

Since transferring to the more powerful Pac-12 Conference, the University of Utah has not been too successful, compiling a combined 18-19 record in the three seasons in the new league, including back to back 5-7 campaigns the last two years. McGill was one of the few bright spots for the team in 2013.

In addition to his pass deflection skills, he allowed just 12 of 71 passes targeted into his area to be completed (16.90%). The team allowed 59.1% of the opposition's passes to be successful, including 22 touchdowns. None of McGill's coverage assignments reached the end zone vs. him in 2013.

In two seasons each at Cerritos College and Utah, McGill appeared in a combined 40 games during his college career, earning 34 starts — 22 at free safety and 12 at left cornerback. He would go on to recorded 109 tackles (62 solos) with a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles, a pair of blocked kicks and 21 pass deflections. He also finished with 12 interceptions that he returned for 243 yards (20.25 avg) and one touchdown.

Keith McGill

University of Utah Utes


Body Structure

McGill is a rare-sized athlete with long arms (33 1/2-inch arms and 80 1/2-inch wing span) and legs, good bubble and good muscle mass and definition throughout. He possesses good chest thickness, broad shoulders, tapered thighs and calves. He is a rangy type with tight skin and good biceps development. His frame that is ideal for teams that like to utilize their cornerbacks inside the box and on press coverage, as he has the reach, big hands (10 1/2-inches) and impressive upper body muscle tone. He possesses muscular trapezoids and defined pectorals, a tight waist and hips with a good bubble, knots in his calves and minimal body fat. His frame could carry at least another 10 pounds of bulk without the additional weight impacting his above-average quickness.

Athletic Ability

The first thing you notice about McGill running the field is his exceptional body control, as he is so flexible, he could probably do "back flips" and still maintain his recovery quickness to get back on the play. He has excellent agility and footwork in his back-pedal, showing the balance and outstanding change-of-direction agility, along with the range to make plays at the opposite side of the field. He has very quick hands and feet, along with the ability to maintain balance in transition, where it is very rare to see him take extra steps. He is very alert to plays developing in front of him, showing the strong leg drive to maintain position when challenged by lead blockers in the second level when providing run support. He runs with an easy stride, yet has that sudden second gear that makes it hard for even the speediest of receivers to get behind him when they challenge the deep secondary. He has the smooth body adjustment moves to go up and compete for the thrown ball at its high point, along with the hand/eye coordination to look the ball in and secure it well before turning up field with an interception return.

Football Sense

McGill is a highly instinctive player, who generally plays under control, despite being a blow-up type of aggressive tackler. He has no problems taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field and looks very alert to blocking schemes, play action and misdirection, as it is rare to see him eyeball the quarterback too long and lose relationship with his coverage assignments. He knows his role in the defensive game plan and is very studious preparing for his upcoming opponent, as he will put in the extra hours watching films. He can play any position in the secondary and is like a coach on the field, making sure that his teammates are aligned properly before the snap (player knows everyone's coverage assignments and keys). He thinks well on his feet and easily adjusts to handling different assignments, especially when picking up the switch-off in zone coverage, thanks to long years playing the safety position. He is well-prepared on game day and should be more than capable of handling the mental aspect of the game at the NFL level.


McGill plays the game as if he is on a "search and destroy" mission, but rather than go about recklessly, he is sort of like a "calculated hit man" who knows how to use his impressive power to not only combat offensive linemen blocking for the ground game, but to also use that hand punch and jolt to constantly disrupt a receiver throughout the route's progression (see 2013 Oregon State, Brigham Young and UCLA games). He is a mentally tough pass defender who I feel is the most explosive hitter in the college game at his position. He has vast experience as a safety, and that hitting ability is evident in his overall tackling technique and ability to keep the action in front of him. The thing you immediately notice is that McGill plays fast and is always at "warp speed" closing on the ball. He competes for the pigskin in flight when working in a crowd and shows no hesitation coming up to the line to make plays vs. the ground game.

Key and Diagnostic Skills

McGill is quick to read and react to the plays in front of him. Earlier in the 2013 season, he might have guessed a bit too much in man coverage but, as the season progressed, he was no longer fooled by play action or misdirection. He has much better anticipation skills playing away from the line and shows good redirection agility to get back on the play. He seems to be much more alert when playing the zone rather than in one-on-one situations, but it must be from his years as a safety, because he is usually the first to come off his man and help others with the switch-off in zone coverage. He has the hip snap and mirror skills to lock on and run with his man, but he is still in the gambling/guessing stage after just one year as a cornerback and might see more playing time in the NFL as a slot cornerback earlier in his career. He has that keen vision to read routes and seems to be in the receiver's "head," as he knows all the tendencies of his opponent, thanks to his ability to study and break down game films before his encounters. He plays with an air of confidence and with good control, and he will not hesitate to lend support when a teammate is beaten or misses on a tackle. Even vs. taller receivers on deep routes, he has outstanding leaping ability and good hands, showing he has more than enough ability competing for the ball at its high point.

Man Coverage Ability

As the 2013 season progressed McGill seemed more comfortable taking on man coverage assignments. With his combination of instincts, field vision, range, power and speed, you would like to see him be more active in run support (just one assisted tackle in the backfield in 2013) or dropping back to cover speedy receivers one-on-one. He has the athletic ability to maintain his position on the receiver throughout the route's progression and has the skills to excel, whether playing the trail, cover or cushion, but just needs more reps to adjust to his new role. He gets to the ball in a hurry and is not fooled by action in the backfield to have him break off his assignment. He likes to use his hands and body to play tight on the receiver and is especially effective in press coverage, as he can easily reroute his man (see 2013 Brigham Young, Oregon State and Colorado games). He can flip and run with no wasted steps in transition and you won't see him guessing any when aligned in off coverage, as he plays strictly with intent. He has the acceleration, burst and speed to run stride for stride with any receiver he faces and the thing I like is that he never seems to be caught out of position for too long when down field, thanks to that great recovery speed. With his hand punch, not even the bigger tight ends have success when trying to turn him some.

Zone Coverage Ability

McGill is much more at home in zone coverage, as he has more experience playing the ball, rather than the man. The former safety is quick to react once he reads the quarterback and is very alert, immediately picking up threats. He has very quick plant-and-drive skills to move forward and make plays on the ball (see 2013 Oregon State, Brigham Young and UCLA games). He is physical in attempts to strike and jolt and shows good vision and awareness to easily handle the switch-off. There is no hesitation in this player after he reads the pattern development, showing urgency reacting to the play. He hits with good authority and is not the type that will take a side, preferring to square up, wrap up and sacrifice his body to make the tackle. He can drop with a very fluid stride and does a very nice job of reading pattern development. He has the hip snap to make adjustments when receivers come into his area and he knows how to get a jump on the ball. The thing I like most is his ability to cover on slants and react to the action in front of him, as he is not the type that will eyeball the quarterback for too long.

Backpedal Skills

McGill looks controlled and smooth in his backpedal, displaying quick feet and good technique to stay square. There is little-to-no wasted movement coming out of his breaks and he is very capable of flipping his hips. He is quick and balanced when staying tight with his man and easily makes the turn to run stride for stride with the receiver heading up field. He has the quick feet and hip snap to get very good depth coming out of his pedal. He is solid in his turn-and-run technique, displaying fluidity and body control to not take wasted steps in transition. He has the ability to make up-field turns and lateral breaks in an instant (very rare to see him side pedal).

Ball Reaction Skills

McGill is very effective closing on the ball, especially vs. plays in front of him. He has very good breakdown ability in space and shows clean feet in transition. He takes good angles and has good balance and quickness to accelerate and close on the ball. He times his leaps well, consistently making plays on the pigskin at its high point (see 2013 Oregon State, Brigham Young, UCLA and Colorado games). He shows no hesitation taking on bigger receivers to elevate and attack the ball at its high point (see 2013 UCLA contest). He has the strong hands and reach to pluck for the ball outside his frame. He takes full advantage of his speed and awareness to mirror receivers in man coverage and has the hand/eye coordination needed to make highlight-reel type of interceptions. He has that innate ability to get an instant jump on the ball in flight, as he also displays the suddenness and burst to close on the play when recovering on deep patterns. He will get a bit overaggressive at times, leading to pass interference or defensive holding penalties.


McGill has the valid timed speed to mirror receivers on deep routes. He can close on the ball in a hurry, and shows balance and fluid hips to recover when the receiver gets behind him. His motor is constantly running, evident by making more than 60% of his pass plays out of his territory. He has more than enough quickness to run and trail with the receiver, as he is like "Krazy Glue" with his ability to stay on his man's hip and shadow him throughout the route, thanks to his explosive second gear. The thing you see on film is his ability to also make plays in front of him, as he can instantly close on the ball and has the fluid hips to recover when a receiver gets behind him. More often than not, he will be the player that you see pursuing the play across the field to attack whoever has the ball, especially in run support.

Jumping Ability

McGill has the timing and leaping ability (39-inch vertical jump; 10'09" broad jump) to consistently reach and pluck the ball at its high point, along with the vision to gain big yardage with his return ability on interceptions (see 2013 UCLA contest). He takes clean angles to the ball coming out of his breaks and in pursuit, displaying the body control and hip snap to adjust on the move, time his leaps and compete for the thrown ball. He knows his timing has to be perfect in order to get to the pass at its high point. He is fearless and shows little regard for his body fighting for the ball in a crowd. He has that body flexibility and adjustment skills to track the ball in flight and the athletic ability to extend and pluck the ball away from his frame.


McGill displays natural ball skills, but had just one interception as a senior to show for it. Eleven of his 12 career pass thefts came when playing free safety in junior college. He is capable of disrupting his coverage assignment's route progression, thanks to his ability to push and mirror his man through-out the pattern. He contorts his body and makes proper adjustments getting to off-target throws, and you can see on tip drills that he has the natural ball skills, along with above-average production to be a valid ball thief at the next level. He has strong, active hands that he uses as weapons when trying to jam or reroute receivers (74 reroutes on 169 balls thrown in his area during his career). He makes plays outside his body and demonstrates impressive hand/eye coordination, along with the ability to reach and pick the ball with consistent ease.

Run Defense

This is one area of his game that is difficult to truly evaluate based on 2013 film, as it was rare to see him play near the line much or come up and lend run support. Cerritos Junior College film indicates that McGill has the size and strength to make impact hits when working in the box. He has the speed and rip move to slip off the blocker's shoulder and displays the closing burst to pursue when he penetrates the backfield. His size lets him take on and play off isolated blocks well. He is effective at taking angles to make plays along the perimeter, but does not work well vs. combo blocks, making him only adequate in filling the alleys. When he hits the ball-carrier, he will generally bring his opponent down with the initial tackle. What is evident on film is his upper-body strength, using it well to take on blocks and shed when working along the perimeter.

Tackling Ability

McGill is a solid wrap-up tackler, delivering good pop on the ball-carrier, as he seems to play vs. the run with a linebacker's mentality. He can hit and punish receivers when attacking the ball in flight and shows nice balance and adjustment to break down and fit in the open field. He plays with a good pad level, along with the ability to stay in front of the opponent (not the type that will take a side). He is a solid open-field tackler and gives good effort on every play, as he has strived to be consistent making secure hits. There are times that he will simply cut-tackle instead and he has to be conscious at not ducking his head on contact, nor revert to being a grab-and-drag down type.

Compares To

Richard Sherman-Seattle: Only with less "mouth," but both Sherman and McGill are the tall, physical secondary defenders that hit like linebackers. Even though he has the speed to stay with receivers deep and the press coverage ability to jam his opponent at the line of scrimmage, I still think he might be a better fit for safety, at the moment, due to his range and physical style of play, but with teams utilizing three corners on the field in obvious passing situations, he can contribute early in his career as a slot cornerback in subpackages while refining his overall skills and gaining more experience in man coverage.

Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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