(Editor's Note: With less than one month until the start of the 2017 NFL Draft on April 27, the staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today's featured player is UCLA's Takkarist McKinley.)
Name: Takkarist McKinley
Honors:"Takk" was a full-time starter for the Bruins for two seasons, but he broke out during his senior season in 2016. He was named first-team All-Pac 12 after posting 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in just 11 games.
Key stat: McKinley's much-discussed shoulder injury says a lot about where he's going, and where he's been. At the NFL Combine, McKinley revealed that he tore his labrum back during his senior season – and played through it for the rest of the year. He even went through several Combine drills with the injury, which he eventually had surgery on. That gives you an idea of the type of toughness and dedication McKinley possesses. As for the future, the surgery is expected to keep McKinley off the field for four more months. The 21-year-old is hopeful he'll be ready to play by the end of training camp, but it should keep him off the field for the first few months after he's drafted.
Where He's Projected: Most people think McKinley is going to get drafted in the first round – but not many can agree on where. Projections have him going anywhere from the top 10 to the back of the first round. He has been a popular pick for the Cowboys at No. 28 in many mock drafts. Whether he falls that far down the draft board is anyone's guess. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go much earlier. As for McKinley himself, he doesn't lack confidence, as he said at the NFL Combine he thinks he's the best pass rusher in this class.
How He Helps the Cowboys: As mentioned before, this is a team that desperately wants to improve its pass rush. McKinley is one of a handful of players who fits the bill as a bonafide right defensive end, as he possesses the explosiveness to be a problem on the edge. It's somewhat concerning that the shoulder surgery would keep him off the field for his first few months as a Cowboy, but first-round draft picks are about five years – not five months. If McKinley were the pick, he'd immediately become one of the top two pass rushers on this roster.
Scout's Take: This kid finds the ball. He gets his hands inside to control the blocker, and he works down the line to make the tackle. He will chase the ball, and he moves well. Despite his smaller stature, he can hold the point of attack. He can close down or string out the play. That said, he has to be careful not to get hooked up on the blocker. He can work inside the blocker, and he will retrace his steps. McKinley can finish as a tackler, as he plays with balance. He will need to develop some ways to free himself other than with quickness. He has impressive awareness for a young guy, as he knows how to handle the screen. He will reach around the blocker to create turnovers in the pocket. He's also versatile, as he will play with his hand down and from a stand up position. In my opinion, this is one of the best athletes in the draft. Has the natural bend to be an effective edge rusher. Explosive off the snap. He might not have the ideal size and length, but he can be disruptive in the way he plays.
- Bryan Broaddus