INDIANAPOLIS — Throughout his college career, Takkarist McKinley just got better and better.
And after a dominant senior season in which he turned from possible draft pick into first-round material, could the Indianapolis Colts be enticed to select this speedy pass rusher out of UCLA?
Mel Kiper Jr. certainly believes so. Kiper, ESPN's NFL Draft guru for years and years, recently released his first mock draft of the year, and has the Colts taking McKinley with their first-round pick in this year's draft.
You can see Kiper's entire first mock draft by clicking here (though you need ESPN Insider access to see the entire thing), but here's what he had to say about the Colts and McKinley specifically:
"A dominant speed rusher, McKinley gave Pac-12 offensive tackles nightmares in 2016. He took a big leap as a senior with 10 sacks, going from fringe prospect to first-rounder. At 6-2, 240 pounds, he's not huge, but his explosion off the line is suited for today's NFL. Indianapolis needs playmakers on defense, and McKinley is a great fit."
"Dominant speed rusher." "Not huge." "Explosion off the line."
Well, it should for Colts fans. Robert Mathis made a nice little living out of terrorizing quarterbacks throughout his career in Indianapolis, and despite being "undersized" for a pass rusher at 6 foot 2 and 245 pounds, he was able to utilize his skillset — which included a nasty speed rush and a handful of learned moves — to become the franchise's all-time-greatest sack artist, as well as the best in league history at earning sack fumbles.
Mathis, of course, retired at the end of the 2016 season, leaving a huge hole for the Colts to fill on their defense. Kiper believes McKinley could be the guy to help fill that void.
As previously mentioned, McKinley just has gotten better and better each and every year. He played junior college ball at Contra Costa College and had 33 tackles (18 for a loss) and 10 sacks before transferring to UCLA in 2014, where he had 2.5 sacks among his six tackles his first year with the Bruins. As a junior, he became more productive with a larger role on the defense, starting 12 of 13 games and collecting 35 tackles (7.5 for a loss) with four sacks and four pass breakups.
But McKinley just blossomed as a senior, as the First Team All-Pac 12 selection had 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, ranking 10th in the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.6), 11th in sacks per game (0.91) and 22nd in forced fumbles per game (0.27).
Perhaps not surprisingly, he got the attention of many NFL evaluators, including Scouts Inc., which has given McKinley an overall grade of 89, ranking first at the outside linebacker position and 19th overall.
McKinley, of course, is one of many extremely talented pass rushers that the Colts could choose from with their pick in the middle of the first round, if they choose to go that route.
One thing's for sure: with Mathis' departure — and with the team's situation when it comes to free agency — the Colts are certainly going to need plenty of able bodies at the outside linebacker position this offseason.
Erik Walden (who had a career-best 11 sacks in 2016), Trent Cole and Chris Cole enter the offseason as unrestricted free agents, so depending on how things shake out, there are spots to be had at the position.
Could McKinley be the guy for the Colts? It's certainly an interesting prospect to consider.*
(Photo via UCLABruins.com)*
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