Verone McKinley III Scouting Report: 2022 NFL Draft Prospect
5’ 11” / 195 lbs
40 time: Ran a 4.67 in high school per ESPN
Verone McKinley III NFL Draft Profile
Prior to this season I was feeling alone when I sang high praise of Verone McKinley III. Now, with the 2021 season behind us, I can hear the choir singing support of my claims. McKinley deserved the praise and proved it all season. It wasn’t just this season that he shined though.
All the way back to his years at Hebron high school in Carrollton, Texas McKinley stood out. He was ranked a top six corner in Texas and selected to the 247Sports All-Midlands team. His senior season he tallied 50 tackles and displayed his nose for the ball with 5 INT’s and a forced fumble. He took two of his interceptions to the house for touchdowns. He was also responsible for 6 takeaways the season prior. His uncanny ability to take the ball away is what I believe gives him the edge on many safeties in the 2022 Draft class.
After enrolling early, Verone would redshirt his freshman year and begin to shine in 2019. It was that season he would tie for the team, and Pac-12, lead with 4 interceptions. He would play in all 14 of the Ducks’ games while starting 11 at safety. In a shortened 2020 he would make six starts and produce three more takeaways.
Fast forward to the 2021 season, Verone would continue to patrol the back end and be a force doing so. He would play in 14 games and would force a turnover every other game totalling six interceptions and one fumble forced. He was a solid tackler, adding 78 tackles this season. Verone, also known as “The General”, would be rewarded with a second team ALL-American title and has since declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Nose for Ball
I recently received some odd looks from one of our other analysts when I may or may not have mentioned the NFL great Ed Reed when describing McKinley’s play. He reminds me of Reed, because he is always in the right spot and it allows him to create turnovers like Reed. Verone McKinley III is a true turnover machine and that is why I have him ranked so highly. Personally my number 2 safety in the 2022 Draft class. He is behind only, you guessed it, Kyle Hamilton.
Verone can be seen stripping or punching at the ball to cause fumbles, but it is his great ability to read and react and play center field that catches my attention. Not counting his redshirt season, he compiled 11 interceptions in just 35 games. That’s almost an INT every third game. I love a safety who makes a QB think twice before throwing it up, and McKinley will do just that.
If one were to watch the game against Ohio State this season it would be enough to win them over. McKinley had 6 tackles, a fumble forced and an INT. He did this because of his great instincts. He reads the QB well and drives into position to make a play. On the plays he doesn’t force a turnover, he arrives just as the ball gets to the receiver and lays a hit. He was credited with 2 breakups that game as well.
McKinley is a rare talent that can get away with leaning on his instincts because of his high football IQ. He rarely seems out of place and tends to read the oppositions set well. There are some plays where it looks like he was in the opponents huddle. I can’t say he’s never wrong though, as I did catch him leaning the wrong way as the single deep safety once or twice.
I’m not going to say he is the next Ronnie Lott, but it’s safe to say Verone is a sure tackler. He does a good job wrapping up with his arms and taking the ball carrier to the ground. On film, I rarely see him miss a tackle or have bad form. A lot of safeties tend to tuck their head and kinda toss themselves at the ball carrier. Verone doesn’t have that issue. An NFL team can rest assured that he will generally take down anyone he gets his arms around.
He pairs his instincts with his tackling ability to be a great help in the run game. He makes quick decisions and comes downhill in a hurry to stop running backs.
McKinley is not a one trick pony. As we mentioned earlier, he played corner in high school and can be asked to line up in man or he can play deep or underneath zone. His lack of true elite speed makes me like his play making ability underneath a bit more. That doesn’t mean he can’t play over the top and make a team pay for mistakes though.
Occasionally you can even see him in press or as the 8th man in the box on run sets. McKinley’s versatility, along with his high IQ, will allow him to step in and contribute in the NFL from day 1. This is something I require of a first rounder.
Can get Caught Leaning
I know I said I love his instincts, but at times as the single high safety I see him guess the play to the wrong side of the field. This leaves the defense open to big gains. McKinley will need to clean this up. Teams may want to utilize him more in the underneath role, or as a two deep safety until he gets used to the speed of the NFL.
Not an in the Box Threat
Yes, I know I just said he can tackle well and he contributes in the run game. I’m referring to when he is lined up close to the line of scrimmage as the 8th man in the box. Lineman and tight ends can easily latch onto him and take him out of the play. He needs to work on being more elusive in the scrum and disengaging from blocks. That being said, I think he is a great help in the run game when reading and reacting from his normal field position.
Verone McKinley III Draft Stock
Lets get right down to it. McKinley drew a short straw, because Hamilton is a legit generational talent at the safety position. I have McKinley firmly seated in the number 2 safety spot though and have since the preseason. Some of our other analysts don’t agree, as they may have Jaquan Brisker or Lewis Cine in that spot, but I’ll tell them I told you so after next season.
I would feel safe taking McKinley as early as late first round. No way I let him get by me in the second round if I have even a small hole at the position. Only time will tell though, as a team looking for more of an enforcer would probably have a player like Cine higher on their board.
Final Thoughts on Verone McKinley III Scouting Report
As sweet as it is to hear my colleagues jump on board and give this young man his recognition, it also saddens me because I love being the only one who calls a players success. Not a surprise to see them jump on the bandwagon though, considering McKinley III outshined his teammate and our top prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux at times. McKinley has elite IQ and instincts unlike any I’ve seen in a while at the position. I think he can translate his nose for the ball to the NFL and help teams win by forcing takeaways and big plays. I’m a Colts fan and if he were available for them in round 2 I’d say jump on him now.
Player Comparison: McKinley III looks a lot like former Texas Longhorn Earl Thomas to me. Maybe not quite the run defender, but possibly an even better center fielder. I even still see some Ed Reed ability in him, but I’m not ready to mention him as the next Reed yet.