Oregon safety Verone McKinley III is a genuine 2022 NFL Draft prospect in his own right. After a sensational season where he showcased his ball skills and football intelligence to the world, McKinley’s scouting report reveals plenty of pro potential that could see him earn late Day 2 attention. Despite focus centering on his more high-profile teammate, there’s more than one defensive prospect from the Oregon Ducks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Verone McKinley III NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Oregon
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 190 pounds
- Wingspan: 72 3/4″
- Arm: 30 5/8″
- Hand: 9 1/8″
Verone McKinley III Scouting Report
Competing for attention coming out of Oregon is no easy task. With Kayvon Thibodeaux on a collision course with a top-five selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, he casts a shadow from which it can be difficult to creep out. Furthermore, in a competitive safety class headlined by Kyle Hamilton, establishing yourself among the elite is difficult.
And yet, McKinley has been able to establish himself as an impressive NFL Draft prospect in his own right. He capped off his college football career with the most productive campaign to date. However, discovering NFL talent is more than a box score scouting exercise. Thankfully, McKinley’s scouting report provides translatable skills to help him succeed at the next level.
The most impressive element of McKinley’s scouting report is his football intelligence. The Oregon safety is a clear student of the game. He showcases excellent ability to read the field, impressing in zone coverage with his foresight to understand route concepts. He showcases good eye discipline and is rarely misled from his assignment. His experience playing a number of alignments is a testament to his ability to understand the game at a high level.
His college production has been a byproduct of his football intelligence. However, it’s also a result of impressive ball skills. There’s an almost wide receiver-esque nature to McKinley’s game. The Oregon safety showcases outstanding ball tracking and impressive body control at the catch point. His catch technique is exceptional, and he routinely makes acrobatic grabs that would put even the most talented pass catchers to shame.
Intelligence, ball skills make McKinley an impressive coverage safety
The intelligence and ball skills allow McKinley to patrol the secondary with impressive effectiveness. While not an elite athlete, he’s proven to be rangy from a single-high alignment at the college level. McKinley also showcases some eye-opening click-and-close ability. There are multiple examples on tape of the Oregon safety closing downhill with superb burst.
While he’s lauded for his coverage ability, McKinley is also proficient as a run defender. His intelligence allows him to sniff out the ball carrier and tackle with impressive form in the open field. Although he won’t wow you in the same way Georgia’s Lewis Cine might, he can still come downhill and blow up the run.
In addition to the abilities described above, McKinley’s scouting report evidences leadership qualities that will prove alluring at the NFL level. Furthermore, the Oregon safety possesses special-teams experience that will help him immediately impact the league.
With the draft rapidly approaching, McKinley should provide excellent value as a late Day 2 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. In the latest Pro Football Network Big Board update, he was the 97th overall prospect. Furthermore, he was the eighth-ranked safety in the class.
Areas for improvement
McKinley’s scouting report showcases a player who could be considered a third-round talent in the 2022 NFL Draft. His mix of intelligence, exceptional ball skills, and leadership make him an alluring prospect. However, areas of his scouting report could limit his stock at the next level.
While size isn’t everything, at 5’10” and 190 pounds, McKinley might be considered undersized by NFL teams. Although he showcases the ability to come downhill and make an impact, he doesn’t hit with the same ferocity as some of his peers.
Additionally, his size and average length (30 5/8″ arms) will make it difficult for McKinley to disengage from blockers in the run game.
McKinley has demonstrated some athletic ability during his Oregon career. He has magnificent footwork that is particularly apparent in man coverage. However, he isn’t an elite athlete by any stretch of the imagination. That lack of pure sideline-to-sideline speed may limit his role at the next level. His testing across the NFL Combine and Oregon Pro Day was suboptimal.
McKinley’s Player Profile
With a father that played defensive back at Texas Tech, football was an obvious career choice for McKinley. Not only was his father an inspiration to succeed, but he was also a teacher on the field. McKinley began his high school career at Plano Prestonwood, where his father turned coach under the “Friday Night Lights.”
McKinley shone under those lights. He showcased the ball skills that make him an alluring 2022 NFL Draft prospect early and often. The young defensive back snagged 4 interceptions during his freshman season, returning 1 for a touchdown. Moreover, his ability to be disruptive as a tackler was evidenced with 28 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
Following his sophomore season for Plano, McKinney transferred to Hebron High School. Although there was a change of scenery, the on-field results remained the same. Another 4 interceptions were added to his résumé, as were 14 pass deflections and 38 tackles. His performances earned him first-team All-6A District 5A accolades.
McKinley’s production also strengthened his recruiting profile. Although his 247 Sports profile will say he was just a three-star prospect and the 38th cornerback in the class, over 30 college programs fought for his signature. Ultimately, Oregon would fend off attention from Alabama, Georgia, and multiple in-state programs, led by Texas A&M. McKinley remained committed to Oregon throughout a standout senior season where he tallied 5 interceptions.
McKinley’s career at Oregon
Exceptional high school careers don’t necessarily translate immediately to the collegiate level. While McKinley saw action in the first three games of his freshman season, he eventually took a redshirt and maintained a year of eligibility. However, the three games weren’t without contribution as he tallied a tackle in each of those appearances.
Oregon fans would be treated to the full display of McKinley’s abilities in his redshirt-freshman campaign. The Oregon DB earned the first start of his career in the season opener against Auburn. Yet, it was a four-game stretch that yielded 4 interceptions that showcased his true potential. McKinley earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors with 2 INTs against Colorado, then added 2 more in consecutive games against Washington State and USC.
After a 2019 season that saw him register 46 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions, McKinley was named to the FWAA Freshman All-American Team. Furthermore, he became just the third freshman to lead the Pac-12 in interceptions since 1978.
The disruption of the 2020 season impacted McKinley’s ability to replicate his eye-popping interception production. Yet, it didn’t prevent him from making an impact in other ways. In the belated season opener against Stanford, McKinley secured the first forced fumble of his career. Meanwhile, he snagged his only interception of the year in a commanding performance against UCLA.
McKinley’s NFL Draft ascension
As a result of what some considered an underwhelming 2020 campaign for the Oregon safety, McKinley entered this season as something of an under-the-radar 2022 NFL Draft prospect. It didn’t take long for him to put himself firmly in the national spotlight, with a series of eye-catching plays early in the season elevating his stock early on.
After a solid season opener against Fresno State, McKinley came alive in the Ducks’ shock win over Ohio State. A disruptive presence across the secondary, he tallied a forced fumble while securing a late interception that essentially removed Ohio State’s chance of a comeback.
Within the first four games of the season, McKinley registered 4 interceptions. Down the stretch, he added 2 more, including 1 in the Pac-12 Championship Game defeat to Utah. Ending the season with 77 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 6 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups, McKinley earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors for the first time in his career. He capped off an exceptional season by being named a consensus All-American.
A late addition to the Senior Bowl, the Oregon safety impressed. PFN’s team on the ground commented that “Verone McKinley III was a star. He fought through the ball in a 1-on-1 rep while proving that he can hang with a variety of pass catchers in 7-on-7s. McKinley routinely took on bigger tight ends and blanketed his receivers all day.”
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Verone McKinley
Positives: Disciplined, hard-working safety with a well-rounded game. Displays outstanding awareness, stays with assignments, and takes proper angles to the action. Breaks down well, uses his hands to protect himself, and wraps up tackling. Keeps the action in front of him, tracks the pass in the air, and possesses good hands for the interception. Instinctive, quickly picks up coverage assignments, and shows a burst to the action out of his plant. Effectively communicates with teammates in the secondary.
Negatives: Not a big or stout safety. Outmatched by taller receivers. More of a drag-down tackler. Lacks great speed to the flanks.
Analysis: McKinley is a solid defensive back who displays next-level instincts and ball skills. His lack of true range in center field concerns me, though McKinley would be very effective in a zone system and would not be a liability over the slot receiver.