In the space of six years, Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald IV has gone from having no interest in football to being the interest of NFL teams in the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s transformed from basketball protégé to program sack record holder for the Cyclones. The transformation, journey, and statistics are impressive, but does McDonald’s scouting report possess pro potential?
Will McDonald IV NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive end
- School: Iowa State
- Current Year: Redshirt junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 245 pounds
Will McDonald IV Scouting Report
If you’re an NFL team that needs pass-rush prowess, you’re spoiled for choice in the 2022 NFL Draft. There are headliners like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson, risers like Jermaine Johnson II and David Ojabo, but there’s also a ton of depth at the position. As a result, a team is likely to get a steal later in the draft.
One of those players that might be considered a steal in the 2022 NFL Draft is Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald IV. He’s been a ridiculously productive pass rusher during the last four years in Ames. College production doesn’t necessarily guarantee NFL success, but the traits behind it certainly help. Despite his relative inexperience in the game, McDonald’s scouting report possesses many of those attributes.
McDonald has a high school history of athletic success. There he was prolific at the high jump, with vertical jumps routinely a good demonstrator of explosion. McDonald possesses that. That athletic ability is immediately apparent upon turning on his tape. He’s incredibly explosive off the snap, including a quick first step.
McDonald’s lateral agility is also immediately apparent. He makes the switch from attacking outside of the line to negotiating inside gaps look effortless. He routinely loops outside in with impressive lateral agility. This has helped McDonald be versatile during his Iowa State career. He can line up over the tackle, from a wide alignment, or inside. There was even evidence of him lining up at nose tackle despite his 6’4″, 245-pound frame.
Length, spin moves, and motor
McDonald possesses an intriguing frame as an NFL Draft prospect. He has incredible length, which helps him in several ways. The Iowa State DE routinely uses this length to make disruptive plays.
There were several examples in the games studied of him getting his long arm on the ball, forcing a fumble. Furthermore, he uses his length at the point of attack with a long arm move to keep offensive linemen at bay. Additionally, he can drop back and disrupt passing lanes with his long arms.
From a pass-rush perspective, McDonald has shown the ability to drop his shoulder and get underneath offensive tackles. Furthermore, he routinely uses a spin move to defeat his blocks. In the games studied, he was often double-teamed but did an excellent job of knifing through those blocks to impact the play.
McDonald routinely shows the ability to locate the ball. Whether against the pass or run, he offers a remarkable ability to move through traffic to the ball carrier. The Iowa State defensive end plays to the whistle on every play, showcasing an excellent motor. Even when the ball is far downfield, McDonald finds a way to get amongst the action.
Areas for improvement
There is a lot to like about McDonald as a 2022 NFL Draft prospect. However, there are areas for improvement on his scouting report. Furthermore, some limiting factors could impact his stock.
McDonald needs to improve some footing/balance issues. There were multiple examples on tape where he lost his footing, particularly when rushing around the outside track. As a result, he missed some opportunities to add to his already impressive production.
For the most part, McDonald is an able tackler. However, he can be prone to resorting to ankle tackles. Due to this technique, there were several times on tape where he whiffed on a tackle, allowing significant yardage to be gained by the opponent.
His slender frame could prove problematic at the NFL level. The Iowa State DE struggles to overpower more powerful offensive tackles. Against Northern Iowa, he spent more time on the floor than the backfield. As a result, he’s unlikely to be able to translate his 3-4 DE designation at the next level. Nevertheless, his athletic ability, motor, and technical promise should see him carve out a role in the NFL.
Will McDonald Player Profile
Stories of overcoming adversity to reach the pinnacle of college football and, ultimately, the NFL are nothing new. They’ve become second nature during the draft process, with certain national media outlets dwelling on the off-field adversity rather than on-field accomplishments in their coverage of the annual selection event.
Yet, there is a story worthy of sensationalism this NFL Draft season in McDonald. For until his junior season, McDonald had never played a down of football in his life. He didn’t know what the goalposts were, what a stance was, and had no interest in the sport. A Wisconsin native, he didn’t even know who Ron Dayne was.
That didn’t mean he was ignorant of sports. McDonald was a phenomenal basketball player with a love of the game. He was also an exceptional high school athlete.
By the time he left Waukesha North High School, he’d been named the 2018 Classic 8 Player of the Year in basketball while becoming a Division I state champion in the discus.
McDonald takes his athletic ability to the gridiron
McDonald’s transfer from Pewaukee to Waukesha ultimately changed the direction of his sporting career. His pure size and athletic stature attracted the attention of the Waukesha football coach, who had to convince McDonald to come and try out for the football team. However, it was McDonald’s mother who needed convincing the most.
In addition to his high school education and basketball exploits, McDonald also worked a part-time job to help meet the family’s financial needs. His mother was concerned about her son getting worn out from all of the demands. She ultimately relented, and as a sophomore, McDonald was educated in the very basics of the game of football.
McDonald’s athletic ability immediately translated to the gridiron. Between his junior and senior seasons, he tallied 40.5 tackles for loss and 23.5 sacks. As a result, he earned 2017 WFCA All-State first-team recognition.
Despite the ridiculous production, the three-star high school prospect’s late introduction to the sport meant he flew under the radar in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
McDonald’s career at Iowa State
Due to his recruiting profile, McDonald attracted just two offers to play college football. Although he had interest from in-state Wisconsin, only Iowa State and New Mexico extended scholarship opportunities. With all due respect to New Mexico, the chance to play in a Power Five program like Iowa State made the decision a no-brainer. For Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell, McDonald’s ability to overcome adversity made him an attractive proposition.
“He’s somebody that, in a lot of ways, those experiences in a really impressive way,” Campbell told the Des Moines Register. “He’s a guy that you’re rooting for because of the adversity that he’s been able to already show that he can overcome. I think that’s why he’s always going to have great success.”
That success didn’t come immediately for the new Iowa State defensive end. As a result of his lack of experience, he played just four games in 2018 before taking a redshirt. In that limited action, however, he logged his first sacks and forced fumble. It would be the first of many, but before then, he demonstrated his work ethic as the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
McDonald started his redshirt freshman season at linebacker for the Cyclones. He logged 4 tackles against Louisiana-Monroe in his first action of the season before once again terrorizing TCU with a sack and tackle for loss. However, it was his switch back to defensive end that yielded impressive results. Down the stretch of the season, McDonald logged 5 sacks in just four games. His 6 total sacks for the season set a program freshman record.
McDonald emerges as a disruptive force the Cyclones
The Iowa State DE carried the momentum from 2019 into the 2020 campaign. McDonald proved as disruptive as the circumstances around the season. He had a sack in nine of 12 games, leading the Big 12 and tying the national lead with 10.5 sacks. Furthermore, he led the team with 13.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 in a standout game against Kansas State, where he also registered 2 forced fumbles.
As a result of his performances, McDonald earned first-team All-Big 12 recognition. He was also named a Ted Hendricks Award semifinalist. Yet, the biggest accomplishment of his young football career would come in a pivotal year for his 2022 NFL Draft stock.
McDonald became the program’s all-time sack leader during a game against Texas, where he logged 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. It was a record held by former teammate JaQuan Bailey who had taken McDonald under his wing as a freshman. In an interview with 247 Sports discussing the record, McDonald reflected on Bailey’s influence.
“I’m honored to break his record because he’s the one that got me there,” he said. “I’m very happy.”
The 2022 NFL Draft is calling for McDonald
Although he doesn’t lead the nation this season, McDonald has been just as dominant in 2021 as the previous year. The Iowa State defensive end has amassed 32 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. He’s logged a sack in eight of 12 games and at least half a tackle for loss in all but three games.
The monster production is set to allow McDonald to follow former teammate Bailey to the NFL in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Iowa State DE has earned a third-round grade from Pro Football Network Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline.
The decision by his mother to allow him to pursue football as a high school junior is about to pay off more than any part-time job ever did.
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