After requesting a draft grade from the NFL last week, it is being reported that linebacker Benardrick McKinney is "a lock to enter the 2015 NFL draft." Though it doesn't come as much of a surprise, the loss of McKinney would definitely hurt Mississippi State.
B-Mac led the team in tackles for the second year in a row with 61. He also added 3 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries.
While those aren't eye popping numbers, you have to take into consideration the number of snaps that he played. The 1B defensive scheme took away some playing time from McKinney, and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins rotated his linebackers in and out to keep them fresh.
McKinney came close to leaving after his redshirt sophomore campaign, when he totaled 71 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He decided to come back to school and improve his draft stock.
He was certainly able to do so, and he currently projects as a first round pick by several NFL scouting services. nfldraftscout.com has McKinney ranked as the #1 inside linebacker out of 91 players.
If drafted in the first round, McKinney would be the third player under Dan Mullen to go that high in the draft, joining Derek Sherrod and Fletcher Cox.
Losing a player like McKinney will never be easy to overcome, but all is not lost if he does decide to leave early. The Bulldogs have developed a lot of depth at linebacker and can move some guys around if needed.
Beniquez Brown emerged as a leader of the defense and had just as good of a season as McKinney. He was second on the team in tackles. Richie Brown did well off the bench and had three interceptions in one game against Texas A&M. He is the most likely candidate to be the starter at middle linebacker in 2015. J.T. Gray was forced into action in his first year on campus and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Dez Harris showed a lot of promise but saw his season end short because of an injury. Freshman Gerri Green redshirted but was raved about in the preseason.
Fans never like to see players leave early and enter the draft, but it is not always a bad thing, especially with first rounders. It gets your school national exposure and does wonders in recruiting. Nothing is better to sell to a high school kid than the possibility of them becoming a high draft pick one day. It's much easier to sell that if you are already putting players into the NFL before their senior season.
With that being said, a lot of fans will be sad to see McKinney go. He was a leader on and off the field and was the face of the Mississippi State defense the past few seasons. Enjoy watching him in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech. It will most likely be the last time he dons the maroon and white.