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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Romeo McKnight

  • The Draft Network
  • January 31, 2021
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PROSPECT SUMMARY - ROMEO MCKNIGHT

Romeo McKnight was a high school defensive end and running back that was also an Illinois Class 2A state champion wrestler as a junior that was an All-American three years in a row. He initially went to Iowa where he spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons before transferring to Illinois State. Before the transfer, McKnight suffered his second major knee injury—one in 2017 at Iowa and one in high school. McKnight flashed in 2018 before having a sensational 2019 season for the Redbirds where he was a First-Team All-Missouri Valley selection and collected 16.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He then transferred to Charlotte for the 2020 season where he performed well. McKnight’s best ability is his run defense. Despite being a lighter defensive end, he has good power at the point of attack, sets a firm edge, squeezes gaps, and is an excellent processor. As a pass rusher, McKnight has good variety with his hands but has a poor first step and lacks explosiveness. McKnight is undersized for a 4-3 defensive end but he doesn’t project well to playing in space in a stand-up role. McKnight’s best chance is to continue performing well against the run, perhaps bulk up, and embrace being a power-style rusher that can attack interior gaps. 

Ideal Role: Developmental defensive end.

Scheme Fit: 4-3.

FILM EVALUATION

Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: North Texas (2020), Appalachian State (2020), Duke (2020), Northern Illinois (2019), North Dakota State (2019). 

Best Game Studied: North Texas (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Appalachian State (2020) 

First-Step Explosiveness: McKnight is often tardy out of his stance and the way he coils doesn’t lend favorably to quickly exploding up the arc. He lacks burst out of his stance and blockers have no issue framing him up. His lack of snap-anticipation ability and burst puts stress back on McKnight to be dynamic with his hands to win. 

Flexibility: McKnight isn’t super bendy, but it’s not fair to call him stiff. There is some bend in his hips and he does well to reduce his surface area to slip through interior gaps on stunts. The challenge for McKnight is gaining a step up the arc to really threaten the outside hip of offensive tackles. 

Hand Counters: McKnight’s hands stay busy throughout each snap. He has an array of crosses and swipes to help him clear contact and he has the ability to string moves together. His hands are deployed with urgency and fairly good timing. 

Length: McKnight has sufficient length and he does a decent job of using it. He competes to play with extension so he can unhinge and finish. I didn’t see too many reps played too close to the vest and never got the sense that he was deficient when it comes to length. 

Hand Power: McKnight has decent pop in his hands, which helps him take control of reps. He has the power needed to clear his pads. While I don’t think McKnight will be confused as heavy-handed, there is enough power there to be effective. 

Run Defending: I came away really impressed with McKnight’s ability to defend the run. He does well to set a firm edge, maintain outside leverage, and squeeze gaps. He is a good processor against the run with timely responses. 

Effort: For the most part, I thought McKnight played with good effort. With that said, there were times he looked fatigued, which impacted his ability to play with a hot motor. He keeps battling on each snap, his hands stay engaged and he isn’t content being velcroed to blocks. 

Football IQ: McKnight is a sound processor against the run and plays the game with good technique. I don’t question his football intelligence, he just has limitations when it comes to explosiveness and size for his style of play. 

Lateral Mobility: McKnight competes hard in lateral pursuit, but he’s often a tick slow working toward the sideline. I don’t like the idea of playing him in a stand-up role or in space. He’s best in condensed areas of the field. 

Versatility: McKnight looks like a 3-4 outside linebacker but doesn’t have the movement skills or ability to play in space to fill that role. As an even front defensive end, you wish he had more size. Regardless of the role, McKnight has limitations, but his best chance comes as a 4-3 DE.  

Prospect Comparison: Jonathan Woodard (2016 NFL Draft, Jacksonville Jaguars) 

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 65.5/100

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