Football IQ - Well seasoned starter with 4 years of experience. He does well with his run keys and is quick to trigger and shoot gaps when he's identified opportunities to flash into the mesh point. He's less confident in zone coverage and if you ask him to anticipate and flow with routes, you'll endure a losing battle.
Tackling - Has some nice finishes on his resume, can get low and run the feet courtesy of natural leverage. He can be late to react to cuts and fail to get full pads on contact from time to time. Would like to see better consistency in contact balance to square up his challenges with consistency.
Block Shedding - Does not have the needed pop through the hands and too often will take the easy way out to duck under blocks. He's better as a plug and attacking with his pads than he is to utilize and punch/ extend himself free. Would like to see more commitment to scraping over top and across the face.
Competitive Toughness - Hard nosed defender — definitely was a spark plug for his defense. Pretty stout in close quarter combat but he doesn't really provide ability to wall off and then subsequently transition into making a play. Flow is urgent but not dynamic.
Lateral Mobility - Modest at best. Wouldn't look to charge him as a sideline to sideline defender — at least not as a true MIKE. He's probably better suited for ILB role in an odd front defense where he can pair with another off ball presence between the tackles. Not overly fluid or sudden to cross face.
Coverage Skills - Minimal value here and he doesn't have the transitional quickness or the length to be problematic in zone coverage. He isn't someone who shows a lot of feel for mirroring eyes and feeling routes developing in his peripheral vision; probably an exclusive early down candidate.
Gap Shooting Ability - When he wants to crash, he can do so effectively. Like how he feels creases developing and has a natural knack for zipping into the backfield and disrupting back's pathway to press the LOS. Evidenced by monster TFL numbers over four seasons as a starter.
Feet/COD - He's not overly fluid and his issues are compounded by bad habits prior to first contact. He's late to break down and square up his challenges and as a result with throw himself into too many plays trying to get a piece of the body. Too reckless for athletic limitations.
Flexibility - He's not necessarily rigid but he's not a natural mover in space and he doesn't possess the body control needed to be so sloppy. A better athlete could rise above some of his lapses and be a better finisher — that's not him. Doesn't corner with speed and doesn't spring out of cuts with dynamic base.
First Step Explosiveness - More buildup speed than anything else. His success shooting gaps stems more from anticipation versus having high end twitch or burst. Does not showcase the kind of explosiveness to get home consistently from the second level unless he's working twist or stunt game up the middle.
Best Trait - Gap Shooting
Worst Trait - Block Shedding
Best Film - North Carolina (2019)
Worst Film - Florida (2019)
Red Flags - None
Summary - Michael Pinckney projects as a depth LB at the pro level. On early downs, Pinckney provides a fair amount of value as a run defender; he's quick to process, quick to trigger and does well to beat blockers to the spot and square up ball carriers in the backfield. His value is mitigated significantly on 3rd downs as a result of some hip tightness in coverage and only modest length to occupy throwing windows. Pinckney is a low ceiling prospect but can compete for an active roster spot.