NFL Bulldogs: J.J. Watt praises Benardrick McKinney’s development

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Benardrick McKinney
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Benardrick McKinney /

Benardrick McKinney arrived in Starkville as a raw, lanky two-star quarterback. He left as a second-round selection and is earning praise in Houston.

Benardrick McKinney is the perfect example of Dan Mullen’s developmental program at Mississippi State. McKinney, a two-star prospect out of Tunica, Mississippi, entered the Mississippi State football program after playing his high school career behind center.

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Dan Mullen molded him into one of the most dominant linebackers in all of college football.

McKinney was the leader of the Mississippi State defense that, along with Dak Prescott, helped lift the Bulldogs to the first number-one ranking in school history in 2014. The Houston Texans selected the 6-foot-5 and 246 pound inside linebacker with the 43rd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Since landing in H-Town, McKinney has become one of the best players on one of the best defenses across the National Football League. The former Mississippi State linebacker has started 27 games, including 16 last season, in his early career with the Texans.

The Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson wrote a great piece on Benardrick McKinney. Wilson spoke with an anonymous scout and talked with three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt on their thoughts on the former high school quarterback. Here is what the scouting director had to say, per Wilson:

"“I’d be very comfortable starting my defense with McKinney as my first pick,” an AFC college scouting director said. “He’s an absolute stud. He’s so big and strong, but, at the same time, he runs so well. If you could redo the draft, he’d be a first-rounder, easily. The Texans really hit on this guy. He’s special.”"

That speaks to how respected Benardrick McKinney is becoming around the league. McKinney’s development has earned him some praise from one of the best overall players in all of football. J.J. Watt has been impressed with the former Bulldog:

"“I think he’s a great player,” Watt said. “I think he’s very underrated. I think B-Mac, he’s a guy who in our locker room we fully understand and appreciate everything that he does for our team and I think that you’re only going to see him continue to get better. He’s a very smart player but he’s also extremely physical.”“I think he can do so many different things,” Watt said. “He can come downhill and really hit you in the mouth but he also is very cerebral and he can play the game with his mind. He can also go out and cover guys so he does so many different things but he does them all well and I think he’s obviously been very, very good for us.”"

Not bad for a small town Mississippi boy.

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Watt missed most of the 2016 season, but he obviously liked what he has seen from the young linebacker. With a defense featuring Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney is making a name for himself and earning respect in the process.