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Bengals hosting UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley for pre-draft visit

The Bengals seem to be interested in a standout UCLA linebacker who’s likely to be a Round 1 -2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Given the plethora of prospective options available to the Bengals, who have the No. 9 overall pick in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, it is no surprise to see the club meeting with some of the top players in the nation. That is especially true at a position like linebacker, at which the Bengals could certainly use some help.

This week, the Bengals will be hosting Takkarist McKinley, an outside linebacker out of UCLA, who has been catching the collective eye of the NFL scouting community for quite a while. The Bengals also attended McKinley’s pro day at UCLA last month.

McKinley struggled with his academics early on and missed his chance to play for Cal in the process, but he utilized his relentless work ethic to turn things around at Contra Costa College in 2013 before transferring to UCLA. Once there, he gave the Bruins three incredible seasons in which he recorded 99 tackles, 16 sacks, 10 pass deflections, and one fumble recovery.

He started every game in his junior and senior seasons after starting only one in his sophomore season. He absolutely rocked the college football world in his senior season, the perfect time to ‘wow’ as the NFL world respectively took notice. Heading into his professional career, he is sure to amplify any pass rush attack in which he is a part.

On the negative side, McKinley’s unrefined technique and moderate play strength put enough questions on his resume to keep him out of the discussion as a top draft pick. If the Bengals are considering him in the draft, they could pull the trigger on him at No. 9, although it would be seen as a substantial reach, by most. Unless the Bengals are totally convinced on the ability to develop his technique at the professional level, they should probably wait until the second round to pick him up.

That said, adding McKinley to the Bengals’ front seven could pay dividends for the team. Primarily seen as a pass rusher, he could play as either an outside linebacker or a defensive end, depending on how the Bengals see him panning out. The Bengals could use help at outside linebacker with Karlos Dansby back in Arizona. But, Nick Vigil is expected to compete for that role, so McKinley could make the switch to defensive end and eventually work to replace the underperforming Michael Johnson.

Either way, McKinley’s presence on the Bengals would add a fearsome talent to the pass rush, an aspect of the Bengals’ defense that has declined in recent years. If the Bengals don’t pick a linebacker up in the first round, it would be surprising to see the Bengals pass on him with the No. 41 overall pick, if he’s still on the board. If anything, his highlight video should show exactly what is so exciting about him on any front seven:

Could the Bengals pick up this monstrous pass rusher in the 2017 NFL Draft? They certainly seem to be interested, and could use his particular skill set at multiple positions. If he is available at No. 41, he’s a definite possibility for Cincinnati.