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Verone McKinley III Generating NFL Draft Buzz Early in 2021 Season

The sophomore safety has proven his worth to the Ducks defense, and has gained the attention of NFL Draft experts.

The first three weeks for Oregon football have been exciting to watch. As the season progresses, we've been able to watch the high-impact players for the Ducks step up and dominate the game. 

One player that has really stood out this season is Verone McKinley III. The sophomore safety has had an incredible start to the season.

Throughout the first three games, he's been one of the most important playmakers.

Against Fresno State, he racked up eight total tackles and made the important stops when needed for the Ducks to barely escape a game that ended up being much closer than some anticipated.

His skill was put on full display one week later when Oregon traveled out to Columbus to take on the then No. 3-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. He broke up two passes and forced a fumble early in the game, but his most important moment came on a game-sealing interception of C.J Stroud on a third-and-18.

Stony Brook was another chance for McKinley to shine. In a game that saw a lot of new faces in the mix due to injury, he stepped up and had another clutch performance, recording two interceptions, one of which was in the red-zone.

McKinley is slowly becoming a star at Oregon, and people across the country are starting to take notice.

SI's NFL Draft Bible likes what they've seen so far. So much so that Jack Borowszky compared McKinley to former Washington Husky Budda Baker in this week's Hot Take Tuesday.

Not only do both players have similar sizes, but they both have similar play styles. As Borowszky points out, teams would be foolish to let McKinley slip far down the draft boards. Having so much in common with a breakout NFL talent is an encouraging sign for the Texas native.

McKinley is a very intelligent player and he plays a fantastic game on defense, using a high football IQ to make the right choice. His understanding of the game helped him make an early impact at Oregon, and now it feels as if he's in the right place at the right time almost every game.

And when he takes risks, they're very calculated and almost always pay off due to his film study and feel for the defense. 

Rarely has he taken the wrong opportunity to make a play.

Against Ohio State, his interception was the result of taking a risk and leaving his assignment to move where he thought the ball was going to be thrown. This risk is part of what won the game against the Buckeyes.

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As a sophomore, he still has time to grow and develop as a safety, but the fact that he's already such a smart safety should be a huge boost of confidence for any NFL scouts giving him looks.

With McKinley commanding the Ducks defense, they've morphed into a unit that can hang with any team in the country, wether at home with the roar of the Autzen faithful, or on the road in a hostile environment, facing more than 100,000 screaming fans.

Just how confident is Borowsky in McKinley's NFL potential?

"He is a top 32 talent in the draft and has what it takes to be a pro-bowl caliber player and impact a team similar to how Baker has."

As the season goes on, it will be key for Oregon that McKinley continue to perform at a high level if the Ducks want to make some noise come January. 

Read more: Hot take Tuesday, Verone McKinley can be the next Budda Baker

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