The road of an undrafted free agent is never an easy one, and such will be the case for Notre Dame's Javon McKinley.
McKinley signed with the Detroit Lions after not being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Players do not get selected for a variety of reasons -- medical concerns and/or off-the-field issues, being projected to play another position at the next level and not having what it takes to play in the NFL.
As for McKinley, it's because of all of the above.
After arriving at Notre Dame as one of the more prolific players coming out of high school, he broke his leg during his freshman year. More injuries cost him his sophomore season.
When McKinley finally did find his way back on to the field during his junior season, he found it was more difficult getting back into the fold. That season he played in five games, and put up rather pedestrian numbers, catching 11 passes for 268 yards (24.4 yards-per-catch average) and four touchdowns before getting injured again.
In 2020, McKinley finally managed to stay healthy, and played in 11 games, grabbing 42 balls for 717 yards (17.1 yards-per-catch avg.) and three TDs.
As an evaluator, three things stick out to me looking at his statistics.
First, he showed by putting up decent numbers last season that he has bounced back from all his injuries.
Second, I am intrigued by his higher yards-per-catch average.
Third, he played in 16 games, and still managed to catch seven TDs.
There was also an incident with campus police when he got arrested, which involved alcohol. According to TMZ, McKinley reached a plea bargain.
Off-the-field issues are major red flags in the NFL. It was just one such incident, and it was said to be "out of character."
However, it still happened, and things like that can cause concern, especially if the player involved does not have superstar talent.
All of it added up to McKinley going undrafted.
There was just not enough there for him to get selected, but there was still enough intrigue because of his size and the aforementioned positives.
In fact, Detroit liked him so much that it gave McKinley $100,000 in guaranteed money, according to MLive.com. That says something, too, about what the Lions think of him.
Will he make the team, though?
Recommended Lions Articles
Look: Matt Prater Drills 62-Yard Field Goal
Detroit Lions could sure use a place kicker like Matt Prater.
Roundtable: Will Refs Botch Calls against Lions in Week 2?
The latest SI All Lions Roundtable focuses on the chances of a botched call in the Detroit Lions' Week 2 tilt with the Green Bay Packers.
Bold Prediction: Ifeatu Melifonwu Has Interception and Pick-Six on MNF
Can rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu shine, stepping in at cornerback following Jeff Okudah's season-ending injury?
That is unknown, and will only be answered by his performance in camp and during the preseason.
Is it possible? Sure, it is. Remember, 486 undrafted players made Week 1 rosters last season.
Based on what I have seen, I believe he will land on Detroit's practice squad when it is all said and done.
I also believe McKinley is a bit of a project and that he will eventually find his way to playing the role of a receiving tight end because he lacks what it takes to beat NFL corners, in terms of speed, athleticism and route polish. However, there is still enough there to work with -- and good enough reason to not give up on him.
#83 WR Jevon McKinley - 6-foot-2, 216 pounds
40-yard dash time: 4.57
Film reviewed from 2020: Against Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia Tech
Grade: D+ (below average)
Muscular, chiseled and physical, high-cut pass catcher who plays high, has average playing speed and has rigidity in his movements. Really leans into routes pre-snap. Very average get-off from the line of scrimmage, and he is a lumbering runner. One-gear speed. More of a possession type in the short-to-intermediate range, but does occasionally manage to work his way deeper when he uses his size to his advantage.
Routes do not look polished, and route breakpoints do not look crisp. Good ball skills. Can adjust well to the ball. Shows physicality while battling defenders for route leverage. Tends to catch with his hands. Average-looking YAC (yards after catch). He is tough, and he does give effort. Will stick his nose in there and block some on running plays. Reminds me in a way of former Washington (NFL) tight end Terry Orr (6'3, 227 pounds).
McKinley just flat out lacks the necessary attributes to play receiver in today's NFL.
While he looks much more like a tight end trying to play receiver on film, he lacks the weight of an average NFL TE (240 pounds).
However, he did come from a big program like Notre Dame, and he is the ideal type of practice-squad player. And, who knows, with a season or two of him putting on some weight and hitting the gym, Detroit just may have found a diamond in the rough.
- Subscribe to the AllLions podcast on iTunes
- Like and follow AllLions on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter: @detroitpodcast @vitojerome @llamorandier @danielkellybook @CBooher_
- Follow Detroit Sports Podcast on Instagram: @detroitsports_podcast
Become a premium AllLions member, which grants you access to all of our premium content and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more