Nguyen | Raekwon McMillan is an underrated LB in the NFL draft

14 November 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) in action during a Big Ten football game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium, in Champaign, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

In my last article, I talked about the aggressive and athletic Jarrad Davis. The Florida product used his explosiveness and speed to disrupt offenses but occasionally made head-scratching decisions. Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan is the antithesis of Davis. McMillan isn’t the best athlete, but he is fundamentally sound and makes plays by quickly diagnosing what offenses are trying to do.

McMillan isn’t seen as a first-round talent because of his limitations athletically, but the more analysts study McMillan’s game, the more he rises on draft boards. He was initially seen as a mid-rounder but now, he may go as high as the second round.

Through film study and good coaching, McMillan is among the best in the class at diagnosing and properly reacting to different run schemes.

Here, he sees the down blocks and immediately realizes that pullers are coming in his direction. On the play, he is the contain defender because the end crashes. Not only does McMillan quickly attack the blocker behind the line of scrimmage, but he is also able to dip underneath the block and make the tackle.

This play shows another example of McMillan’s aggressiveness while maintaining proper leverage. He sees the run play go to the opposite side and flows over. He is responsible for inside leverage, so he attacks the blocker by getting his hand underneath the blocker’s armpit to keep his inside shoulder free. The back is forced to cut back right into McMillan by his teammates.

This play is an excellent example of how team defense works, as McMillan finishes the play by maintaining his responsibility in the cut back lane.

Unfortunately, McMillan’s sideline-to-sideline speed isn’t as fast as his mind. He could struggle chasing plays down in the perimeter.

On the play, Wayne Gallman runs a swing screen out of the backfield. Even though McMillan should have the angle to stop him for a minimal gain, he could only close enough to try to grab his foot. Gallman breaks the tackle and gets a nice gain. Gallman is going to play in the NFL but isn’t known as a burner.

These types of plays may cause NFL teams to think that McMillan doesn’t have the speed to match up with NFL running backs or tight ends. He doesn’t have the speed to match up with athletic tight ends, but besides the previous example, he does a pretty good job of covering running backs out of the backfield.

On this play, he does a good job of weaving through the three potential picks on the trips side of the formation to cover the running back in the flats.

Nevertheless, there aren’t enough examples of him playing man coverage to reinforce that assessment. In Ohio State’s Cover-1 scheme, he is mostly a robber, quarterback spy, or blitzer.

Like all of the second tier linebackers, he also bites hard on play action, which is why I have to give his pass covering ability just a “C” grade.

McMillan is better in pass coverage than people give him credit for, but the team that drafts him should be looking for a run stuffer with average pass coverage ability. He is going to be a stud two-down linebacker early in his career but will have a lot to prove before he could be trusted in passing situations.

Although he isn’t the best athlete, he is athletic enough to develop into a good zone defender who could cover come running backs or slower tight ends.

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