2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Raekwon McMillan/LB/Ohio State — 6’2”, 240 Lbs

The Good

-Above-average anticipation and awareness
-Works through traffic well to make stops
-Has shown ability to “slip” blocks by understanding angles
-Sure tackler that always finds himself around the ball
-Comfortable dropping into zone coverage or playing man-to-man against RB/TE
-Ideal size and lower body strength to hold up as MLB
-Active, powerful hands at point of attack against blockers to fight through bigger OL

The Bad

-Keeps eyes locked on QB too long when dropping into coverage; can be deceived
-Limited athlete in space
-Labors to change directions quickly in pursuit
-Not twitched up for position in today’s game
-Won’t routinely strike you as a tackler
-More of a reach-and-drag tackler instead of a striker

Bio

-2016 First Team All-Big Ten
-Second Team All-America by the Associated Press, Walter Camp, USA Today, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports
-Lott and Butkus Award semifinalist
-Lead the team with 87 tackles
-Played in 42 career games (27 starts) and finished career with 275 tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception

Tape Breakdown

I’ll be honest up front:  I’m going to be much higher on Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan than most others will be.

He’s not a super flashy linebacker with elite speed, athleticism or standout tape, but he’s as solid as they come as a tackler for the Buckeyes and he’s routinely in the right place making plays.

I love that in a linebacker.

Sure, he doesn’t have the massive hits that make the highlight reels, but when looking for a potential starter in the draft, McMillan’s track record and tape certainly fits the bill.

What stands out the most with the Ohio State product is his ability to work through traffic in front on him, especially bigger offensive linemen, to make plays around the line of scrimmage.

He understands angles so well and knows how to “slip” blocks to meet the ball carrier in the hole.

Look at the way McMillan reads run quickly, comes downhill, slips past a block and gets through the traffic in front to meet current Indianapolis Colts running back Josh Ferguson in the hole for the stop.

These types of plays were routine from McMillan in the two year’s worth of tape I watched.
 
He’s not the type to blow up guys in the hole, but he has great awareness, anticipation and processes things faster than most other linebackers in this class, allowing him to get into position for stops.
 
That being said though, he is prone to missing tackles against shifty running backs due to his limited athleticism in a phone booth.

McMillan does everything to near perfection at the start of this play. He scrapes over into the hole and avoids a blocker, putting himself in position for a clean shot on Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, but the Badger running back breaks out the quick spin move in the hole, forcing McMillan to whiff on the play.

This was one of the rare missed tackles that I counted from McMillan in 10 games. While that says how sure of a tackler he on one hand, this clip also shows that he could struggle in the NFL against shiftier running backs that make a living pulling off moves like this in tight spaces.

I do like the quick, choppy steps though to get him into position, and I strongly believe that if he doesn’t drop his head at the start of his attempted tackle, he doesn’t whiff on this play and comes up with the stop.

One of the big knocks against McMillan that I’ve heard throughout the draft process is his inability to cover running backs and tight ends in coverage.

I couldn’t disagree more with that, because what I saw during my time watching film on him was a guy who has the ability to run with most backs and tight ends, forcing tough throws from quarterbacks trying to fit it into windows against McMillan.

Throughout the 2016 season, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was deadly on wheel routes, but against Ohio State, Barkley had a tough time pulling away from McMillan.

On this play, McMillan fakes the blitz near the line of scrimmage before sprinting to the sideline to pull even with Barkley on the wheel route.

From there, McMillan stays step-for-step with the dynamic back before getting a hand up to break up the pass.

This is just one instance of McMillan showing off his coverage ability, but later on in my evaluation process, he more than handled his own against Michigan tight end Jake Butt in coverage.

Ohio State asked him to do quite a bit in coverage, whether that was on tight ends or running backs, and based on my evaluation, he stood tall against tough tests.

Outside of his ability to play against the run and drop into coverage, McMillan is an effective blitzer when it comes to delays and twists.

He’s not one to beat offensive linemen one-on-one with pass rush moves, but when he gets a free lane he eats up a ton of ground and really disrupts the offense’s timing.

There are times though where he’s able to get to the quarterback for the sack, and when that happens his closing speed is really impressive for his size and weight.

On this play against Clemson in the College Football Playoff, McMillan does a great job of reading what’s happening in front of him before exploding forward through the gap created between the guard and tackle.

Once he’s coming forward on the blitz, McMillan closes a ton of ground quickly against Deshaun Watson, getting to the standout quarterback for a big sack in the redzone.

If you want to see another instance where McMillan completely throws off an offense’s timing, leading to a pick-6 for teammate Malik Hooker, fast-forward to the 3:08 mark here.

Overall, I really like McMillan. For me, he projects as an every-down linebacker that should have a nice, long career for a franchise that he makes very happy after they take a chance on him in April.

He has the track record and all the tools you’re looking for in a technically sound linebacker. He’s not flashy, but he’s consistent.

Sometimes that’s better than being the big name known for highlight reels.

He reminds me a lot of current Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Daryl Smith, who made a name for himself as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens.

Projection: Mid Day Two

Games Watched:  at Indiana (’15), vs. Maryland (’15), at Illinois (’15), vs. Notre Dame (’15), at Oklahoma (’16), at Wisconsin (’16), at Penn State (’16), vs. Nebraska (’16), vs. Michigan (’16), vs. Clemson (’16)

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ WattJohn Ross
Jerod EvansVince BiegelJosh CarrawayJosh MaloneKevin King
Fadol BrownChris GodwinNate GerryJordan WillisStacy Coley
Zay JonesJimmie GilbertGlen AntoineTarell BashamDuke Riley
Rayshawn JenkinsChad KellyTrey HendricksonJeremy SprinkleJoe Williams
D’Onta ForemanCarlos WatkinsDamontae KazeWayne GallmanWillie Quinn
Xavier WoodsElijah HoodMalik McDowellDesmond KingSolomon Thomas
Cordrea TankersleySolomon Thomas

  • francesco

    Agree. I would love to have this guy on my team.

  • AndyR34

    So…Alex…do we take OLB and ILB back-to-back like Tomlin’s first year?

  • CuldesacBill

    After the big offer the Steelers made to Hightower, I’m becoming more convinced they might draft a ILB in the early rounds. Who is the most athletic ILB in this draft? Jarrad Davis? Zach Matthews? Someone else?

  • RickM

    It seems almost too predictable if he’s available at 62. An OLB at #30 and then the Ohio State ILB who raised his stock at the combine. Mayock doesn’t have him in his Top 5 ILB’s though. I wonder what the two of you are seeing differently Alex? It’s a pretty safe assumption that you put in far more time watching him as Mayock has to rate every position. I’ll go with your judgement and I can easily see him being a Steeler.

    My only concern is that Ohio State’s Darron Lee was taken at 20 last year by the Jets and PFF rated him the worst OLB in the league in 2016. I almost wonder if all the attention paid to Bosa in 2015 (sometimes triple-teamed) made the other OS Front 7 players look better than they really are. I know with McMillan, most felt his play wasn’t as good this past year as in 2015.

  • The Tony

    I’m having trouble seeing Cunningham as a top 25 guy. I think he’s going to be more so a top 50 guy. He could be very reasonable for pick 30 since this a deep edge class I’d be cool with an edge in the second.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Do not really want him in the 1st but can’t pass on him if he is available in the 2nd

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Im all in with Jarrad Davis.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Alex Anzalone

  • Darth Blount 47

    This profile was done by Josh.

    I agree with you though, that an Ohio State LB who fits a need, is almost choreographed to be picked here.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I like McMillan, but he’s not a guy I fell in love with. But he may indeed have a sort of underrated-ness about him that could end up making him a steal. Obviously, we LOVE the Ohio State boys, so he HAS to be on our radar, contractually speaking. But he might only be a steal relative to draft positioning, if he falls out of the 2nd, which is where some have him. After the Combine this year I wrote:

    “Another guy we should be looking at if we are going with an inside guy would be Raekwon McMillan. The Ohio State product (You know Colbert loves them) did better than many expected today. He ran well, at 4.6, and had respectable numbers in bench (23), and Broad 10’1″. His Vert was okay at 33′. But it was his ability to move and react that had people noticing. He wasn’t a standout, but looked quite solid. He likes to tackle and has pretty good arm length. He’s not real special in my eyes, but could be a steal if he fell into the 3rd or 4th, by virtue of being overlooked.”

    He has a sort of James Farrior-esque quality to him. Farrior also ran around 4.6. Farrior was the same 6’2, 240 or so (a little less coming out). And both had a knack and want – to tackle and come downhill. Both also excelled at reading the angles and getting there, anyway possible. Remember two things: 1. Farrior came in and was overlooked, undervalued, and underutilized. And 2nd… Farrior was squarely on the Baltimore Raven radar prior to the 1997 NFL Draft. Ozzie Newsome, then Director of Player Personnel in Baltimore, really liked Farrior. According to rumor, they had it down between Peter Boulware and James Farrior for their 4th pick in the draft that year and ultimately decided on Boulware. They also had Jamie Sharper high on their list and took him with their pick in the 2nd Rd.

    Sure would be nice to have a crystal ball and see if Raekwon is going to be the second coming of Potsie or not. My guess is no. But if we haven’t gone ILB with our 1st or 2nd, and McMillan is still there at our pick in the 3rd, there is a decent chance we’ll certainly take him. Though I still think he likely goes in the 2nd, or at the least before our picks start in that 3rd.

  • RickM

    Apologies to Josh. I assumed it was Alex but Josh goes really in depth as well.

  • popsiclesticks

    Same. I don’t buy it either. He misses so many tackles.

  • popsiclesticks

    And his freaking name is Raekwon. I’d draft him just for that.

    About the coverage, I think way too many people see “not athletically elite” and just assume “oh, struggles in coverage then” and it becomes narrative since so few people actually watch these guys in depth (I know I can only watch a few) and depend on what they read. Yet if you know what’s going on and have good awareness, that’s worth a lot of coverage ability, especially for an ILB.

  • Rosco

    Wutang clan aint nothing to **** with

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Can you do a profile on Jarrad Davis?

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Haason Reddick would flourish at ILB

  • Josh Carney

    On my list.

  • Josh Carney

    That’s what I thought heading into the film, but he’s really not bad as a defender in coverage. That gif against Penn State sold it for me. Step for step in coverage with Barkley down the field. He’s got the want-to and sometimes that’s all you need.

  • Andrew

    I Like him quite a bit, but I wouldn’t want him in the second. More pressing needs in my opinion. While we did pursue Hightower, he was probably considered a want not a need. If the Steeler’s really felt that they were lacking at ILB, there are still some options in FA (Brown and Hodges). If a player falls to them, than sure, they’ll draft him, but I don’t think its that pressing to the team.