The Buccaneers have one of the best linebacker tandems in the NFL but they lack depth. Can undrafted free agent out of Auburn, Cassanova McKinzy, make the final 53 man roster?
Coming out of high school Cassanova McKinzy was a four star prospect and the 10th ranked middle linebacker nationally according to scout.com. He committed to play football for Auburn University in his home state of Alabama. He played a few games as a freshman but started on defense his sophomore year at the will linebacker position. In his sophomore campaign he produced in the big games recording ten tackles in the SEC Championship and nine in the BCS title game against Florida State and Jameis Winston. He had his best season his junior year recording 91 total tackles with 11 tackles for a loss. In his senior season he moved outside to the “Buck” linebacker position and showed that he has some pass rushing skills. He recorded a career high five sacks, 17 quarterback knockdowns, and ten tackles for a loss. Unfortunately he was injured early in his last career game at the Birmingham Bowl. This was an unfortunate for him because McKinzy lived in Birmingham and his family was there to see him one last time in a Tigers uniform.
Entering the draft after his senior year McKinzy was projected to be taken in day three. Scouts really liked his power, tackling ability, versatility, and ability to get to the passer. However scouts really didn’t like his poor instincts and lack of coverage ability. Final analysis had him as a developmental player that might have some special teams value. The draft ended and McKinzy was not selected. He didn’t have to wait that long because he signed with the Buccaneers the first day after the draft.
Growing up in Alabama may have helped McKinzy make the Buccaneers roster because in high school he became friends with Jameis Winston. McKinzy told Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times that they had been trying to get on the same team but it never worked out, eventually going to rival high schools. Not only that but he played AAU basketball with Bucs current middle linebacker, Kwon Alexander. Winston has been brought up in many recruitments of other players including Noah Spence and Roberto Aguayo so maybe he helped bring McKinzy to the organization’s attention.
Being an undrafted free agent McKinzy will face many challenges to make the final 53-man roster. He may be helped out though by the team’s lack of depth. With Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, and newly acquired Daryl Smith firmly entrenched in the starting position the back ups remain a mystery. There are seven other linebackers on the roster but none have much experience and lack a very high skill set needed to be a starting NFL linebacker. Drafted rookie Devonte Bond is a similar player to McKinzy but will get priority over him because of his selection in the draft.
Besides having one of the best names in football McKinzy’s versatility may be very helpful to this Buccaneers team because they have lacked a solid pass rush for many years. Who knows, McKinzy could be utilized as a pass rusher on certain downs. He will definitely need to earn a spot on the roster but if he can prove to the coaches that he can play multiple positions he should get be able to make the 53-man roster come September.