Southern California Junior
PROS: Has good speed and burst with the ability to hit the homerun. Shows wiggle and ability to make defenders miss on the second level and out in space. Changes direction well with good lateral quickness, which he shows on a good jump cut allowing him to bounce plays outside. Sneaks through creases. Shows some ability to chip pass rusher off the edge in pass protection and is a capable receiver out of the backfield.
CONS: Is too patient and tentative as a runner. Dances too much in the backfield. Lacks ideal vision to take advantage of holes as they develop and doesn't show ability to set up defenders. Lacks power and doesn't run behind his pads and won't be a factor at breaking tackles. Doesn't show great ball security.
OVERVIEW: McKnight is essentially a poor man's Reggie Bush, that lacks the toughness and size to be a feature back despite his homerun speed. He just wasn't a consistently reliable runner at USC, although he did have unique game-breaking ability. Productive receiver that combined for 66 catches in 3 seasons. Had his best year this past year with 1014 rushing yards (6.2 avg) and 8 scores, but also fumbled 4 times in 164 carries, which is a comparable rate per carry as Adrian Peterson this past year. His emergence in terms of production is probably more to do with absence of Stafon Johnson than any improvement by him. Has past experience as a punt returner (32 career returns for 7.9 avg).
NFL FORECAST: He fits very well as a change of pace runner at the next level that I think can eventually develop into a capable third down back. He's lacking as a blocker right now, but as he gets stronger and gets more reps he should improve to a level where he's at least competent. Behind a good offensive line that can give him big holes to run through, he'll be a very productive No. 2 option for an offense. But he lacks the vision and toughness to be a go-to back and is the type that can't be trusted with more than 10-15 carries a game. At this point, he's just as liable to get the 2-yard loss as he is for the 20-yard gainer. He can improve, and again as a complementary option he can fit nicely. But you're not going to get a player that is any better than Jerious Norwood or what Reggie Bush is as a runner in New Orleans.
ATL FORECAST: While McKnight can be a potential upgrade over Norwood because of his lateral quickness as a runner, I wouldn't expect to see him become that player for a few more years. While he could be a nice complementary speed back behind Turner immediately, he's not good enough in pass protection, nor do I expect him to be so by next season to be a suitable option as a third down back. Basically for his first two years, he won't get a ton of reps on offense, maybe averaging 3-5 carries per game. But by his third year, he should have improved enough in pass protection and be a nice secondary weapon on the team. But he's not an upgrade over Norwood, just a continuation.
VALUE: McKnight is a good value in the fourth round. A team that is already set with its go-to ground weapon might snag him late in the third.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average,4-very good, 5-elite
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.