ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay of Scouts, Inc., confirmed our suspicions Monday that Pitt sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy would likely be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft if he goes pro.
McShay is impressed with McCoy’s instinctive running and combination of power and speed, and believes that McCoy is one of the top three running backs in the nation.
“When he decides to go, he has a great burst,” McShay said. “He’s a natural, instinctive runner. It’s a combination of power and speed with that burst. He can drive through a tackle and can also run away from guys. He’s the complete package, once he gets going.”
McShay rates Ohio State junior Chris “Beanie” Wells first, followed by McCoy and Georgia redshirt sophomore Knowshon Moreno.
“They’re so close. When you say he’s the third-best back, it sounds like he’s getting slighted,” McShay said. “I think Wells will wind up go first because of his size – he’s big and has burst – McCoy second and Moreno third, because he’s not quite as big. I would guess McCoy would test out better than Moreno.
“I think it’ll depend on how he plays this year, and also which other backs elect to leave. If Wells and Moreno elect to leave and (McCoy) has an average year, then go back to school. This year’s senior class is average. If he has a great year and is one of top 3 backs, then I say go.”
In that regard, McShay believes McCoy – or, for that matter, any second-year starter – should return for another year unless “absolutely guaranteed first-round status from somebody that’s not your agent.”
But McShay does concede that it’s different for running backs because of the wear and tear their bodies endure. That’s a serious concern for McCoy, who averaged 26.2 carries in the nine games he started and had 30 or more carries against Navy (32), Syracuse (31) and West Virginia (38). If McCoy averages that many over 12 games, he’ll have 315 carries this season and 591 in a span of two seasons.
Which might be just enough to convince him to go pro.
* Of Pitt’s seniors, McShay has middle linebacker Scott McKillop as highest-rated player. No surprise there, but McShay has McKillop graded as a third-round prospect, with the potential to move up.
“So much changes in a full season,” McShay said. “Showing more versatility, flexibility in coverage (would help). He’s big, strong, a tackling machine. The one thing you have concern with is his ability to turn and run and make plays in coverage.”
McShay made note that McKillop was timed at 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash while nursing a sore ankle this past spring, which he called “not awful, but not as good as you’d like to see.”
If that sounds a bit harsh, consider that McShay also called McKillop “a physical, tough, instinctive, downhill striker” who “plays the run faster than he really is because he get s a good jump on the ball.”
McShay also compared McKillop to Seattle Seahawks inside linebacker Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl pick who has registered 335 tackles in three seasons and recently signed a six-year contract extension worth $42 million.
* McShay has fullback Conredge Collins rated among the top four players at his position, but considers him a possible late-round pick because he will need to “beef up and become a stronger and more consistent blocker.”
McShay also said it will be difficult for Collins to make a transition to running back in the NFL at his size and speed.
“You have to be special to make the transition to running back,” McShay said, adding that if Collins can prove versatile enough to work as a third-down back, in short-yardage situations or pass protection “that’s the way he makes it in the league.”
* As for receiver Derek Kinder, McShay has him on his watch list and will be interested to see how the former All-Big East pick performs after missing last season with a torn ACL in his right knee.
“He was outstanding in terms of route running and ball skills,” McShay said, “but he’s a 6-foot, 215-pound receiver with average speed as a receiver. You wonder with injury if he’s lost a step.”
* Two other Pitt players McShay said he will keep tabs on are kicker Conor Lee and punter Dave Brytus.