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Prospect Profiles: RB Joe McKnight (USC)

Footballs Future

Footballs Future


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From Youtube


April 16th 1988. 22 years old. Junior

5’11 198 pounds

36.5 inch vertical (8th best for RB), 4.47 40 (5th best for runningbacks), 10′ broad jump (5th best for RB)


Career: 347 attempts, 2,213 yards 13 touchdowns.

2009: 164 attempts, 1014 yards 8 touchdowns.  22 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Not superproductive, but not a ton of touches either. The Trojans are always stacked with RB talent and don’t have to rely on one player to handle the load. McKnight had a couple of big games (vs Stanford is one), but was not what you would call a productive top Draft prospect.

Scouting Reports

CBS NFL Draft Scout

Inside: Better inside runner than he’s given credit for due to the fact that he likes to hit the hole running full speed. Very good acceleration to and through the line of scrimmage. Shows some vision to bounce it outside when the hole isn’t there, showing a good jump-cut-and-go to accelerate once he sees a lane. Runs too high and doesn’t have the leg drive to run through tackles. Too often dragged down by defenders still fighting off blocks. Lacks the toughness to be a consistent interior running threat. Struggled with fumbles early in his career. Wraps the ball securely when in tight quarters, but too often swings the ball outside of his frame in the open field.

Outside: His best trait. Has the pure speed to beat linebackers to the edge and can take it the distance when he’s allowed to turn the corner and head upfield. Good vision for the cutback. Has some real shake ‘n bake to him and can make even reliable open-field tacklers look foolish. Has good, not great, balance and is too often tripped up by shoe-string tackles.

Breaking tackles: An area of relative concern. Simply doesn’t run tough enough at this time. Runs upright and can be knocked back by heavy-hitters. Lacks the leg drive to run through defenders to generate the tough yards. Has done a better job of keeping his legs driving as he has gained experience, but lacks the sand in his pants to drive through defenders to get the tough yards on his second and third efforts. Too often unable to keep his feet when knocked off balance. Swings his arms wildly to gain control, which puts the ball in position to be knocked out.

Blocking: Tougher in this area than you’d expect for his slight frame and finesse running style. Willing to step up and deliver an initial pop to the bigger defender, but lacks the strength and toughness to sustain for long. Good effort and agility for the cut-block, though defenders often see it coming.

Receiving: Among his better traits, enough so that some teams may consider moving McKnight to receiver. Used on a variety of routes in this offense; typically wheels, screens, dump-offs in the flat, etc. Soft hands and appears natural catching the ball. Secures it quickly. Good hand-eye coordination and body control to bring in the hot, inaccurate pass.

Intangibles: Elected to leave school early amid reports that he was allowed to drive an SUV given to his girlfriend by a local California businessman. USC, already under investigation for reports of improper benefits being given to Reggie Bush and former basketball star O.J. Mayo, decided to suspend McKnight for the 2009 Emerald Bowl against Boston College. Struggled through nagging minor injuries in 2008 (sprained toe, chipped finger, hyperextended elbow) and cited his remaining healthy in 2009 as a reason for leaving after his junior season.

McKnight is an elusive ball carrier that knows how to set up his blockers and does not need a huge lane to run through. He enjoyed his first full season staying healthy in 2009 and declared early to take advantage of that. He finishes his runs off better than you’d expect for someone his size. He is not a power back but does know how to dip his pads to run through arm tackles and will attack tacklers with an explosive burst. He shows a good burst through the hole and while he has good speed to threaten deep he will get run down from behind at times. He can be an effective receiver both out in the flats as well as downfield.

McKnight has elite quickness and agility for the running back position. Has good speed in the open field. Shows impressive vision, waits for the play to develop, finds the cutback lane. Very competitive with the ball in his hands and plays with the attitude of a bigger back. Was productive in college. Exhibits a natural feel setting up blockers.

McKnight has enough height but lacks the bulk and thick build of an every down back. Doesn’t possess the natural strength to be consistently effective between the tackles. Dealt with some minor injuries in college while sharing the load. Blocking could use some polish. Isn’t a true power runner.

From Draft Board


Scouting Report-McKnight arrived at USC as the next Reggie Bush, but those comparisons have never materialized.  Having said that, I think McKnight could end up a better pure running back in the NFL.  His size isn’t ideal, but seeing him at 200lbs helps.  And when you watch him play, there are a lot of things to like.  I can see McKnight working well in third down situations because of his ability to catch the football(like Bush), but also like Bush he’s not great at the blitz pick up.  Where I think he’s better than Bush is his ability to run inside. He has to learn to be a little more patient when he hits the hole, but he doesn’t have the mentality that he has to make every run a touchdown, settling for the solid gain instead.  Physically McKnight is a little long and thing, and his strength is an obvious concern.  But his agility and quickness are elite and you can see when he gets into the open field just how hard he is to tackle. McKnight is also an explosive punt returner and adds to the special teams as well.  The biggest shortcoming to McKnight’s game is his lack of strength.  He doesn’t break tackles much at all, and even though he has tremendous balance, goes down easily, rarely getting yards after contact.  Another concern with McKnight is ball security as he often doesn’t protect the football very well.

Draft Status-It sounds like McKnight has a real underground movement to be drafted in the 2nd round.  I can understand why as his potential is high and as a complimentary back, would be a nice pick.   I would question however if he should be taken ahead of other more productive college players.

Final Analysis-McKnight was foolish to attend USC.  He signed a letter of intent that sealed his doom in terms of potential.  There’s no reason to believe McKnight could not be a first round prospect, had he just had the good sense to go to a school where he could have been a featured player instead of buried on a crowded depth chart. Because of that, his development was stunted.  He’s an explosive athlete, with the speed to get outside and turn the corner, make players miss with fabulous agility and field speed that exceeds his timed speed.  But his shortcomings to his game, as well as a lengthy injury history makes teams look twice.  Drafting McKnight is an exercise in risk/reward.  How soon do you draft a kid with so much upside, but some real concerns as well?  I firmly believe had McKnight had a chance to spend 3 years in the spolight of a team, rather than as a gimmick would have helped him so much so whatever team that drafts him will have to decide if he’s worth the time he’ll need to develop, or do you just take him as he is, and maximize the physical gifts he has.

Reminds me of:Jamaal Charles, RB Kansas City CheifsVery similar players. Both are a little slight, really quick and agile and will get stuffed on some plays and break off huge chunks of yardage on others.  McKnight certainly has the potential to be everything we saw from Charles last season and an even better receiver and return man.

Make sure you check out more from one of my favorite Draft websites

Big Board Rankings

CBS NFL Draft Scout 102 Overall

ESPN Scouts Inc 5th best RB

Football fan spot #65 Overall

National Football Post #7th Best RB 99th

Where the Mocks Have Him Falling Round 4 pick #114 Denver Broncos Round 2 pick #60 Seattle Seahawks Round 3 pick #86 Green Bay Packers

This is very indictative of McKnights’ draft range. Everyone knows he’s talented, but with his injury history, lack of production and USC troubles he could fall anywhere from the 2nd to the 5th round.

Bartolis Summary and Final Verdict

I’ve been not very sublte in hinting that I like Joe McKnight very much for the New York Giants. McKnight is exactly what the Giants need and  not at the price Spiller is at. Now, Spiller is the better player in all three facets that I like McKnight for. Inside running, pass catching (especially) and return game, but McKnight could be a draft day steal. He’s better than the numbers he put up at college and he’s great in the open field.

Final Verdict

if the Giants walk out of this draft with Joe McKnight I will be pleased. Now 2nd round might be a little high becuase there are other players who will be better than McKnight, but even second round is not a tremendous reach. Third round is good value and fourth round is very good value.

McKnight could add a dimension to our offense that we’re missing, especially as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

Absolutely ideally he’ll be there in the fourth round of fifth round (although that’s a stretch) the Giants like later round RBs anyway and Reese can pull the trigger with that pick.

McKnight is one of those players (even though I said I hate to bank on this) that will be a better N.F.L. player than he was a college player, I believe because he’ll get more touches and will get to focus on being specailized, also U.S.C.’s OL play was down a bit this year.

McKnight is an elusive open field runner who could add some much needed versatility to our RB corps especially as a receiver out of the backfield.

Previous Profiles

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CB/KR/PR  Javier Arenas

OG/C Maurikce Pouncey

DT/NT Linval Joseph

CB Chris Cook

CB Trevard Lindley

RB Anthony Dixon

DT Sean Lissmore

ILB Jamar Chaney

ILB Vincent Rey

DT Tyson Alualu

S Darrell Stuckey

OT Vladimir Ducasse

S Myron Rolle

LB Pat Angerer

Morgan Burnett

DT Cam Thomas

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Athlete Dexter McCluster

CB Joe Haden

S Nate Allen

Jason Pierre Paul

DT Geno Atkins

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OT Trent Williams

Derrick Morgan

OL Mike Iupati

S Chad Jones

OLB/DE Sergio Kindle

Sean Weatherspoon

ILB Sean Lee

S Eric Berry

OT Bruce Campbell

ILB Daryl Washington

DT/NT Dan Williams (Updated with K.C. Joyner’s Draft Lab 2/7)

CB Kyle Wilson

DT Jared Odrick

DE Carlos Dunlap

ILB Micah Johnson

DT Arthur Jones

OT Bryan Baluga

OT Anthony Davis (UPDATED 2/5/10)

DT Brian Price

ILB Brandon Spikes

S Earl Thomas

ILB Rolando McClain

RB C.J. Spiller

S Taylor Mays

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4 Responses to “Prospect Profiles: RB Joe McKnight (USC)”

  1. steve says:

    this kid can play if not best in 3rd 4th grab this kid we need a good back

  2. Andrew Lerner says:

    this could really be a perfect addition for the giants…we need to get jacobs back to being the force he one was, which is with 2-3 yard runs and obviously goal line formation….with the mixture of mcknight and bradshaw it could be just like when we had ward…mcknights agility and break away speed are ridiculous…i never thought that jacobs or bradshaw could be future backs and mcknight could bring them back to the roles they used to have..i must say im a big fan of dj ware and think he could be very good and would help them all compete for carries.

  3. Steve B. says:

    I was just watching some McKnight highlights, and I got to say I was pretty impress, and I would be happy if the Giants grab him in the 3rd round (or later if he falls).

    Love the speed that this kid has, I was surprised that I saw some of his highlights were runs from the inside which is pretty impressive for a pure speed guy, who isnt that big.

    Thing he would be a great addition as a 3rd round back and he could be an upgrade to special teams.

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