Buckeye Breakdown: Scouting ILB Raekwon McMillan As a Fit for the Dolphins
A 5 star recruit out of high school, and number one overall at the linebacker position in the 2014 class, Raekwon McMillan has been on scouts’ radars for years. McMillan opted to play for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, and he proceeded to spend two seasons starting at middle linebacker for the Buckeyes. McMillan played in all 13 games as a freshman, quickly earning the starting role as a Sophomore in 2015. In both years as a starter, McMillan was a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten player while racking up over 220 tackles as the quarterback of the Buckeyes’ defense.
The first thing that pops out when watching McMillan is his sound tackling technique in the gaps. When high school coaches are showing their players video of proper run tackling, they should turn on Raekwon McMillan’s collegiate tape. In the clip below, he makes a great play on the ball carrier by playing off of his defensive tackles perfectly. He reads the play and continues to move laterally with square shoulders. He then wraps up through the tackle and continues to drive his legs to ensure the ball carrier doesn’t get any extra yards after contact.
He’s a great player off of the DL, but also takes away a lot of lanes of his own by taking good angles on outside runs. It’s one of the reasons why he recorded over 220 tackles in the last two seasons as Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker. When reading the play, he excels at mirroring the running back, allowing him to beat the blockers to their spot and blow up the play.
McMillan is not only a very skilled run-stopping backer, but he also shows good awareness in the passing game. He lacks the athleticism of some of the top LB’s in this class, but he is quick to diagnose whether a play is a pass or a run. He is best in intermediate zone coverage, which suits the Dolphins well; he’s also proven that he can be good when isolated on a RB in man coverage as seen below.
McMillan is a great tackler and is at his best when he is already moving toward the ball carrier in anticipation of meeting him at a specific spot. However, McMillan tends to struggle when the ball carrier has the time and space to make the first move. McMillan, like most guys his size, lacks the agility to stay with shifty ball carriers and receivers in space.
Teams were able to get McMillan into space and exploit this by using reverses and screens against Ohio State, often resulting in big plays for the offense.
How He Fits With The Dolphins:
It’s hard to imagine Raekwon McMillan going in the first round of this year’s draft. However, he can still be a productive LB as a top 50 pick and would be a huge steal in the second round for the Dolphins at pick No. 54. The question some have about McMillan at the next level is if he can become a three-down middle linebacker. I think he can be, but I also think that’s the wrong concern to have. With teams playing in a nickel scheme about 60% of the time on defense, the days of needing a three down middle LB are ending. I think the question instead should be, “is this guy better at his job than our current player at the same position?” And in the Dolphins’ case, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” The Dolphins boasted one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL last year, yet ranked 30th in the league vs. the run giving up over 140+ yards/game on the ground.
McMillan is a great fit for the Dolphins’ current personnel and coaching staff. New Dolphins DC Matt Burke has always had the big, thumping prototypical MLB to pair with his big bodied DT’s on front line. With Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Dolphins’ big defensive front taking on most of the work, Raekwon, a physical, fundamentally sound MLB, will be able to do what he does best — Stop the run.