SAN DIEGO -- UCLA edge rusher Takkarist McKinley doesn’t mince words when asked about his No. 1 priority on the football field.
"I'm here to get the quarterback," McKinley told reporters at the NFL scouting combine in February. "The league now is a passing league. They need young guys who can get to the quarterback and I feel I'm the best pass-rusher in this draft class to do that."
McKinley certainly did that well during his final season with the Bruins, recording 61 tackles -- including 18 tackles for loss -- and 10 sacks.
McKinley’s performance earned him first-team All-Pac 12 honors. The Bay Area native was even more impressive at the scouting combine. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, McKinley ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, the fifth-fastest of any defensive lineman or linebacker in Indianapolis.
NFL teams will have concerns about McKinley’s limited playing time at edge rusher and his injury history. McKinley opted to have surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum and fractured glenoid (shoulder socket) in March.
The surgery was performed by nationally renowned shoulder specialist Dr. Peter Millett. McKinley said his recovery time should be four months, and he’s hopeful to be ready to go by training camp.
"[Teams'] biggest thing was 'What's the plan?'" McKinley said. "They knew about the surgery before the combine; it’s everybody else that didn’t know. So their biggest thing was, what is the plan and how am I going to treat it? So, once they figured that out, then they could worry about what I can do on the field.
"I just know that it’s fixed, so in about four months from now I’ll be ready to hit the field again."
UCLA has placed a handful of productive front-seven players in the pros of late, including Anthony Barr, Datone Jones, Cassius Marsh and Kenny Clark. Bruins head coach Jim Mora believes McKinley could follow in those players’ footsteps with a little seasoning.
"He's got a tremendous upside still," Mora said. "We take tremendous pride in sending guys out that aren't 'raw.' Takk, with all the success he's had here, really just kind of started playing that position, so he’s got good upside. I think the scouts and decision-makers recognize that, and they love that about him."
However, the Chargers placed the franchise tag on Ingram and have not secured a long-term deal on the South Carolina product, so they could use some insurance at that position.
McKinley probably does not make sense at No. 7. However, the Chargers could trade up late in the first round or take a closer look at McKinley in the second round if he’s still on the board in Day 2 of the draft.
McKinley would be a good fit as a Leo defensive end (pass-rusher) in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme with his natural pass-rush skills and relentless motor. And teams can never have enough pass-rushers.
McKinley said he had 26 formal interviews at the combine, and talked with Chargers assistant defensive line coach Eric Henderson.
"Football is very important to him," Mora said. "He’s passionate about the game, and he’s passionate about improving in every way."