The Texans have a great inside linebacker tandem with Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney. Zach Cunningham though is getting all the hype but here I will tell you why McKinney may be the one you want.
On this week’s IDPGuys Podcast I touched on the fact that Todd Davis is one of the most overlooked linebackers in the fantasy community. I went as far as to say that he was my potato salad, a food I love but not many do. Another linebacker vastly overlooked is Benardrick McKinney of the Houston Texans. McKinney can easily be a LB2 on your fantasy team with the numbers he has consistently put up and may even be the best linebacker on his team, though many beg to differ. McKinney is the Texans linebacker to own. Let’s take a look shall we?
McKinney VS. Cunningham
In virtually all fantasy communities when asked which linebacker you would rather have, Benardrick McKinney or Zach Cunningham, most say Cunningham. Now this may be because Cunningham has been said to have the better potential for stardom than McKinney or it may just be because his name is just mentioned more. Some say that Cunningham is better in coverage than McKinney.
Zach Cunningham is said to be the superior linebacker in coverage between him and McKinney. McKinney made great strides in 2018 though that allowed him to say on the field even with employing many three safety sets last season. In coverage Zach Cunningham produced five passes defended, an interception and a touchdown. McKinney was able to produce seven passes defended and an interception. Outside of the pick six McKinney actually made more plays than Cunningham in coverage.
Tackle and Pass Rush Stats
When looking at the tackle numbers the two are virtually identical. Since Cunningham has entered the league in 2017 he has 189 total tackles. McKinney totaled 200 total tackles during that time. When it comes to pass rush McKinney is your pick of the two. In these two seasons he has 4.5 sacks and 13 QB hits in comparison to Cunningham’s 1.5 sacks and 4 QB hits. McKinney also has a five sack season under his belt and 10.5 for his career.
When looking at the two try to see which player the team trusts more. McKinney is a better run stopper and pass rusher while being capable in coverage. He stays on the field much more than Cunningham does. For comparison, Cunningham saw 79.4% of the teams snaps in 2017 and saw that drop to 70.4% in 2018, most likely due to the three safety sets the team ran. McKinney was in on 93.7% of the team’s snaps in 2017 and that only dropped to 86.1% in 2018.
His ability to rush the passer in passing sets and solid tackle ability allows him to stay on the field when Cunningham leaves the field. In 2018 Cunningham was not even #2 in linebacker snaps as both Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus played more snaps than him. McKinney has led the team in linebacker snaps since his first year as a full-time starter in 2016.
McKinney may not be getting all the hype that Cunningham is but he earned himself a Pro Bowl invite this past season. The team has full trust in him in being the teams only true 3-down linebacker. He makes just as many plays if not more than Zach Cunningham. When looking at when the two are drafted, IDPGuys.org has Cunnigham’s ADP at 130.50 and LB17 in IDP and offensive combined drafts. McKinney has an ADP of 168 and LB26.
If you have the choice at 130 to go linebacker or another position of need, go the other position. You can get the more productive of the two linebackers a full 38 picks and nine linebackers later. McKinney is the Texans linebacker you should target and also the better priced of the two.
McKinney’s ADP Value
As just mentioned McKinney’s ADP on IDPGuys.org is 168 and LB26. Let’s take a look at some of the linebackers being drafted before him, outside of his running mate Zach Cunningham.
T.J. Watt- ADP 154.50 and LB24
T.J. Watt is being drafted at 154.50 and LB24, two LB spots ahead of McKinney. Though Watt had great sack numbers in 2018 with 13, he is very sack dependent. When drafting my LB2 I do not want to take the risk of having a sack dependent linebacker as he only had 68 total tackles in 2018. If his sack numbers drop, his value drastically drops. When drafting linebackers I very rarely draft outside linebackers and never will for my LB2. McKinney is more consistent and yet still dropping below Watt.
Alec Ogletree- ADP 131 and LB18
Alec Ogletree is being drafted at 131 and LB18 right behind Cunningham. Ogletree though is not the same linebacker he was with the Rams. Had it not been for the five interceptions and two touchdowns for Ogletree his fantasy season would not have been too great. With only 95 total tackles on a team with zero other tackle talent, it looks like his career is heading the wrong direction. McKinney had 12 more tackles, 0.5 sack more, one more QB hit than Ogletree.
The only category Ogletree had a clear advantage of was interceptions and I do not foresee him coming up with five more next season as his previous career high was only two. Ogletree only had one more pass defended more than McKinney and only one more tackle for a loss. The Giants added two capable in Ryan Connelly and Josiah Tauaefa though the two may not make much impact in 2019. Lorenzo Carter though should make a nice leap for 2019 as well as B.J. Goodson who should be a full-time starter in 2019. Both could eat into Ogletree’s production and McKinney is the better option and 37 spots and eight linebackers after Ogletree.
Eric Kendricks- ADP 121.5 and LB15
Eric Kendricks was drafted in the same draft as McKinney and both have been solid linebackers for their respective teams. Both were full-time starters from 2016 to the present. Since 2016 Kendricks has totaled 330 tackles (200 solo), 22 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 22 passes defended, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns. McKinney during the same time totaled 329 tackles (204 solo), 23 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 10 passes defended, one interception, and three forced fumbles.
So for comparison Kendricks had one more total tackle but four less solo tackles. McKinney had one more tackle for a loss than Kendricks did and five more sacks. Kendricks had 12 more passes defended than McKinney though they had the same amount in 2018. Kendricks had three more interceptions than McKinney. McKinney had one more forced fumble while Kendricks had two more fumble recoveries. The only thing Kendricks had that McKinney did not were the two touchdowns.
When looking at the two you are comparing apple to oranges. The Vikings did not make any additions that will impact Kendricks play. The Texans actually lost 176 tackles from the team with the departures of Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson who both played near the line of scrimmage at times. Their departure could lead to even more tackles for McKinney yet Kendricks is being drafted about 47 spots ahead of McKinney and 11 linebackers before him.
Von Miller- ADP 106.75 and LB12
Here we go with yet another outside linebacker being drafted almost as a top 10 linebacker. Miller has consistently be a double-digit sack guy and if he played defensive end he would be one of the first taken. He lines up at linebacker and if we are talking about drafting outside linebackers he would not even be the first of those for me taken. It would be either T.J. Watt or Khalil Mack. For Miller to be going a full 60 spots and 14 linebackers before McKinney is pure blasphemy. McKinney more than doubled Miller’s tackle output and passes defended. Let others jump on the Miller train while you ride the McKinney one to glory.
Looking at McKinney’s ADP at the moment he could be an absolute steal. If you can wait all the way to 168 to draft your LB2 that means you were able to load up at the other skill positions. Not only did he produce over 100 tackles again for the Texans but he showed vast improvement in coverage in 2018 with a career high seven passes defended and also came up with his first career interception.
McKinney has also averaged playing on 90.13% of the teams defensive snaps since he became a full-time starter in 2016. Zach Cunningham has played just under 75% of the teams defensive snaps since becoming a starter. McKinney’s usage has me taking him over Cunningham and I may be the only guy. McKinney stays on the field and the team lost 176 tackles in the secondary and he could be one of the beneficiaries. 2019 has the chance to be McKinney’s best yet and he is a legitimate LB2 be drafted as the LB26. Be the guy to draft him and load up elsewhere, it is a bold yet very smart strategy.