Marquan McCall NFL Draft Profile
It has been said that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Marquan McCall‘s performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl proves that axiom true. It was apparent that he was absolutely prepared to take full advantage of the opportunity to play in front of NFL Scouts in Las Vegas. And as a result, he is getting a lot of attention and his draft stock is on the way up.
McCall’s preparation for this opportunity included dropping 40 pounds before the 2021 season. He dropped the weight quickly, which shows discipline and commitment. Often there is a trade-off between weight loss and strength. This doesn’t seem to be the case with McCall. Early in the 2021 season, he was getting All-Conference hyper and in the Citrus Bowl, McCall bullied Iowa’s projected first-round center Tyler Linderbaum all game long.
McCall also had to overcome an ankle injury that kept him out of several big games in the middle of the season. He missed playing in a nationally televised game against the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs and also missed the game against Tennessee, a divisional and historic rival. The Wildcats went 1-3 while he was out. Those were the only games the Wildcats lost all season. The injury made the Shrine Bowl all the more important for McCall.
In his college career, McCall played in 40 career games with 11 starts. He totaled 57 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one pass breakup.
It is fitting that the venue for the bowl game in Las Vegas, a town built on a very different definition of luck. Going by that definition, luck has nothing to do with McCall’s success in the desert.
Top Three Player Traits
McCall’s teammates know him as Bully. And that nickname isn’t like when you call the big biker Tiny. It’s just an accurate representation of what McCall does to offensive linemen. The bullying starts with his explosive first step. When he wins, he then uses his formidable upper body strength to bull rush the center into the backfield.
His advantage physically is twofold. One, he is just stronger than most opponents. Two, his motor is constantly rev’d up. He simply won’t be out hustled on the field. That certainly made him stand out. He hustled from whistle to whistle regardless of the drill.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said of McCall, “He’s one of those guys that brings the energy, brings the juice.” While his play caught the eye of all in attendance at the Shrine Bowl, the first thing everyone noticed was McCall’s presence.
What does that look like? What is the ‘juice’ exactly? It’s hard to define, but McCall brings it and backs it up with his play. He’s laughing, he’s jawing, he’s hyping, he’s dancing, he celebrates and he makes plays.
It is infectious and it automatically puts him in a leadership position. After a hard-fought one-on-one battle, things got heated between an edge rusher and a tackle. McCall was the first one in the middle of the scrum to break it up. After things cooled off, he was the one encouraging the edge rusher, helping him get back in the right frame of mind.
It certainly isn’t something quantifiable, but teams need players like McCall. They call them glue-guys, hype men, temperature setters. The rest of the quote from Coach Stoops sums it up well, “Players like seeing him, they’re more confident with him on the field. So, he means a lot to our group.”
Simply put, this is what McCall does. He clogs the A-gaps and stops the run. As a dominant force at the nose tackle, he will take care of business on his own upfront. This makes him ideal for a Fangio/Staley style of defense that is sweeping the league.
He is a sure tackler and his ability to penetrate puts him in the right place to create tackles for loss. His physicality would allow him to play well in a gap and a half system. This will also open up opportunities for others in the interior pass rush.
Three Traits to Improve On
McCall would benefit from adding some bend in his game. While it isn’t as important as with edge rushers, it would help him as a pass rusher. It would give him some more versatility to play wider techniques. McCall is a fantastic nose guard but has the potential to play the one and two technique as well. But in order to do that he will have to improve his ability to rotate and to get around blockers.
McCall generates his bull rush with his legs and his core strength. It was effective for him in college, but in the NFL he will need to learn to use his hands to control the blocker off the snap. Improving his punch timing will allow him to get under his blockers pad and give him leverage to impose his will
McCall’s strength and lack of arm length make him a natural chest-to-chest defender. What this means is the blocker is harder for him to shake. Improving his punch and flexibility will aid in getting separation from blockers. He has some impressive hand skills when it comes to disengaging, but refinement is needed. That will help him become more consistent in all areas of the game.
Overall, McCall is a solid day three prospect that could be a consistent role player. He’s not a difference-maker but could be a strong backup in the right situation.