Unless you’ve been living under a heavy rock, you are aware that the Atlanta Falcons are in search of a pass rusher for their young, athletic defense. In a draft that has a nice collection of quarterback chasers, the Falcons have an opportunity to add a vital component to the defense.
Recently, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has held private workouts for Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers and Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon. Both are athletic specimens and will be available in case the Falcons choose to target a pass rusher in rounds two or three.
Sitting at 31st overall, there’s a number of edge rushers the Falcons may have a crack at. One in particular fits what the Falcons need on this defense: a versatile pass rusher who has distinctive athleticism. UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley fits the criteria in Atlanta. His selection at 31st overall can give Atlanta another athletic freak to team with Vic Beasley Jr. and hunt quarterbacks.
Let’s break down McKinley’s skill set.
Takkarist McKinley Scouting Report
Weight: 250 lbs
Strengths: McKinley has an impressive, athletic frame, especially given his ‘freakish’ ability and skill set. While he timed a head-turning 4.59 40-yard dash, it was his 10-yard split of 1.61 that had the scouts talking. During his senior season in 2016, McKinley raked in 10 sacks plus 18.5 tackles for loss, six pass deflections and three forced fumbles. When viewing his tape, you can’t miss his constant hustle and relentlessness. His burst off the ball threatens opposing linemen who are flat-footed and/or unable to get their hands properly on him. Once he is locked on his target, McKinley has a closing burst that gets to the ball carry in a hurry.
In this GIF, McKinley displays his ability to maneuver around a wide chop block by the tackle with good balance and awareness. His ability to recover pays off as he closes in on the QB to cause a key turnover.
McKinley also shows proper bend around the edge and can covert from speed-to-power. Exceptional arm length at 34 3⁄4 inches pays off when he is able to cause strip-sacks even when he’s unable to fully get to the quarterback. On run defense, the quickness by McKinley can disrupt run plays and can chase down run plays heading opposite his direction. What is be scary about McKinley is that he may just be scratching the surface of his potential.
Weaknesses: Even with his obvious athleticism, his overall technique is off. Small things such as high pad level and lack of active hands are things he needs to tighten on at the next level. It seems he almost depends on his speed and athleticism on every play. His lack of pass rushing techniques holds him back as a defensive end. He has the room to improve his overall strength, which can hinder him tremendously in the NFL.
His recent shoulder surgery will keep him out for some time, roughly six months at the most. Taking him at 31st is a real possibility with his draft stock sliding slightly because of the surgery. Many also question his production. Granted, he started off the JUCO route. However, he only has two seasons of reliable work.
Conclusion: It’s understandable if some question if McKinley is worth a long-term position on their team. He does not have a ton of production, with his senior year (in which he earned first team All-Pac 12 honors), being his only resume building stat sheet thus far.
However, the Combine showed a glimpse of what McKinley has to offer. There is no mistake about it, he is very athletic and has considerable upside.
He is also capable of being a piece at both the LEO and base defensive end position. The potential tandem of McKinley and Beasley can allow Quinn and the defensive staff to have two freakish athletic pass rushers on the field at once. Something Atlanta did not quite have last season. His technique needs polish and his shoulder surgery needs monitoring. Yet, taking McKinley at 31st overall will bring the Falcons a unique dynamic to the table. If he is there, it is a possibility that Atlanta is the next destination for McKinley.