The Atlanta Falcons traded up to select UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley in the first round of the NFL draft tonight. McKinley is a speedy (4.59 40 yard dash), high motor football player with an amazing story. Think Michael Oher overcame adversity to make it to the NFL? Try living Takk’s life: his dad was a non-factor, his mom abandoned him at age 5, and after he didn’t qualify academically coming out of high school, he made a promise to his dying grandmother that he’d play Division 1 football and eventually go pro.
Takk was recruited to UCLA by Falcons linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich. (Ulbrich was their linebackers coach from 2012 until 2014.) That should tell you much of what you need to know about Takk fitting in with the Falcons defense. Simply put, the Falcons have a specific role in mind for the feisty quarterback killer. (Watch him talk and tell me he doesn’t remind you of Shark Lavay from “Any Given Sunday.”)
Takk has solid raw tools and he’s an elite athlete that will do whatever the coaching staff asks him to do. That said, he’s going to need some seasoning and right now his future role isn’t entirely clear. Will he stay at defensive end? Will they use him, at least at first, as a situational pass rusher?
Takk is currently recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent in early March. It’s possible he could be back for training camp. It’s also possible he could miss some regular season games. I expect we’ll hear more about that soon; certainly his ongoing recover could impact his immediate role.