We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. The third group I’ll be examining is LB, where the Falcons lost starter De’Vondre Campbell to free agency and drafted Mykal Walker in the fourth round. Just how good can the LB corps be without Campbell in 2020?
Today, we take a closer look at the Falcons’ fourth-round draft pick and potential successor to De’Vondre Campbell in 2020: Mykal Walker.
LB Mykal Walker
Age: 22 (23 during 2020 season)
Contract: $796K cap hit in 2020 (projected), rookie contract through 2023 ($1M APY)
Career Production: 26 games played | 182 total tackles, 22.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT, 10 PD, 3 FF (College)
2019 Production: 12 games played | 96 total tackles, 9.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 4 PD, 1 FF (College)
Previous Teams: Drafted 4th round (#119 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020)
After losing veteran and long-time starter De’Vondre Campbell in free agency—which was a foregone conclusion after Deion Jones got his mega-deal—the Falcons needed to find a way to replace Campbell’s role in the defense. Due to their extremely tight cap situation, they also needed to find a way to do it for a low cost. If you’re looking for upside and a low cap hit, there’s no better place to find it than the NFL draft, which is where Atlanta found Mykal Walker.
The team’s fourth-round pick, Walker is similar to Campbell in many ways. Both are big-bodied athletes at the LB position coming from smaller programs, and both look like prototypical 4-3 SAM types. While Campbell has slightly better size and athleticism, Walker is a more polished player who has experience playing at several spots in the front seven. Walker actually began his career as an EDGE player, and transitioned to a primary role at LB during the 2019 season.
In terms of playstyle and fit in the Falcons defense, Walker should be able to assume the role vacated by Campbell pretty early in his career. His experience at EDGE could make him a more effective SAM than Campbell, who primarily played WILL during his time in Atlanta. Walker’s versatility also gives him depth potential for multiple spots on the defense: he has the range to play MIKE/WILL, and also the size and pass rushing chops to play SAM. Just like Campbell, Walker has the potential to step into an impact role early in his NFL career—particularly with a strong LB coach like Jeff Ulbrich showing him the ropes.
Assuming Foyesade Oluokun can take a step forward in 2020, Walker probably doesn’t need to play more than a rotational role in his rookie season. But there’s no question that Walker might wind up being Atlanta’s best option to cover TEs due to his size and athleticism, and his versatility and experience could lead to early production in his career.
Projection: Mykal Walker is slated to be the third LB in the Falcons rotation, and will probably be the primary option at SAM in base packages. Expect to see him spell Foyesade Oluokun in TE coverage situations, too. How effective Walker is in limited action early in the season will likely determine how big of a role he earns throughout 2020.