Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is linebacker. The Falcons return a handful of players from last year’s squad—though the status of Deion Jones is uncertain—and also added a number of veterans and a second-round rookie in Troy Andersen.
Next up, 2020 fourth-rounder Mykal Walker.
LB Mykal Walker
Contract: $1.08M cap hit in 2022, rookie contract through 2023
Career Production: 33 games played, 8 games started | 45 total tackles, 31 solo, 1.0 TFL, 1 FF, 8.75% MTR | 4 total pressures, 5 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD
2021 Production: 17 games played, 2 games started | 35 total tackles, 17 solo, 12.5% MTR | 2 total pressures, 4 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD, 75.0% completion rate allowed, 77.6 passer rating allowed | 71.3 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 4th Round (119th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020-present)
The Falcons are on the verge of a total tear-down at linebacker, but one player who will almost certainly be sticking around is Mykal Walker. The penultimate fourth-round pick of the DQ/TD regime in the 2020 NFL Draft, Walker played a rotational role in his rookie season. He performed admirably on limited snaps, which led to some high expectations for his second season.
A scheme change under Dean Pees seemingly slowed his growth a bit, as Walker played less than 200 snaps as a reserve during the 2021 season. Much like 2020, however, Walker’s few snaps were encouraging—particularly in coverage, where he held opposing passers to a 77.6 passer rating and notched a pick-six. He did regress a bit as a tackler, with a disappointing 12.5% missed tackle rate (MTR). But considering he posted an exceptionally low MTR in his rookie year (4.3%) on almost twice as many snaps, I’m hoping 2021 will be an outlier.
Once again, we’re entering the summer with high hopes for the promising young linebacker. Walker, at least in theory, should be a strong fit for the 3-4 defense. His experience playing off-ball and on the line of scrimmage, combined with his coverage acumen, should make him a well-rounded piece who can be deployed in a variety of creative ways by Dean Pees.
Projection: Mykal Walker is a virtual roster lock and a contender for one of the starting spots at linebacker. Even if he doesn’t win the job outright, Walker should function as a primary sub-package player in coverage situations.