2017 NFL Draft Grades: Atlanta Falcons Trade Up For Takkarist McKinley

Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; UCLA defensive end Takkarist Mckinley speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; UCLA defensive end Takkarist Mckinley speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Falcons sent a warning by trading up in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to nab Takkarist McKinley.

Ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft, there were several rumors swirling of the Atlanta Falcons potentially trading their first-round pick (No. 31) to move up a few slots so they could get ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys and nab an elite pass rusher. Well, it turns out that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Atlanta traded the No. 31, No. 95 (third round), and No. 249 (seventh round) picks for the 26th overall pick from the Seattle Seahawks. At that spot, the pick was UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley. The smoke signal wasn’t a cry for help. Rather, it was a warning to the other 31 teams that the Falcons are on the hunt for a Super Bowl.

Takkarist McKinley didn’t let a difficult life at home and a childhood riddled with impoverishment and violence prevent him from fulfilling the promise he made to  the woman that raised him, his grandmother, as she laid on her deathbed. He vowed that he’d play Division I football and make it to the NFL. McKinley delivered on his promise, bringing a picture of her onto the stage with him and overcome with passion and emotion in the moment.

During his senior year at UCLA, McKinley recorded 10 sacks and 61 tackles (18 for a loss which was a team-high). As a result of his standout performance, he was named First-Team All-Pac-12.

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He stands to carry that success with him to the Atlanta Falcons. The 6-2, 250-pound defensive end is absolutely relentless in his game and has ideal size, strength, impressive speed, versatility, and athleticism. At the Combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds. McKinley will complement Vic Beasley who, like the UCLA player, also had a breakout year in 2016. Beasley finished the season with a league-high 15.5 sacks.

In addition to his physical skills, McKinley has the intangibles that the Altanta Falcons need and are looking for.

Before the draft, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said, via The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Of course, I’ve said this time and again: We aren’t looking for angels. We are looking for guys who are real. We are looking for guys who ultimately will fit into the brotherhood. … We are particular about looking at the character situation and how they fit. It’s a big thing, of course.”

B+. . DE. Atlanta Falcons. TAKKARIST MCKINLEY

After he was selected, McKinley was clearly emotional, as to be expected, and dropped the F-bomb when discussing his promise to his grandmother. While he’s likely to be fined for doing so, this shows something that cannot be taught — his passion for the game. Would it be wise for him to leave all of that energy onto the field and attack opposing offenses? Yes.

However, he is human and his post-draft interview touched many, while also showing a side of him that’s not seen on tape. He’s motivated, strong, and passionate about the game yet still raw and healing from past injuries. He’s still in recovery after shoulder surgery in March and will be limited in his offseason workouts, but it’s also clear that the trauma and wounds of his childhood haven’t healed completely.

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Yet, regardless of how soon he plays, Tarakkist McKinley has already impacted the Altanta Falcons and their fans and will continue to do so. He, like Vic Beasley, has the potential to be a lead pass-rusher for the Atlanta Falcons both this upcoming season and for many more. And he won’t let anything deter him. NFL teams are officially on notice; the Atlanta Falcons are ready for an a-Takk, so others need to prepare.