If McKinley is as good as he is emotional, Falcons chose well

Takkarist McKinley of UCLA reacts after being picked 26th overall by the Falcons during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Of all the things that potentially could go wrong with an NFL draft pick, the Falcons can at least be certain about this regarding Takkarist McKinley: Passion and emotion won’t be a problem.

One more joy-fueled expletive, and the kid was going to spontaneously combust on stage Thursday night.

McKinley, who led UCLA with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss this season, despite a significant shoulder injury, had the most emotion-fueled entrance of all the first-round draft picks Thursday night. After he was picked by the Falcons, he walked across a makeshift stage outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, clutching a large picture of his late grandmother, Myrtle Collins. She raised him in the Oakland area until dying of heart complications in 2011.

McKinley then became a draft-night, social-media sensation as he launched into an emotional recap of his difficult upbringing, what his grandmother meant to him, how they used to watch pro “rasslin'” together and the accomplishment of being drafted. He sprinkled in a few choice expletives.

“I probably went on stage and said a few curse words — I probably got fined already before I got my contract,” McKinley joked later of his on-stage interview with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders of the NFL Network, a former Falcon. “I have to be able to control that emotion.”

But the Falcons would rather have it that way than having to pull something out of him. Otherwise, you’re left with ghosts of drafts past: Aundray Bruce, Jamaal Anderson, name your slug.

The Falcons wanted McKinley. He was among “four or five” players they targeted in the first round. But when a string of defensive players starting flying off the board — Florida linebacker Jarred Davis at 20, Missouri defensive end Charles Harris at 21, Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers at 24 — they knew they couldn’t sit and wait and hope somebody fell to them at 31.

So general manager Thomas Dimitroff sacrificed third- and seventh-round picks in a trade so they could swap picks with Seattle at 26th, moving up five spots to take McKinley. There was a belief, certainly by McKinley, that he was going to be taken by “the team with the star” — the Dallas Cowboys — at 27th if the Falcons didn’t take him.

Dimitroff said later he started thinking trade around pick No. 20. He didn’t hesitate to give up a third-round pick, even though that leaves the Falcons with only three more picks in the next two days of the draft (round Nos. 2, 4, 5).

“We were targeting pass rushers,” Dimitroff said. “We had four or five guys throughout we were going to target, and we got some intel it was going to be nip and tuck. A number of good defensive players were going. We went in thinking we were going to be in the mid-20s.”

McKinley has an amazing life story. But Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn, who have sought a pass rusher to compliment Vic Beasley, were mostly taken by his on-field performance, toughness, speed and passion.

He played for nearly two seasons with significant shoulder injuries at UCLA — a torn labrum and a fractured socket, both of which weren’t diagnosed until after the 2016 season, even though the injuries came in 2015. He had surgery in early March. He said at the time that doctors expected the rehabilitation to be four to six months.

So, yes, health could be an issue. Six months would be right about the time of the season opener.

But the Falcons are confident he’ll be ready in time for the season, and they’re convinced he’ll develop into a standout. Otherwise they wouldn’t have given up so many assets. Because they’ve been right so often in the past two drafts, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

“We’re excited to add another guy who has the run-and-hit factor in full effect,” Quinn said.

McKinley has overcome worst things than an injury. He was homeless and lived in poverty. He grew up without his father and was abandoned by his mother. It’s a story he will share in full again when he arrives in Atlanta, but he hit on the high and low points after the draft.

“This means every (expletive) thing to me! Excuse my language. Fine me later, man. Fine me later. This means everything to me!” he said on stage.

And later, speaking of his grandmother and his upbringing: “I probably wouldn’t be here without her. Just to come this far. Born in Oakland. Raised in Richmond, California. A lot of people don’t make it this far. A lot of people got talent. But they don’t get the opportunity I have. So I did this for my grandma. I did this for my family. I did this for my city. … Before she passed away I told her I was going to get out of Richmond, I was going to get out of Oakland, I was going to go (to a Division I school) and I was going to make it to the NFL. About 30 seconds later she closed her eyes and passed way. That promise meant everything to me. I could’ve easily given up. I could’ve easily gone the street route – the gangs, the guns, the drugs. I stuck with it. I did it for her.”

Later on a video conference call with Atlanta media members,  McKinley retold some of story, then was asked about what he knew about the Falcons.

“I do know they had the Patriots 28-3, and they ran out of gas,” he said. Yeah, We remember.

McKinley will need to get bigger. The Falcons list him at 6-4, 230 pounds. He was listed at 250 pounds at the recent scouting combine. But from Quinn: “He has the traits we’re looking for. And he’s a finisher.”

Regarding his new player’s emotional television interview, Quinn smiled and said, “We’ll appreciate that kind of enthusiasm. As we were first looking at it, we were pumped that he was a part of our team. I love that kind of passion. The energy he brings to a team and a locker room. As for as dealing with the media, well … maybe we need a cool-down period at the draft.”

SEE ALSO: Falcons’ drafts have become comfortable days since Dan Quinn’s arrival

SEE ALSO: Draft day blog: Falcons, Quinn still need to be thinking about defense 

Subscribe to the,We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.

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41 comments
atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

Falcons will have a dangerously nasty offense and a dangerously dangerous defense...I smell 15-1 And a super bowl. ..and atlanta will explode in joy...

OH:IO
OH:IO

How many dogs were drafted?


One


woof 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

How many points did ohio st score vs Clemson?

ZERO!

Whiff

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Here's what I know a lot of times well informed fans still don't know much. Let's see how this draft shakes out. Plus there will be a couple of undrafted free agents that will make the team.

gaweyayo
gaweyayo

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Jonathan N
Jonathan N

I'm not sure he fits the Falcons culture.  Here's a guy going all Richard Sherman on live TV ranting, drops an F bomb, says "sorry --not sorry", then says "fine me".  The guy has not even signed a contract yet and ALREADY is in that "fine me" mode???  


I hope he does not turn out to be a huge pain for the team.  I hope his passion does translate to performance on the field.  Something tells me this is not going to work out well for the Falcons.  

yulawiwit
yulawiwit

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Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

The pick I give an A-. The trade is a D+. So unnecessary.

Dimitroff just gets off on trading up.

GTBob
GTBob

@Dsyelxia I disagree. If the Falcons wanted to get a quality pass rusher in the first round then they pretty much had to trade up. 

Jupiter_Jim
Jupiter_Jim

@GTBob @Dsyelxia This team does not have a lot of holes.  A pass rusher opposite Beasley was one.  They addressed it.  They will most likely address a replacement for Chris Chester next. If your team is close to winning big, I don't see a problem with trading up.

David
David

I like the pick. Pass rush is still an issue with this team. Even with Vic leading the league in sacks we still were 16th in the league . I am not in love with getting rid of the third round pick to get him, but I do think if we didn't draft him Dallas would have. So if he is the guy we wanted I am ok with giving Quinn and company the benefit of the doubt. Now lets get a guard in the 2nd round and fill the last major hole. Rise Up!

Contractor1
Contractor1

I do not think this was a smart pick.  Trade down five spots for him?  Willing to bet $1000 he would have still been on the board at 31.  Every article I have read has given the pick a C+ grade, which I think is generous.  I would have taken Reuben Foster who essentially fell in your lap, or even a Cam Robinson who was the best left tackle in the draft.  We've hit on a few selections in the past, but looking at our draft's, we've wasted a lot of good picks.

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

@Contractor1 Yeah great idea. Spend a 1st round pick on a guy who got kicked out of the combine.


It doesn't matter how talented a player is physically if he's a mental case between the ears. See Manziel and Josh Gordon.


sacks
sacks

I still don't get it..No O.C...2 tight ends with shoulder problems..How did the front office improve the team again??  Really?

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

It's a 3rd round pick to move 5 spots in the first round. Who cares about the 7th round pick when you are picking at the end of each round?


If DQ felt he was worth a 3rd round pick I'm not going to nitpick over it.

Contractor1
Contractor1

@peanutgallery


He still would have been around at 31 is the point!  We still could have drafted a killer player in the 3rd round.

斯科特 · 格里尔 Scott Grier
斯科特 · 格里尔 Scott Grier

@Contractor1 @peanutgallery 017  dose  not have  the best class of players .But i trust coach Quinn to select the best players for his team out of each draft . And coach  have done a amazing job to-date .

Keanu Neal,Deion Jones,Austin Hooper,Vondre Campbell

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

@Contractor1 @peanutgallery You don't know that. Dallas and Pittsburgh picked DE/OLB prior to the Falcon's pick. Maybe DQ saw something in him worth giving up a 3rd round pick.

Reidtt
Reidtt

Trade 3 draft picks for a guy that's hurt. Perfect Falcons pick.

Classof98
Classof98

Yeah I guess Jerry Rice, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders weren't "passionate".  


Give me a break.  

Classof98
Classof98

By the way, his grandmother died in 2001?  How old is this guy?  Does he even remember her?  Who raised him for the other 15 years of his childhood?

creative
creative

@Classof98 That's what I was thinking. What year are we in.  What is going on here?  I get it you loved your grandmother.  I loved my Nanny and papa too.  I hope he works out, and can get pressure on the QB.  Pull it together dude. This is a sign of someone that is emotionally unstable.  My grandmother died when I was 4 and I made her a promise.  Silliness.   

David
David

@creative @Classof98 I believe that this is a typo in the article. The other articles I have read said that she passed away in 2011. 

slydawg
slydawg

Gee, the only person who gave a flip about this guy passed away when he was small and you guys are making such a humongous deal about it. To snob such as yourself he's just another poor black kid with a crackhead mother who never knew his father. As if you were going to front him the money and help him fulfill his dreams for the past 16 years. Just chill out by your tickets in your seat and cheer when he sacked the quarterback.

slydawg
slydawg

If the pic was TJ Watt and he did the exact same thing the words emotionally unstable but not have escaped your keyboard.

slydawg
slydawg

U by the way the article contains a typo she passed away in 2011

noname
noname

There was half your draft class on one pick. I see that without Kyle's pushing they have returned to the ignore the O-line mindset. It will be hard for Ryan to stay a MVP caliber QB passing under constant pressure as we saw from 2013 - 15.

slydawg
slydawg

Haters must eat breakfast early. Anyway, taking into account the acquisitions of the other teams in the division, this was a need pick. The Falcons got lucky and outscored everyone until they literally ran out of gas. You've got to get stops in this league in order to win championships. With the same bend but don't break​defense, they might not make it out of the division. BTW, where has that All Pro offensive line gotten the Cowboys? How many high caliber offensive line prospects does New England have? The type of player who the Falcons need to play guard in their system needs feet and hands like a tackle. They don't need prime meat when they already have 4 good steaks on the grill. Just plug in a good scheme fit in the 2nd (Cam Robinson)(Dan Feeney) or 4th (Dion Dawkins) all of whom will most likely be available when they pick. Personally, I'd go with Desmond King, CB/S, again, based on the NFC South matchups alone.

Contractor1
Contractor1

@slydawg


A need pick?  He would have been there five picks later.  No one was jumping up or even thinking about taking him in the first round.  Plus, we would have been better taking Cam Robinson or Reuben Foster to shore up some soft spots.  There are still going to be plenty of pass rushers available in the 2nd and third rounds.  Just admit it was a whiff and move on with your day.

slydawg
slydawg

1. I'm not a big fan of how Dimitroff conducts the draft, especially trading up to get players who fall in your lap because of others stupidity.

2. That being said, go get your guy, the especially when you don't have a lot of holes.

3. The entire draft is based off of potential, not college football results. I know, I know, but this isn't average Joe's job offering either. It's common sense to grab a player with more upside than just any player with name recognition who so happens to fall in the draft process for whatever given reason.

4. As much as I preferred Foster, the Falcons don't "need" a special talent like Foster, a pure linebacker, they didn't need a premium left tackle Cam Robinson, but they needed a pretty sure thing in an edge rusher opposite Beasley. Plus, there is a coaching staff connection (Jeff Ulbricht)....

Like many others, I thought the trade was for Foster, but at least the pick was not a total surprise like others. The greatest Falcons whiff of all time will forever be letting Adrien Peterson go the Vikings back in 2006. Nothing will ever top that.

slydawg
slydawg

Did you prefer another quiet grannyboy like Beasley, not that it's a bad thing?

Contractor1
Contractor1

@slydawg


Actually yes, a quiet professional is very hard to come by.  Especially one that steps up big time and leads the league in sacks.  So yes, I'd take another one of those.

slydawg
slydawg

This isn't Special Forces