Experts give Falcons high grades for McKinley pick

Credit: Michael Cunningham

Credit: Michael Cunningham

NFL teams selected prospects in the first round of the NFL draft last night. Naturally that means it's time to grade them for those selections before anyone has even seen them practice with their new teams.

Instant analyses and opinions about draft picks are silly, of course--remember how the Falcons were widely panned last year for selecting Keanu Neal with the No. 17 overall pick before he went on to have a very good rookie season? But draft talk is something to fill time before training camp and so here we are.

This time the Falcons got high praise from pundits in the immediate aftermath of the first round. Their selection UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley, after sending Seattle two draft picks for the right to move up, earned mostly high grades from analysts. Here are a few of their takes:

ExploreChad Reuter,

Grade: A-

"McKinley and Vic Beasley will make it difficult for Tom Brady (or anyone else) to pick apart the Falcons' defense in the second half as he did in the Super Bowl. They chose to given up a third-round pick to move up for him, but it's hard to blame them with the Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers ahead of them -- they were all looking for edge guys."

ExploreMark Maske, Washington Post

Grade: B

"McKinley’s passion was evident during his emotional, profanity-laced on-camera interview with the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders following his selection, as he held a picture of his late grandmother. McKinley immediately apologized for his language and said the league can fine him later. It was a sincere and moving moment, albeit possibly with a PG rating for its expletives. If McKinley brings the same intensity to his pass-rushing efforts, the Falcons’ trade up to get him will be justified."

ExploreChris Burke,

Grade: B+

"The defending NFC champions only had six picks to begin with in this draft. They just gave up two of them (95 and 249) to move up five spots for McKinley. That’s the type of risk a team can take when it feels like it’s one guy away from a championship—the Falcons obviously were about as close as it gets to reaching the mountaintop last season. McKinley’s status for the start of 2017 is in doubt because of his post-combine shoulder surgery, but he should make an impact opposite Vic Beasley once he does get on the field. He thrived last season after UCLA transitioned from a 3-4 to a 4-3."

ExploreSteve Silverman, Bleacher Report

Grade: A-

"Powerful pass rusher with relentless attitude, and that's just what Falcons need. This selection may turn out to be one of the best picks of the 2017 draft because he is a perfect fit for the team that selected him. McKinley is a wonderful pass rusher because he has the physical gifts to win the battle and the mental tenacity to fight like a champion on every snap."

ExplorePete Prisco,

Grade: A

"Love this pick. This kid has big-time edge-rush ability. He does have medical issues, but should be OK."

ExploreChris Fedor, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Grade: A-

"Remember the Super Bowl when the Falcons couldn't get enough heat on Tom Brady late? They were looking to remedy that, trading up for McKinley who was a big-time pass rusher despite playing with a nagging shoulder issue. The Falcons covet speed and athleticism. They are building a fiery defense."

ExplorePro Football Focus staff

Grade: None

"The former UCLA Bruin is an athletic prospect who plays with a high level of effort and will chase plays downfield; he was one of the few defensive players in the Pac-12 that was capable of taking over games. McKinley recorded nine sacks, 11 QB hits, 37 hurries, and one batted pass on 339 pass-rushing snaps in 2016."

ExploreSteven Ruiz, USA Today

Grade: B

"Some thought McKinley would slide after having surgery on his injured shoulder following the combine. It didn’t happen. The Falcons traded up to add another speed rusher to go along with Vic Beasley. He has a high motor but he’ll need to shore up his hand fighting if he’s going to develop into a good NFL pass rusher."