Falcons select UCLA’s pass rusher Takkarist McKinley

The Falcons pulled off a trade with Seattle on Thursday night to land UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley with the 26th pick in the NFL draft.

The Falcons gave up a third-round and a seventh-round pick to move up from the 31st spot to the 26th spot to draft McKinley, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive end.

“We’re excited about having him on board,” Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff said.

The Falcons hope to use him opposite of outside linebacker Vic Beasley, who led the league with 15.5 sacks last season.

“We are excited to add another guy to our defense who has the run and hit factor in full effect,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He has the initial quickness that we look for. He had one of our highest (competitive toughness) grades. We’re thrilled to add a defensive player of this caliber to our defensive front.”

He suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder and and a torn socket. At the combine, he said the recovery was four to six months. He had surgery in early March.

However, the Falcons felt comfortable about the surgery, but didn’t want to put a firm timetable on his return.

“We didn’t have a problem with that,” Dimitroff said. “We knew that he was healing well. He’s in a good situation. Our (doctors) are good with it. I understand that anytime you have a situation like that, you need to take care of it. His choice was, along with his representation was that he was going to take care of it.

“Hopefully, he’s ready to go much sooner rather than later. We have a really good program here and we’re hoping that he’s going to up and ready to go soon.”

McKinley gave an emotional speech at the draft. He was emotional about being selected and let loose with a couple of expletives on live television.

He promised his ailing grandmother than he would make it to the NFL and shortly after that she died.

Myrtle Collins, his grandmother, had raised him as her own son. She used to gather recyclable cans to help pay the rent.

She kept McKinley from getting involved in the gangs and drugs in a tough northern California neighborhood. They’d watch wrestling matches together, and her favorite wrestler was Booker T.

“It means everything,” McKinley said. “This is my grandma Myrtle Collins (point to her picture). I made a promise to her before she passed away which was that I was going to get out of… Richmond, California, go Division I and live my dream which is to play in the NFL. About 30 seconds later, she closed her eyes and passed away.”

The promise has stayed with McKinley.

“That promise means everything to me,” McKinley said. “Without that promise I probably wouldn’t be talking to you guys right now. That’s the honest truth. Where I come from, a lot of guys don’t make it this far. A lot of guys don’t make it through middle school without getting killed or going to jail or getting into that gang life.

“For me, my grandmother, was the reason why I’d stay out of that.”

Instead of running the streets, McKinley stayed inside the house.

“We’d watch wrestling all day,” McKinley said. “Booker T was her favorite wrestler. He actually hit me up on Twitter and just told me to ‘make your grandma proud. Good luck with everything. Keep doing it for her.’ Him doing that meant a lot because he meant a lot to me and her. That’s the reason why I never got in trouble.”

McKinley was the third rated edge rusher in the draft behind Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett, by Dane Brugler’s 2017 NFL draft guide. Garrett went No. 1 to Cleveland, and Barnett was selected 14th by the Eagles.

McKinley played in 34 games for the Bruins and made 23 starts. He finished his career with 17 sacks. He had 10 sacks last season while playing for former Falcons coach Jim Mora.

Also, Falcons linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich helped to recruit McKinley to UCLA.

“He had a chance to help coach him for one season,” Quinn said. “He spoke of his intensity, of his intensity and for his passion for playing….He is somebody that we’ve watched for a long time.”