With the departure of outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell this offseason, the Falcons needed to address the linebacker position.
Atlanta did so with their fourth round pick by selecting Fresno State’s Mykal Walker.
While the Falcons’ undoubtedly needed to pick up another ‘backer in the draft, many experts question the logic of taking Walker with a mid-round pick, seeing him as a top undrafted free agent target rather than a fourth round selection.
At 6-3 230 lbs., the former Bulldog is a tackling machine--in his college career, Walker averaged 91 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss playing both the traditional linebacker position as well as serving as an edge rusher.
Scouts do not question his versatility and production at the college-level. In the Mountain West Conference, Walker earned First Team All-Mountain West honors his final two seasons with the Bulldogs and was the defensive MVP of the conference championship game in 2018. In 2019, Walker led the team with nine tackles for loss and recorded his best game of the year against USC where he collected 15 tackles.
But when talent evaluators turn on his tape, he lacks the eye-popping plays that differentiate some of the game’s most promising prospects. He’ll make a stop at the line of scrimmage or pick up a fumble that lands at his feet, but Walker’s highlights don’t scream “dominant” like you would expect. Especially given the competition he played against.
As a result, scouts question the decisive mindset of Walker, desiring better instincts to shoot alleys and stuff the run. Off the edge, it is yet to be seen if he has the burst to consistently disrupt the backfield at the next level.
At the NFL Combine, Walker ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, showing off relatively good speed for a player at his size. The NFL gave him a draft grade of a sixth round pick, with the projection of him fighting for a final roster spot and contributing on the practice squad.
Yet despite concerns from draft experts, Walker will have a chance to come in and contribute right away for Atlanta. Though Foyesade Oluokun is the front-runner to start next to Deion Jones next year, the rest of the depth chart is pretty bare for the Falcons at linebacker.
Look for Walker to develop as a special teams guy and to eventually compete for time on defense.