With the 119th pick of the 2020 NFL, the Atlanta Falcons drafted Fresno State captain and linebacker Mykal Walker. Let’s see what the Falcons will be getting with the two-time First Team All-MWC selection.
Walker was relatively unheralded out of high school in Vacaville, CA. He didn’t attract any FBS offers, and began his career at Division 2 Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. After a 6-4 2015 season, and an improved 9-3 2016 where he racked up 102 tackles and first First Team All-GNAC honors, Walker appeared on the radar of Jeff Tedford and his new team at Fresno State. After redshirting the 2017 season, he exploded onto the scene in the highly successful 2018 season. He starred at Defensive End with 87 tackles, 14TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 recovered fumbles, and 2 blocked kicks. He was named to the First Team All-MWC as well as the Defensive MVP of the Mountain West Championship game.
For the 2019 season, Walker branched out even more, appearing at middle linebacker, outside linebacker, and defensive end. Even with the season being a massive step back for the Bulldogs, Walker continued his electric pace. He increased his tackles to 96, including a season high 15 against USC in the season opener. In the game against UNLV, he recorded 9 tackles with all being solo stops, the only time that happened in 2019 for Fresno State. Walker added a second straight First Team All-MWC selection, this time at linebacker. These two years of excellent play were enough to earn him an invite to the 2020 NFL combine, and positive draft grades ranging from early Day 3 selection to end of draft pickup.
At the combine, Walker showed off good speed with a 4.65s 40yd dash, but came in with middle of the pack grades in the other tests. Scouts praised his production and speed, but found flaws with his level of competition and gap discipline. He was given a draft score of 5.69, which slots him in as backup and special teamer. The Falcons though must have seen something that Fresno State fans had seen over the last two years, by drafting him early on the 3rd day at the beginning of the 4th round. Atlanta needed linebackers after the departure of De’Vondre Campbell after last season, and their depth chart was decidedly thin after him. While Foyesade Oluokun is supposed to take over that spot, there will definitely be opportunities for Walker to compete right away.
Expect Mykal Walker to begin his career with special teams play as a way to prove himself, with strong potential to become a defensive contributor. While the climb to the NFL is always a steep one, I have a feeling Walker will be able to make the roster and play for the Falcons whenever the 2020 season gets going.